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How an Olympian Prepares for the Challenges of the Games

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As you read my blogs, keep in mind that these stories, anecdotes and tools are all based around my philosophy for success: THE TURTLE EFFECT (Highlighted in the new book When Turtles Fly: Secrets of Successful People Who Know How to Stick Their Necks Out--that was featured on the Today Show on February 7th). The Turtle Effect was taught to me by my mother when I was a young girl. She told me that I could achieve anything I wanted to as long as I remembered to have a soft inside, a hard shell, and be sure to stick my neck out. I hope this article will inspire you on that path to make sure you're "sticking your neck out" in order to reach your goals....

So how does an Olympian prepare mentally for a once-in-a-lifetime event that can literally be over in seconds, but that will having lasting results for the rest of his or her life? Because of my background as the first American Olympic gold medal aerial skier, motivational speaker and author of a much-talked-about, new inspirational book, I was honored when the U.S. Olympic Committee engaged me to help train the current and upcoming athletes on overcoming challenges, finding motivation, and dealing with these pressures at the Games.

So what are the secrets of the training program that every U.S. Olympian -- from Apolo Anton Ohno to Bode Miller to Lindsey Vonn to Shaun White -- has to attend before stepping foot on the Vancouver Olympic venues? In highlighting a few of the most intense obstacles presented to the athletes at an Olympic Games, you'll see that my recommendations for coping with their issues can easily be paralleled into the real world.

OLYMPIC CHALLENGES
Fear of failing to make the Olympic podium or even winning the Games
NIKKI'S COMBATIVE TOOLS

Ask yourself, "If I knew I couldn't fail, what would I try?" After you answer this question, ask yourself why it would be so awful to fail at the task or activity. We learn much more from our failures than we learn from our accomplishments.

OLYMPIC CHALLENGES
Focusing too much on the Olympic medal, extensive media, or hometown parades
NIKKI'S COMBATIVE TOOLS

We need to learn to live in the moment and concentrate on what we have control over. And that's the process, not the end results. For example, we can't control someone else's impression of our work; we can only control what we produce.

OLYMPIC CHALLENGES
No accountability! Not claiming your goal of winning an Olympic medal or taking the blame when you don't
NIKKI'S COMBATIVE TOOLS

Most successful individuals will take credit for the good and bad results. Write the challenge down on an index card and tape it to the wall to remind yourself of your goal. This commitment will make you accountable to your goals and responsible for your actions. Read your index card and/or check in with your friend weekly to keep yourself on track. If you aren't willing to put a goal in writing, you probably aren't really committed to achieving it.

OLYMPIC CHALLENGES
Intense pressure of personal / family's / country's expectations, extensive media hounding you, and thoughts of what you could lose out on all bottled in a one-time shot for the next four years
NIKKI'S COMBATIVE TOOLS

The best way to deal with the stress, pressure and anxiety is to build your confidence. Start journaling to recognize what you do well and what you can improve. Each day, write down one thing you did well that day and one thing you could improve on. It's often easy to see the achievements and improvements others make, but we have to take the time to recognize that regardless of what we are going through, we can change, too. Build your confidence by getting to know and appreciate yourself.

OLYMPIC CHALLENGES
Unexpected incidents such as weather, equipment / course problems, sickness, competitor issues, changing schedules / delays, trouble sleeping, etc
NIKKI'S COMBATIVE TOOLS

No one can control unexpected incidents, but you can control how you prepare for their possibility. Pick a project or activity you are working on and come up with three alternate plans in case something goes wrong. As with fire drills in grade school, it helps to plan several escape routes in case of an emergency. Expect the unexpected and you will never be thrown too far off course.

OLYMPIC CHALLENGES
Distractions such as media, family / friends, other events / athletes, Olympic village hype, podium celebrations, teammates' successes and failures, etc
NIKKI'S COMBATIVE TOOLS

There are so many distractions in life and if we don't build a hard shell to defend against their enticements, we'll be sucked into mediocrity. Whether it's the hype of Opening Ceremonies, meeting Wayne Gretzky in the Olympic Village, a bad flu, or an impending deadline, we all have to block out external factors. Keeping your goal fresh in your mind will allow you to clear the clutter of all your distractions. Remember what's most important and make sure that this factor is driving all of your actions.

My experiences as an Olympian have effectively prepared me for every pressure I've encountered since. The pressure was so great for me leading into the 1998 Games in Nagano that I ground through the hard plastic of my teeth night guard in the month leading into the Olympics. When you have three seconds to perform a maneuver in front of 40,000 spectators and have cameras six inches from your face televising your experience to another several hundred million viewers, your nerves are a little harried. I'm now ready for any last minute obstacle that will turn the heat on in a seconds notice...and I believe you can too.

Remember, you can help more Olympians experience this moment by helping support their dreams. Support Team USA and earn cash back at hundreds of online retailers when you shop and register at register at www.myteamusarewards.com.

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