While we were watching the Olympic trials, my husband asked me, "Could you have done this when you were younger?" I thought about what it took for these athletes to make it to the Olympics. If you believe we all have the ability, given the right conditions, to have an extraordinary life -- whether it is as an Olympic athlete, scientist or teacher, what can we learn from Olympic athletes to turn our dreams into reality?
What skills do Olympic athletes use to succeed?
Unrelenting movement towards the goal: The sustained effort of these athletes is a perfect example of the concept of "massive action." They never lose sight of their goals and every moment of every day is focused in some small or large part toward action, which in turn allows them to achieve the goals. If you never looked at the clock or the calendar, how long would you work? If you were passionate about what you were doing or creating, my guess is that you would work harder and longer -- as Olympic athletes do.
Knowledge is only useful when incorporated with action: The amount of knowledge these athletes have is impressive. They have trained to become experts in nutrition, their physiology, psychology and the mechanics of their sport. These athletes are constantly learning and when they take this knowledge and apply it, they become stronger, faster and more prepared. Most of us know that knowledge needs to be followed by action, but we don't apply it. Our lives are going to stay the same if we are only reading or watching TV more. We can't turn our lives around until we decide to make use of our acquired knowledge and take action to make things happen.
Tap into the state of unlimited possibilities: For Olympic athletes, the impossible becomes possible. There is a Chinese proverb that states, "The person who says something is impossible should not interrupt the person who is doing it." If we allow miracles to be available to us, there exist infinite possibilities every day. If you have limiting beliefs about what you can or cannot accomplish, work diligently to let those beliefs go.
Sacrifice: There are many things we enjoy that are sacrificed by these athletes in order to attain their goal. Their singular focus leads them to choose hard work and dedication above vacations, parties, hobbies and participating in other leisure sports. For us to succeed in our lives, we need to become comfortable with short-term sacrifice for us to enjoy long-term success. As many a coach has repeated, "keep your eye on the prize."
Can't go it alone: Athletes have an extensive support team that works with them, for them and because of them. Teamwork is essential in the success of every endeavor and whether you call it mentoring, parenting, teaching, investing, managing or coaching, it is the support that most success requires.
Nothing lasts forever: Olympic athletes' skill in planning, preparation and execution does not end once the Olympics are over. They continue to plan for what is next and switch their energies to the next challenge in their lives. Kerri Walsh, the Olympic gold medalist in volleyball, planned on having a family, and then took her children to her workouts as she trained for the 2012 Olympics. Peggy Fleming, the 1968 gold medalist in ice skating, uses her Olympic fame to support many non-profits and her community. I dated a three-time Olympic athlete, and once he stopped training, he used his drive and knowledge to help others in the fields of training, athletics and coaching. As parents, we experience 18 years of dedication to our children, and eventually we must prepare to move forward into another cycle of accomplishments. Change simply means something new: Start-ups eventually are sold, companies merge or close, we age, relationships begin and end. Accepting the changes and the subsequent new opportunities is essential for continuing the success in our lives.
Everyone has a genius: We may not all choose to be an Olympic athlete, a Steve Jobs of high tech, or a world leader, but we all have a spark that can be nurtured, supported and worked on until we create our gold medal in life -- it is just waiting to unfold and be recognized.
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