Friday, May 02, 2008

Personal Barriers

On May 6th 1954, Roger Bannister broke through one of the greatest athletic barriers of all time; he ran a sub four-minute mile. The significance of this accomplishment is that nobody at the time thought it could be done. A sub four-minute mile was something that was rumored to not only be impossible, but something that could kill you. Despite everyone saying that the feat was impossible, Roger Banister methodically tested his body and mind, never wavering in the doubt that surrounded his goal.

In our lives we are constantly surrounded by naysayer’s who tell us what we cannot do, who tell us what is impossible, and who put limits on our ability. More times than not we also begin to believe that we have limitations and begin to process what others are telling us as our personal truth.

When surrounded by people telling us what our impossible is, we are faced with three choices, 1) believe what our external environment is saying and give up on our dreams, 2) push on with our goal in order to prove others wrong and emotionally push harder to spite the naysayer’s, or 3) internally motivate ourselves to be extraordinary and methodically plan out how we will excel and break through our barriers.

If we are to break down barriers we need to understand that using methods 1 and 2 will not lead to empowerment. By giving in and backing off of our dreams we become victims to our environment and we can always say that I didn’t achieve because everyone said I couldn’t. When we push forward in spite of others and succeed, it was done for reasons outside of ourselves, robbing us of the empowerment you gain by doing something for you because of you.

If we are able to break through our personal barriers on our terms, according to our timeline, then we are faced with an accomplishment that we can solely credit to our hard work and overcoming adversity. What this provides us that the other two decisions do not, is the belief in ourselves that we are better than any situation that we face, therefore we can overcome any obstacle not only with assistance, but more importantly, without it. If we are able to do this then we have the ability to create a pathway for future success, both personal as well as for others who wish to follow us. Essentially when we break down barriers through internal progress, we become leaders.

What once was thought of as impossible for decades was repeated only 46 days after Roger Bannister did the unthinkable. John Landy broke Bannister’s mile record. A couple of months later there was a race where 5 runners ran sub four-minute miles. Today, sub four-minute miles are common in elite milers. Roger Bannister, in his own personal quest to break down the greatest sports barrier of his time, paved the way for every runner who followed him by allowing them to understand that even the impossible is possible, a message we should all adhere to when faced with a barrier.

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