Mind Over Sports

Posts Tagged ‘Roger Bannister

Beliefs can work like placebos in medicine, authorizing athletes to achieve what they are already capable of achieving. The classic example is Roger Bannister, the first human to break the four-minute mile. As soon as he broke that mental barrier to human capability, other runners began doing so. The fact that no one had run a mile faster than four minutes had become a self-limiting belief that no one could do so. After Bannister proved such a feat was possible, many other persons accomplished it. Their beliefs, not their bodies, had held them back. In his book The Silent Pulse, George Leonard refers to the process as “positive physical transformation” — dealing with the power of, what he calls “intentionality.” This is often identified as the “placebo effect” — an effect that is derived not from the potion but from the process, which is one of authorization. Roger Bannister was capable of breaking the 4-minute mile, as were many other runners, and when Bannister finally broke it, that was an “authorization” for others to do the same. This is the “power of intentionality.” The following is a quote from George Leonard’s book:

“Now that the mile is run in less than 3 minutes and 50 seconds and weight lifters can clear and jerk more than 560 pounds, these feats are not called supernatural. But if you had told a sports expert of the year 1878 that such performances were humanly possible, he would have thought you quite mad. In recent years, as a matter of fact, a fifty-year-old man has bested the time of the 1908 Olympic marathon champion. Now it’s true that some of this fantastic improvement can be attributed to technology, better selection, training methods, nutrition, and vitamins. But the same kind of technology has been applied to racehorses — with no such improvement in performance.”

As soon as someone kicks a 70-yard field goal, others will follow.

Most sports fans are aware of how, when Roger Bannister became the first human to break the mental barrier and run a mile in less than four minutes, soon-after other runners did the same. Bannister proved that running a mile in less than four minutes was nothing more than a “self-limiting belief.” And this could well have been one of the major reasons that 26-year old Charl Schwartzel was able to break his own mental barrier as related to winning the Masters. Scwartzel said a key to winning was seeing his good friend and countryman Louis Oosthuizen win the 2010 British Open. “That was a huge inspiration,” Schwartzel said, “to see Louis win the Open Championship the way he did. We grew up together from a young age. We played every single team event and we represented South Africa for so long. We always travel together, so we basically are the best of mates. To see him win there was just such a big inspiration, just to see him do it made it, in my mind, realize that it is possible and just sort of maybe take it over the barrier of thinking that a major is too big for someone to win.”


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