Like so many people I’ve missed watching sport this summer. If 2020 had been a ‘normal’ year, like millions of others I’d now be glued to the Tokyo Olympics. I’ve always been a big fan of Olympics and Paralympics, inspirational athletes at the top of their game and the excitement of world-class competition.
Wearing my personal development and leadership hats, there are many lessons we can learn from the Olympics. So in the absence of sporting action, let me share five insights that might just kindle that Olympic spirit.
The Olympics only come around every four years. For athletes competing it’s the pinnacle of their sporting lives. It is their focus for at least those four years. Even those of us who operate with a goal-focused mentality in our own lives we will usually look not much further than twelve months out.
So taking a longer view, an interesting question to ponder is – what would be a stretch goal to achieve by 2024? (When we are watching the Olympics in Paris!) Taking a different angle, another powerful question is – in terms of your life or business, what’s your equivalent of ‘winning an Olympic gold medal?’
Determination is demonstrating that you are 100% committed to your goals and dreams. In business just like in sport, the most successful people are the hardest working. You may not see the work they put in, only the evidence of it. As Michelangelo said ‘if people knew how hard I worked they wouldn’t marvel at my genius.’
Successful people in all walks of life do what others don’t want to do, they train harder and make sacrifices. Irrespective of what life throws at them, committed athletes keep going. That is the price they pay for the ultimate success. The word ‘discipline’ comes from the same root as the word ‘disciple,’ to follow something.
So when you are disciplined, you are disciplined in the pursuit of something, your goal, your dream. We can then reflect on the questions – what are you disciplined about? What could you be more disciplined about?
Whether it’s attending an important meeting, making a sale, negotiating a deal or competing in the Olympics, so much of how we perform is a mental game. When the mind is calm, the body relaxes, we remain alert and focused so we can perform at our best. I always view focus as having less thoughts, especially less negative thoughts, those distractions that serve no purpose.
You are not thinking about what happened two weeks ago, what might go wrong, or what others might think about you. These thoughts are eliminated and replaced with more empowering ones. ‘How can I seize this opportunity?’ ‘How can I deliver on my potential?’ You are focussed on the present moment and what’s within your control.
Top athletes know that all the physical preparation in the world means nothing if your thoughts don’t align with your desired results. A useful question to mull over is – what do I need to change about my habitual thought patterns to achieve what I want to achieve?
When Olympic athletes are interviewed they always acknowledge the roles of their friends, families and coaches. Success is rarely achieved in isolation. In our own lives whatever we wish to achieve, it’s probably going to involve others. Do we acknowledge the support and encouragement and maybe even sacrifices those close to us make to enable us to achieve our goals?
Of course, the Olympics are not just about winning. Of the thousands of athletes that participate only a small fraction of them go home with a medal. Athletes try to achieve a personal best which is a nice reminder to us to focus on our own unique accomplishments without comparing ourselves to others. For every gold medallist, there are thousands of others who train just as hard and sacrifice just as much. It is about competing, trying your best and of course getting into the game in the first place.
Athletes that compete in the Olympics have to push their limits and move outside of their comfort zone. The same can be said for everyone trying to move forward or make a life change. If you would like tips to help you then read my post titled Moving beyond your comfort zones.
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