It wasn't until a couple of years ago when I heard the story of Roger Bannister that my understanding of this idea was heightened. For the first time, I gained a perspective of what people were talking about when they said, "believe in yourself". The story goes like this...
Up until 1954, no human had ever run a mile in under 4 minutes. Although many had tried, it stayed a dream, an impossibility. Scientists and doctors even weighed in, explaining how it was physically impossible to get the human body to move that fast for that long. It could not be done. That all changed on May 6th, 1954, when Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile barrier. Since that point, over 20,000 people have joined the under 4 minute club, many being high school kids. It was once an impossibility...so what changed?
The truth is that, although it was a physical event, it was much more a mental game. All those that came after Bannister had the belief that since it had been done, it could be done. They truly believed that with enough hard work, they could make it happen. And with that belief came a spirit, a resolve, and a persistence that allowed them to achieve something that once seemed out of reach. The power of believing in yourself brought the psyche necessary to accomplish something great.
The story of Roger Bannister and those that followed, beautifully illustrates the importance of believing in yourself. We tell students to do so, but they are never really sure why or how. Many times, the command itself, although simplistic in nature, can be abstract in application. So what if we took the time to discuss these types of things in our classroom? Occasionally went beyond our standard content and helped students understand how to develop themselves personally. What dreams might our students turn into realities? How might they make their mark in school? In the world?
We'll never know until we start helping our students believe.