Take for example Roger Bannister, who ran the first sub-four-minute mile in 1954. He had been told – as had all athletes for decades before – that it wasn’t physically possible, and was even dangerous, to run a mile or 1.6 km in under four minutes.
The record remained at 4.01 minutes for over nine years. Gifted athletes and their coaches had taken the four-minute mile as a challenge since 1886.
So after almost 70 years of global effort to break the record, how did Bannister break it? And why is it that gifted high school athletes now regularly break the four-minute mile?
Bannister was a gifted runner. He came fourth in the 1952 Olympic 1,500-metre race, after which he decided he would concentrate on breaking the four-minute mile. He trained to break the record and recruited others who believed it could be done.
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On a cold, windy day in 1954, Bannister did what many people thought would never be possible. He ran the mile in 3:59.4.
Once Bannister broke the record, four minutes no longer stood as a mental barrier for other mile runners. Just 46 days later, Australian runner John Landry broke Bannister’s record with a time of 3:58. Within a year, numerous other runners had achieved the seemingly impossible feat of breaking the four-minute mile.
So what does this have to do with your performance?
Our bodies will master what our brains believe is possible. Most of us never perform beyond the limits of how we see ourselves. And those limits are what we focus on every day. We set limits for ourselves and we don’t even notice.
How many times have you set a limit based on your age, income, family, sex or culture, someone’s commentary on you, or even a mark you got in elementary school?
It’s unfortunate that we let our minds get in the way of possible achievements. Yet it happens for each of us daily.
If we want to live an extraordinary life, we need to start believing that we are extraordinary. We need to figure out a way to trick our brains into believing that we’re great, that we can overcome obstacles to achieve our goals and dreams, no matter how large they are.
In order to achieve greatness, we need to pretend we’re successful. We need to fake it until we make it.
Think back to your greatest accomplishments. If you’re like anyone else, you probably started on the road to that accomplishment with nothing more than an idea. You had a thought that perhaps one day something might change.
You didn’t understand the effort and energy you would have to put into the tasks to ensure you’re successful. Yet you stuck with it and the concept of what success looked like grew until one day you achieved something that was only a dream. Perhaps the results amazed you and those around you.
Now think about what you still want to accomplish. You have dreams and goals that you’ve written down or imagined. You know what it’s going to take to achieve those goals. Why not start by seeing yourself as a person who can achieve that greatness?
Whether you want to be a superstar leader, salesperson, athlete, spouse, parent, engineer or rocket scientist, the key is believing in yourself. A self-image statement is one of the best ways to do this. By creating an image of what you want to become, you’re on the road to success.
Here are a couple examples of what a self-image statement might look like:
- “I have talent and drive and I’m the best shooter on the team.”
- “My employees think I’m the best boss they’ve ever had because I care and spend time each day making sure they have the tools to do their jobs correctly.”
- “I’m the top salesman in the company and my customers keep coming back to me because I give them special attention. They know I want them to get great results.”
You may not be the best boss, best shooter or top salesman now. But this is exactly what you need to tell yourself if you’re going to fake it until you make it. How we see ourselves is what we become.
If we continue to focus on our failures instead of what we want to become, we will never achieve the greatness we can accomplish. Having a positive self-image can be the difference between high performance and mediocre performance in all aspects of life.
This is how author Robert White encourages his readers to reach greatness:
“My invitation to you is to begin living every moment as though you are miraculous and deserve to live an extraordinary life. Fake it if you must and keep faking it until it’s real to you. The gift you will be giving yourself is a lifelong journey of discovery, one that is infinite and infinitely rewarding. Begin the journey. Today. This moment. Now.”
Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award winning business coach and a partner in the firm Pivotleader Inc. For interview requests, click here. Feel like you are faking it? Email firstname.lastname@example.org