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Achieving Breakthroughs: The Bannister Effect and Its Influence on Performance

In this article, we will learn how you can build and achieve next-to-impossible goals for yourself by discussing The Bannister Effect and learning some actionable recommendations.

There is a reason behind everything we do. Our efforts get driven by our emotions. Unless getting something out of our actions, humans prefer to save energy and exertion.

You know, we are rather lazy, to be honest. 

Want to go out for a run? What’s the emotion behind it? The satisfaction of being healthy. Finish your assignment at the last hour? The emotion of fear kicks in. Trying to continue reading this article to learn more and better. The emotion of interest pushes you.

You get the point.

Generally speaking, Every action gets preceded by an emotion. And who processes these emotions?

Your brain.

The Brain

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A supercomputer that processes millions of data and provides you with the best solution according to your knowledge and experience.

Consider this: You’re at a crossroads, facing a decision that could change the trajectory of your life. Your mind is racing with a tornado of emotions as your heart pounds, and your palms start to sweat. That is where the brain’s real power is put to use. It resembles a professional conductor arranging a symphony of emotions and thoughts. The brain processes emotions deep within its intricate network of neurons, enabling you to feel happiness, fear, love, and everything in between. 


It creates a vivid image of how you feel by using the information from your experiences and filtering it through the prism of your beliefs and values. 

But it goes further than that. The ability of the brain to incorporate these emotions into the decision-making process is its ultimate superpower. It is like an experienced sage guiding you toward the appropriate course by balancing the advantages and disadvantages, the risks and benefits, and the emotional context. The sophisticated circuitry of the brain converts emotions into actions, forming the fabric of your life’s journey. It’s a beautiful dance between logic and intuition.


Take a moment to appreciate your brain’s ability to analyze emotions and guide you toward decisions in line with your deepest aspirations the next time you find yourself in a difficult situation.

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The Limitations

Our brain’s decision to provide the best output depends on the input being fed to it from the beginning.

Two same inputs to two different brains will provide you drastically different results because of how the brain has been groomed and trained over the years.

Every event and every action works like an input to the brain, affirming its old beliefs or searching out in the quest for new answers. These beliefs can be developed from anything around us. Your family values, the kind of people you look up to. Even the daily happenings around you establish your belief system.

These beliefs work as the building blocks for the brain to give its final verdict on the decision.

Whether the task could successfully be done or not?

Could the decision be wrong?

Yes, Definitely.

Our decisions rely upon our knowledge and past experiences. What if we do not have sufficient information to make that particular decision? It is quite possible. Isn’t it?

Sometimes our experiences differ from reality, and we assume our realities to be “The Truth.”

The Tale Of An Elephant

Consider this story,

Once upon a time, poachers kidnapped a baby elephant in the jungle. They constrained the elephant’s independence by tying him to a strong tree with heavy ropes. It fought valiantly to liberate itself despite being little and helpless. The elephant used its strength to push and pull, but the ropes held fast, and the tree didn’t budge.

It grew over the years into a huge elephant. The previously weak body now became a powerhouse. Despite its physical prowess, it never tried to break free of confinement. Its perception that it would never be able to break free was shaped by the memories of its early failures.

But what if the elephant were to try and free itself from the tree? Would it be possible? Very much likely. But the conditioning of the brain prevents the body to take the necessary steps, thus serving its belief system.

The Bannister Effect

An incident on May 6, 1954, in the world of athletics changed the entire course of the game. Before this date, every distance racer on Earth was trying to achieve one goal.

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People tried many things, many different routines to build a regime that could break the barrier of breaking this record.

In an article in Harvard Business Review, it was told that people were after this record since 1886.

But year after year and attempt after attempt, they were unable to break this target.

On top of that, the scientist and researchers made various claims of what would take to beat this kind of record.

An excerpt from the article is given below:

The experts believed they knew the precise conditions under which the mark would fall. It would have to be in perfect weather — 68 degrees and no wind. On a particular kind of track — hard, dry clay — and in front of a huge, boisterous crowd urging the runner on to his best-ever performance.

But our protagonist, Sir Roger Bannister from Great Britain.

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Yes, you read that right. Sir!! He was knighted for his accomplishment in the field of science. He was a neurologist!! Talk about being an overachiever!!

He had nothing of that sort.

Sir Bannister did it on a cold day, on a wet track, at a small meet in Oxford, England, before a crowd of just a few thousand people defying every scientific claim.

It took 70 years of recorded history to break the record. It could easily be more than that.

70 plus years of effort, hard work, and dedication but not a single person on this planet was able to break the record.

But when Sir Bannister did it on May 6th, the next person to do the same came just 46 days later. And on top of that within the next year, 3 racers achieved this feat, and that too in the same race.

It begs the question.

What Changed?

How were things different after the race that it took only 46 days for any other person to repeat it?
The Mental Model.

Like the mental model of the baby elephant in our story, the mental state of the racers was also limited to the results around them. Failure after failure led them to believe that it was impossible to run under 4 mins. And that became a self-fulfilling prophecy, restricting the runners to things about the possibilities. But when an example stood in front of them, the entire paradigm shift led them to believe its possibility, and thereafter, many made their belief a reality.

Such an event where the common beliefs and understanding are invalidated by the new facts overturning all the old beliefs is usually referred to as The Bannister Effect.
The shattering of a psychological barrier as well as a physical one is what gives The Bannister Effect its significance. Bannister’s accomplishment dispelled the notion that human limitations were unchangeable by demonstrating that great accomplishments were possible with the correct perspective, commitment, and training.

The Bannister Effect extended far past the world of sports. It developed into a potent allegory for conquering struggles on the inside, rejecting social conventions, and upending the established order. People started to see that their perceived constraints were only walls they had built for themselves, ready to be destroyed by their unyielding resolve and belief.

So, What's Stopping You?

Do you have something planned for your future that you feel is quite difficult? Have there been moments where you have constantly faced defeat? Have you lowered your ambition only because of repeated failures?

Well, the good news is you can gain all there is to be achieved in this world. The only thing you have to have is the right mindset and some tools to get you there.

There could be many ways by which you can solve your problems, but here I will explain the best 3 methods I think would suit you the best.

1) Conditioning your mindset:

We can develop a mindset that supports personal development, resilience, and general well-being by intentionally controlling our thoughts and putting an emphasis on the positive. Pleasant conditioning is the deliberate training of the mind to favor positive ideas, feelings, and experiences. We may intentionally rearrange our neural connections and build a more optimistic outlook on life by choosing to concentrate on uplifting and upbeat perspectives. This procedure entails letting go of self-limiting ideas, reinterpreting bad circumstances, and looking for the bright side of every obstacle.
How To Do:
1) Write down your goals and objectives. It could be your short-term goals as well as long-term goals.
2) Every morning, the first thing to do is pick up the list of your goals and set aside 10-15 minutes in a calm and silent place.
3) Visualize yourself achieving the goals. What would you do after you have accomplished it? What difference would it produce in your life?

The role of this process is to give you the boost for the day to get up and do the tasks you would need to achieve the objective. Such motivation could provide a huge push for you.
One thing to note is to choose these goals very precisely. If you would change them after every 5-6 days, it will not provide you with any results. For your beliefs to become strong, you must visualize them for a good enough time for your mind to believe them to be the truth.

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2) Expanding your knowledge base:

The next step you could do is to spend time and resources on expanding your knowledge.
It is quite possible that if you were to make something new, you might not have complete information to do such a thing. Therefore, unless you spend time increasing your understanding you might continuously fail.
Think of it like assembling a puzzle. If there are 100 pieces to a puzzle and 5 or 6 pieces are missing. How many attempts you do, you will always fall short unless you get those missing pieces.
How To Do:
1) Look up to people who already have greater knowledge in the field. Get acquainted with them. You need not to directly connect to the best in the business. And if they are the best in the business, it is unlikely you’ll get in touch with them.

You could look out for people in your mutual network. Linkedin is a great platform for this job. You could ask your mutual connection to give them your introduction, and you could continue from there.
Many connections could even be made through Facebook or other platforms where you can find someone suitable for you.

2) YouTube: I feel YouTube to be the best invention of this century. The way YouTube has served billions is astounding. The role of YouTube is different for every individual. Some go there for entertainment, some spend time there for educational purposes. Everyone can find one thing or another on this platform and that too for FREE.
Improve your knowledge and you’ll find that you will see the solutions to many of your problems.

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3) The Growth Mindset:

The perspective we adopt during our journey of personal and professional progress greatly influences our success and fulfillment. A growth mindset, which is characterized by a conviction in one’s capacity for learning and improvement, is a potent way of thinking that encourages people to take on obstacles, keep going after failures, and realize their full potential. 

A growth mindset encourages a readiness to accept difficulties and see them as chances for improvement. People with a growth mindset approach challenging tasks as opportunities to learn, acquire new abilities, and broaden their knowledge rather than avoid them. They are not afraid to take chances in the quest for both personal and professional development because they recognize that failures and mistakes are just stepping stones on the road to better.

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AI Generated Image of Edison

Think of Thomas Alva Edison on his journey to invent the Light Bulb. You must have read about the attempt after attempt it took to perfect the light bulb.
It is said that more than 10000 attempts were made to light the filament. But what if he would have left this journey in the middle? Would we have the privilege of having such fantastic life?
He could have thought that it is not possible and left his efforts in the middle, but thank god. He didn’t.
The life of Edison is the perfect example of how a growth mindset can lead to the creation of the greatest gifts to mankind.

How To Do:

1) The best tip I could offer you and which has been said by numerous people before me, is Read Books. 

Reading Books help you stay motivated and provide you with new ideas. Choosing Books that force your mind to expand its boundaries is the best option. Take out some time every day to read some books. Book time in your calendar and make it a habit to read everyday.

You can check out our library section for some interesting suggestions to help you.

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The Bannister Effect stands for the capacity of the human spirit to overcome obstacles and push the limits of what is conceivable. Sir Roger Bannister’s legendary achievement not only revolutionized sports but also sparked a passion in people around the world. It serves as proof of the ability of faith, commitment, and steadfast drive to transform.

The Bannister Effect serves as a warning that our apparent limitations are frequently self-imposed and that greatness is within our reach if we are prepared to question the current quo and pursue our goals with tenacity. Today, Bannister’s legacy still motivates people and athletes alike, igniting a never-ending pursuit of perfection and a steadfast ambition to redefine human potential.

Next time, you fall short of your goals and feel dejected. Remember that it’s all a part of a process, and you need to just maintain a positive mindset and work to improve your faults.

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