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Rollercoasters and Runners

My friend just wrote on Facebook that she had avoided riding a rollercoaster for the last 25 years because of a fear of heights. And today she overcame that fear and enjoyed riding the rollercoaster with her children. Congratulations!
Now, personally I don’t enjoy rollercoasters all that much anymore, but riding a rollercoaster isn’t really the important thing here, is it? The important thing is actually overcoming the limiting beliefs that held her back from enjoying life. Today, by overcoming an old belief that a high place like a rollercoaster would necessarily make her scared, she sent a strong message to herself that she wasn’t going to let that machine or anything else determine how she was able to have fun.
We all limit ourselves in various ways through our fears and other limiting beliefs. Of course, some beliefs are useful and worth keeping. For example, I generally believe that I can’t fly and thus manage to prevent myself from jumping out high windows with a purple cape tied around me. Another of my beliefs is that sleep is necessary even though it stops me playing music all night long. Both of these are probably useful beliefs since they protect my body and my sanity!
But when you start to listen and watch people carefully (or even not so carefully!), you can start to notice limiting beliefs everywhere. And many of these limiting beliefs are less than useful. For example, a fear of public speaking, a fear of standing out too much, and a fear of showing our true feelings are so common among people, yet these limiting beliefs can really limit potential to enjoy life in so many interesting ways.
Limiting beliefs can even be like a mind virus that runs through a whole society and limits the potential of everyone in that group. For example, people used to believe that it was impossible for a person to run a mile in under 4 minutes. For decades, people tried to achieve this record, but experts and runners agreed that it was physically impossible for a human to run that fast. Then in 1954, Roger Bannister ran a mile in 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds. So, he beat what people believed was impossible, not by so much – only by 0.6 seconds, but the belief could no longer be held and this change in perception changed the actual performance of not just him, but also others.
Just 46 days later, Bannister’s record was broken by a man called Landy who took an additional amazing 1.5 seconds off the record and achieved a time of 3 min 57.9 seconds. Then later in the same year, Bannister again smashed that record by running a mile in 3 min 43.8 seconds. In other words, within one year the ‘impossible’ record had been beaten by about 12 seconds!
Then within a few more years, hundreds of other runners had also broken the previously impossible 4 minute mile limit and changed people’s beliefs for ever.
Incidentally, and rather interestingly for NLP folk, Roger Bannister went on to become a neurologist for 40 years and considered his work in this field to be far more important than his amazing achievements on the running track. Perhaps his work on changing people’s limiting beliefs was the most important of all, and I look forward to hearing how my friend’s decision to ride that rollercoaster today starts to dissolve any other less-than-useful limiting beliefs that she used to have.


┬ęCopyright 2012 by Dr. Brian Cullen

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