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Shifting the paradigm of results

Sir Roger Bannister (23 March 1929 – 3 March 2018) was an English former athlete and was best known for running the first recorded mile in less than 4 minutes. He was also a distinguished and well known neurologist and physician.

Bannister started his running career in Oxford in late 1946, an inexperienced runner who had never worn spikes and whose training was seen as light even for the standards of the day. Although he showed promise and some early success, he did not qualify for the 1952 Olympics and considered whether to give up running entirely. It was at this point that he set himself a new goal: to be the first man to run a mile in under 4 minutes.

Within 2 years, Roger Bannister had achieved this goal and his name was synonymous with unprecedented achievement. How did he do it?

Roger Bannister was also a neurologist in training, and he knew that achieving goals is as much about neurology as it is about the physiology. So, although he might not have consciously applied the brain and self-management techniques we use today, it is likely that he employed the following 7 levels of goal setting in his quest.

running goals successLevel 1: Proof (the results)

What result do I want to achieve? And how will I measure it?

Although these two questions might seem to be very obvious, many people forget the power of naming the goal explicitly and adding a measure of success to it. Roger Bannister set his goal very clearly: to be the first person to run a sub-4-minute mile within 2 years. It was a stretching goal (many people believed it was impossible to achieve at the time), with clear measures and a clear time frame.

Level 2: Place

WHERE will this goal be fulfilled? What is the environment you will be working in, and how will it help or hinder you? As we have seen over the past few years, social, technological, economic or political factors can have a huge impact on whether a goal is achieved or not.

In Roger Bannister’s case, weather was a factor he needed to consider. Bannister knew that he had to factor in the possibility of wind as a potential obstacle. On the day of the race, the winds dropped just before the scheduled start and Bannister was able to run without too much challenge.

Level 3: Process

WHAT actions are needed to achieve this goal? This question allows you to spend time planning the actions you will take and consider the techniques or approaches you will use.

When Roger Bannister was preparing his run, he knew that careful management of his training programme was very important – particularly as he was not an intense trainer. As a result, he considered all the actions he might take that would contribute to the outcome he needed to achieve. Some of these actions included monitoring teh outcomes of running events around the world to evaluate what his colleagues were doing.

Level 4: Proficiency

This aspect considers HOW you will take action. What skills will you need, what capability does the goal require? How will you gain these skills? This is a powerful consideration. If you are a golfer, for example, I am sure you have experience the impact a simple skill or change in technique can have in saving months of effort or frustration.

Level 5: Principle

At this level, you would ask yourself the question WHY am I doing this? What do I believe or value about this goal? Roger Bannister held the firm belief that it was possible to run a mile in less than 4 minutes. As sports psychologists know today, that simple belief can often mean the difference between success and failure. If you believe you can do something, your body will be more likely to prove you right.

Level 6: Persona

WHO are you when you are aiming for a goal? Silly question, I hear you saying. But hear me out for a minute. How you think of yourself when you aim to achieve a goal can determine whether you get there or not.

Roger Bannister thought of himself as a runner when he began his sports career. However, that identity was not enough to challenge him to higher levels of performance when he did not make the cut for the 1952 Olympic team. It was at that point that he assumed a different identity. He became a record breaker. It was the identity he needed to be the first person to shatter 4-minute mile barrier.

Level 7: Purpose

For WHAT REASON? This is the most powerful question of all. It can give you the motivation you require to complete the goal. Roger Bannister had the powerful motivation of proving the naysayers wrong. He wanted to show the world the supposed 4-minute barrier was only a belief and could be challenged.

This was enough to change the world of running.

What can this do for you this next year?

© Anne Fuller-Good
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