How often do you travel outside of your comfort zone?

Today is January 9 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “How often do you travel outside of your comfort zone? American author Neale Donald Walsch noted that "life begins at the end of your comfort zone." Stepping outside one’s comfort zone is an important, and almost universal, factor in personal growth. Reaching new heights involves the risk of attempting something we might not succeed at. When evaluating the impact of people going out of their comfort zone, researchers have found that learning to adapt to a little anxiety can help people achieve to focus their efforts and perform at their peak to reach new levels of achievement. One such person who traveled outside of his comfort zone was Roger Bannister.


Prior to 1954, many people believed that running a mile under 4 minutes was impossible. On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister had convinced himself that he could break that barrier and his effort proved successful. On that day, not succumbing to the idea that it was impossible, he ran the mile in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds. On stepping outside of his comfort zone to set a new world record, Bannister said “The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win.” Navigating the chaos and practicing the art of living well will often involve pain. How far past the pain can you push yourself? For Bannister, he traveled outside of his comfort zone, pushed himself through the pain, and in so doing, showed others the impossible was indeed possible. It is also fascinating to examine what happened after Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile.


Fifty-six days later, John Landy ran the 4-minute mile in 3 minutes and 57.9 seconds in Finland. Bannister and Landy would race each other in the Mile of the Century where Bannister won in 3 minutes and 58.8 seconds. Within three years, by the end of 1957, 16 other runners also cracked the 4-minute mile. Think about that for a moment. Once Bannister did what almost everyone thought impossible, it suddenly became possible. Running a sub-4 would eventually become the standard by which mile runners were measured. The breaking of the 4-minute mile was so significant that Forbes names it as one of the greatest athletic achievements of all time.


Eventually, the sub-4 became so common place a new measure took its place in the time of a sub 3:50. Hicham El Guerrouj (Morocco) is the current men’s record holder with his time of 3:43.13, while Svetlana Masterkova (Russia) has the women’s record of 4:12.56. Bannister’s sub-4 proved inspirational for runners of all ages as Jim Ryun became the first high school athlete to run a sub-4 in 1965. According to a Track & Field News list, 487 Americans had run a sub-four-minute mile as of June 3, 2017, and 2016 was the year with the most new additions to the list (27), followed by 2015 (24), 2013 (23), and 2012 (also 23).


British-born American poet Edgar Albert Guest was popular in the first half of the 20th century and became known as the People's Poet since his poems often had an inspirational and optimistic view of everyday life. Bannister’s story resembles Guest’s poem entitled “It’ Couldn’t Be Done” reprinted in its entirety here:


Somebody said that it couldn’t be done

But he with a chuckle replied

That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one

Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.


So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin

On his face. If he worried he hid it.

He started to sing as he tackled the thing

That couldn’t be done, and he did it!


Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;

At least no one ever has done it;”

But he took off his coat and he took off his hat

And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.


With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,

Without any doubting or quiddit,

He started to sing as he tackled the thing

That couldn’t be done, and he did it.


There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,

There are thousands to prophesy failure,

There are thousands to point out to you one by one,

The dangers that wait to assail you.


But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,

Just take off your coat and go to it;

Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing

That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.


How often are you traveling outside of your comfort zone?