Rodger discovered in high school that he had a talent for cross country running. When he moved on to college at Oxford, competitive running was a new experience. He had never worn spikes or run on a track. He had very little time for training as he was preparing to enter medical school. In spite of minimal training, he won several races. This encouraged him to become more serious with his training. But he failed at the goal he most wanted to achieve: Winning a gold medal in the Olympics.
For a time, Rodger thought about giving up on his running career. But he eventually set a new goal for himself: Running a mile in under four minutes. At the time, most people felt that a sub four minute mile was unachievable. The human body just could not maintain the stamina to run that distance that fast.
But on May 6, 1954, Rodger Bannister ran a mile in three minutes and 49.4 seconds. What makes this achievement even more remarkable is that Bannister began the day on duty at a London Hospital.
While Rodger Bannister is perhaps best known as the first person to run a mile in under four minutes, he was more proud of his career in medicine, where he practiced for over 40 years. He made significant contributions in neurology and published more than 80 papers.
Bannister used each setback in his racing career to set a new goal. He never gave up on himself. He never ran away from a challenge. In fact, he used failures to set even higher goals.
There are five essential keys to believing in yourself:
- An unshakable sense of your own self worth that cannot be lessoned by the comment of others who don’t believe in you.
- A refusal to assess blame for failures on circumstances beyond your control.
- A critical analysis of the efforts you are making and whether they are sufficient to achieve success.
- A realistic sense of what you can achieve.
- A willingness to ask for help.
In almost every aspect of our society (e.g., politics, business, the arts, sports, education, etc.) some of our most effective leaders are those who had reason to doubt themselves at one time in their life but never stopped believing in themselves.
Unfortunately, it seems as if we have become a society with many more critics than mentors. Why do you think that we have those who seem to take delight in discouraging others? What might it take to develop a society of mentors who support others when they begin to doubt themselves? How can we turn our focus from assigning blame, to one of using setbacks as stepping stones to success?
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“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” – Thomas Edison