Training Fleas – how We Limit Our Success by Creating Psychological Barriers

January 8, 2017 Tarmo Tamm

Have you heard how to train fleas?

Let’s suggest you catch a flea and put it in a glass jar.

What happens if you leave the jar with no lid on it? Most likely the fleas will jump out.

What happens when you put the lid on? The fleas jump up against the lid. They get hurt and maybe try a few more times. Then they give up. If they do jump, then not against the lid, but only up to the lid.What happens when you take the lid off later? The fleas can no longer jump out of the jar because they associate jumping high with pain.

Most people are trained just like these fleas that can’t get out of the jar. They are capableof jumping higher, but with the help of others they have developed a psychological ceiling that they cannot overcome. The only thing stopping them is the way they think.

When achieving any noteworthy goal, people often talk about surpassing themselves. What does surpassing yourself really mean? In my opinion, it means that a person does something that he/she hasn’t done before using his/her abilities in a way that he/she couldn’t reach earlier.

The fact is that everyone has the ability to perform at a higher level. Most people simply don’t acknowledge that. With the help of others, many have taken it into their heads that they are not capable of more and have created a psychological barrier.

BELIEFS AFFECT PHYSIOLOGY

One of the greatest performances in the history of individual sports belongs to a runner named Roger Bannister. He was the first to run one English mile in under 4 minutes. Bannister is a perfect example of how belief and expecting a certain goal can lead to success.

In 1946, Bannister was studying medicine at Oxford University and spent all of his free time training for medium-distance running. At the time, everyone thought that running a mile in under 4 minutes was impossible. Bannister believed that it could be done and that it was just another record that could be beaten.

He participated in the 1952 Olympics as a gold medal favourite. Unfortunately, Bannister didn’t finish in the first three; he was very disappointed and considered giving up running. But since he loved the sport, he decided to keep trying and set an even more ambitious goal: he wanted to be the first to run an English mile in under 4 minutes.

With the help of his friends Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway, Bannister created a strategy to fulfill his goal. Brasher and Chataway had to maintain the speed necessary to break the record. However, since neither of them was able to run the full course at the necessary pace, they took turns leading the run.

In 1954 it was time to try the impossible and Bannister decided to do it on Iffley Road, England. Many spectators and photographers showed up. After take-off, Chris Brasher began to lead the race and set the pace. Bannister was right behind him and Chataway was third. Then Chataway started leading and setting the pace. Bannister was second, but 250 yards before the finish line he spurted ahead, crossed the finish line, and collapsed due to exhaustion.

When his time was announced, the crowd roared with excitement. Bannister had finished the one-mile race in 3:59.04 – he was the first ever to achieve something like   this.

Roger Bannister believed in fulfilling his goal and assumed that he would be able to break the record. He broke the physical and psychological barrier for himself and many others: only 46 days later, Bannister’s rival Landy set a new record at 3:58, and by now the record has been improved by about 17 seconds!

What did it all start with? It took one man who believed in his ability to break a record and tried to achieve his goal in good faith. Once the record was broken, the beliefs of others increased automatically and new records were broken extremely fast. As Henry Ford once said: “Whether you think that you can or you think you can’t – you’re right”.

Tarmo Tamm

Selliti tegevjuht ja asutaja. "Must vöö müügis" raamatu ja koolitussarja autor.