Are Our Limitations Set By Our Beliefs?

Expecatation GapMany people think that our limitations are externally set, and therefore there is nothing that we can do to change them or to exceed what we thought was possible.

Before Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile barrier, for many years it was believed that not only was running a sub 4-minutes mile dangerous, it was actually medically impossible.

With beliefs like this, it gives us ready made excuses for failure, and consequently that may actually impact our desire to even try.

This belief may set a false limitation.

I think we all have these types of limitations. I come from a family who are mostly overweight, and there is a strong belief that we will never be thin. Which of course is just rubbish, but it does give us reasons, or excuses really, for not trying and eating what we like.

But we need to break this thinking, if we want to succeed, then we need to change these beliefs.

Our beliefs are not necessarily true, its just something that we believe to be true.

A great example, in my opinion, of limitations and what we can do if we can change our beliefs is in the arena of marathon running.

Having completed my own first marathon last year I have taken more interest in marathons and have read articles about them and learned a lot about limitation.

My doctor actually told me that Marathons were bad for you, it was good to do all the training but running a marathon was like having a mini heart attack.

I chose not to believe that having seen 40,000 people run the London marathon and I don’t remember seeing the streets littered with dead bodies, or seeing thousand of people having CPR.

Another doctor then told me that 1-2 marathons per year should be the maximum I should do.

So when I heard that Eddie Izzard, a comedian, had successfully run 43 marathons in 51 days, I was intrigued as to what the record was for running multiple marathons, especially given the conflicting medical information I was getting.

What I found absolutely amazed me, and made me think what really were the limitations of what we could achieve, if we could challenge or change our beliefs.

In 2006, the record for the number of marathons run on successive days was 51. That’s a whopping 51 marathons run in 51 days, something i thought was truly impressive.

In 2008 this record was then broken, when a Japanese man, Akinori Kusuda, ran 52 marathons in 52 days. Not only did he break the record but he did it at an age of 65!!!

Then in 2011, a Belgian, Stefaan Engels looked to challenge that record, not only did he break it, he smashed when he ran 365 marathons! Yes a marathon a day for an entire year. Thats a 700% increase in the record of marathons run, and he did this at an age of 49.

I was truly staggered when I read of this feat, who on earth could anyone run 365 marathons in 365 day.s

But then I found another article about 44 year old spaniard, Ricardo Abad, who decided that he would try and run 500 marathons in 500 days, which would break the new record by 135. Thats right, he planned to break it by over 2 1/2 times the 2008 record.

What was he thinking ?!?

Well, not only did Ricardo break the record, but he actually ran 607 marathons on 607 consecutive days!!!!

Thats over 1200% improvement on the 2009 record, a record which everyone would have already said was very,very impressive.

Here’s a chart showing the progress of the record over the last 4 years, I include this because I do think a picture paints a thousand words.


When I look at this chart, it really does make me wonder what other self imposed limitations we have because of our beliefs.

Marathon running is difficult, yet a 1200% increase in a 4 year period is unbelievable.

So what other areas do we have, where we don’t believe their is room for improvement, yet there is potentially a 1000%+ increase if we could just change our beliefs.

What made me write this post today was the article I read yesterday about an Australian couple, aged 64 and 68, who had just completed running 366 marathons on successive days.

marathon_coupleIf you asked me whether I could run 366 marathons in 366 day I would probably say no. But if you’d asked me last year whether I could ever run one I would have said no.

We never know what we are capable of until we try. We mustn’t let our belief dictate what we think we can or cannot do.

We need to challenge everything! It’s conventional thinking which have created these beliefs, and we need to change our thinking to open ourselves up to new possibilities.

Remember our beliefs are just that, it’s what we believe, but that doesn’t mean that it’s true!

Gordon Tredgold

Leadership Principles