Karl Morris argues that mental barriers set by cultural norms limit our performance expectations.
As of writing this article the current world record for the mile is three minutes 43 seconds, set by the Moroccan runner Hicham El Guerrouj. An incredible time when you consider that 60 years ago the four minute mile was called ‘The impossible dream’ and alongside that title apparently went numerous other urban myths such as the idea the heart would explode if a human being ran a mile in less than four minutes. Ideas in the modern world that seem nonsensical but in the 1950’s had enough people believing in them, so the mythical four minute mile seemed out of range.
Of course we all know Roger Bannister changed all of these ideas when he clocked three minutes 59.4 seconds at the Iffley Road track in Oxford in 1954. It is also common knowledge as soon as the barrier had been broken numerous other athletes passed through the gates of the impossible. Within a month of Bannister’s feat the Australian John Landy smashed the world record even further and clocked 3.57 in Finland.
The fascinating aspect about Roger Bannister and his incredible achievement was the fact he was a medical student at the time and had relatively little time to train. His methods of training at the time were considered unorthodox and questioned by many of his peers. He favoured a method called ‘interval training’, hard bursts of running at close to maximum effort followed by a short break and then repeat. With this method Bannister felt he absolutely got the maximum out of the little time he had.
Isn’t it interesting how times change! I now challenge you to go to almost any gym in the western world and not be told about the need to do ‘interval training’ to achieve your fitness and weight loss goals. The methods Bannister used in the 1950’s questioned by so many and often ridiculed are now an established part of the health and fitness industry.
I am not one of those people who claim that Bannister achieved the impossible by thinking positive or just ‘believing’ in himself. He achieved his goal as a result of believing in HIS own daily process. He had the strength of mind and courage to follow his training methods when many people around him must have told him he was wasting his time. Without doubt he must have questioned the existing belief that the mile was impossible but he didn’t just ‘think positive’ he took continuous daily actions towards his dream.
We often buy into cultural norms and ideals and cease to question what ‘is’ because it has always been that way. For many years Swedish golf had produced a lot of ‘steady’ players but none had set the world on fire. The steady aspect produced a lot of consistent scores around par until two visionary coaches Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriot came up with the concept of Vision 54. If a golfer plays to ‘par’ he will generally shoot around the 72 mark and PAR can become a similar mental hurdle as the fabled four minute mile.
Nilsson and Marriot looked at the problem differently though, as they knew most top class golfers COULD birdie every hole. Nobody had ever achieved it but it could be possible. 54 would be the score on a par 72 course if your birdied every hole and so the concept or idea of Vision 54 was born. The genius lay in the vision of 54, not vision 37 or 41 but Vision 54 as it was a goal out of current sight BUT possible.
When the woman who went on to become one of the greatest players of all time Annika Sorenstam shot 59 at Moon Valley in Arizona in 2001 she dumbfounded reporters who asked her about her score and her mindset by saying yes, it was good but she was still 5 over par!
Sorenstam had bought into the idea 54 was possible, she didn’t achieve it but she did break the mythical 60 barrier. Would she have broken that same barrier if a part of her brain had not been convinced of the validity of vision 54? She challenged the norm, she didn’t allow a cultural belief to dictate her career and went on to achieve some incredible feats in the game.
Just like Bannister though Annika has talked about the need to TRAIN like a vision 54 golfer not just ‘think’ it is possible. So much of the principles behind the success of Vision 54 are the concepts behind daily training. Not just aimlessly hitting balls but putting yourself in ‘game like’ situations training your brain to be ready for the real thing. Again, not unlike Bannister in challenging the way most golfers practice and coming up with a better and more productive use of time on a regular and consistent basis.
What beliefs do YOU need to challenge?
What are the cultural ‘norms’ your brain just accepts as being true because it ‘is’? More importantly what do you need to do on a consistent daily basis to train BOTH your body and your mind to bring you closer to your true potential and your real dreams and ambitions?
Karl Morris will be running his ONLY Mind Factor course this year for players and coaches in central Manchester between 20 and 22 November. Anyone serious about improving their coaching or their own game can find details at www.themindfactor.com