With the London Olympics now well under way, we are being astounded every day by these incredible athletes who inspire us with their dedication and passion to excel. As I write this, I am watching Tom Daley and Pete Waterfield perform perfect dives completely synchronised from the top diving board – they are spectacular. It makes me proud to be British!
It is all too easy to say “well, it’s alright for them – they’re Olympic athletes, it comes naturally to them”. But all of them had to start somewhere, make sacrifices and train religiously.
Believe it or not, there are a lot of lessons that we can learn from these athletes to help us to succeed in life:
1. Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is!
Olympians have a “whatever it takes” attitude which they use to spur themselves on to attain their goals and achieve greatness. They dream about victory so much that they can see it, taste it and smell it before they even get to the competition. You must WANT to achieve your goals so much that you have a clear, picture-perfect vision of it and are willing to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to bring that vision into reality.
2. Being “good” is not good enough
Olympians know that they can achieve 8.5/9 out of 10 on every performance and still not achieve a medal – the competition is just too tough. It is crucial for them to reach perfection or as close to perfect as they can, in order to stand a chance. In many ways, this is true in today’s business world as well. Law students can get a 1st in their degree and a distinction in their Legal Practice Course and still not be able to secure a training contract. You have to find ways to make yourself stand out and make your application show that you are an excellent candidate that they should interview, rather than a good candidate whose CV looks like all the rest.
3. Get a coach!
No man is an island and everyone needs some a good team around them to be successful. How much you learn from your coach/mentor is to a degree limited by your ego and how well you take constructive criticism. Olympians are well-known for being the most open to world-class coaching and taking on board every element of advice from their coaches. Find a mentor/coach who inspires and motivates you and be open to their advice.
In research conducted after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a strong coach-athlete relationship was found to be the single most important factor in winning an Olympic medal or setting a new personal best. Your mentor can help you to grow, develop and learn new skills, which all lead to personal and professional success.
4. Being competitive
Steve Backley, Olympic javelin thrower and three-times Olympic medal winner, put it best:
“Healthy competition is a good thing and it can bring out the best in us — in sport and in business. But within the working environment, too much competition can have a negative effect. It’s important to get teams to work together in a supportive and productive culture.”
5. Think big
Ask most people what they’re thinking about on an average day and you’d be surprised how many of them are just thinking about getting by. They are selling themselves short!
Olympians are fearless and concentrate on achieving their ultimate dream of bringing home a gold medal. Don’t sell yourself short – set big goals and start making a plan on how you will achieve them.
6. Be consistent
One of the keys to achieving your goals is to consistently work towards them every day, even if it is only small steps. If your goal is to lose a stone, you have to eat healthily, exercise and drink plenty of water. You can’t just starve on day seven and hope for the best. Similarly, if you are trying to get a certain job, you have to take action every day or so towards this goal – you can’t just send off 10 applications in one day. This will lead to burn out and poorly prepared, rushed applications.
Olympians know that they have to be committed and keep working hard every day to achieve victories. Do you think Lizzie Armitstead won a Silver medal this week by riding her bike once in a while? No, she had a strict training plan which involved taking action every day towards her goal. So should you!
7. Never stop learning
Olympians spend hours practising, studying competitors, reviewing their performances and having sessions with their coaches and mentors. If you applied even a fraction of an Olympian’s work ethic to your own life, the results that you achieve could be epic! As Professor Graham Jones (Olympic Performance Psychologist) says:
“Success in sports and business alike relies on the ability to continually move performance to higher levels. What you achieve this year will never be good enough next year. Goals and standards move onward and upward, creating an unrelenting demand to find new means and methods to ensure the delivery of performance curves that can seem tantalisingly, or even impossibly, out of reach.”
8. Conquering adversity is crucial to success
It is so important to push forward when you hit obstacles and learn all that you can from the challenges you conquer. Jesse Owens is famous for conquering adversity in the 1936 Olympics which were held in Berlin under the control of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party. Owens was an African-American who refused to be discriminated against and went on to win four gold medals.
Another classic example is that of Gemma Spofforth, an Olympic swimmer on Team GB this year. In 2007, her mother died of bowel cancer. Then in 2011 her father’s new girlfriend June died of lung cancer, and shortly after that, June’s daughter Vicky also died from cancer. Despite a string of personal tragedies, Gemma has persevered and achieved success that makes the whole nation proud of her.
When bad things happen, find a way to cope, look for the positives and start to formulate an action plan to get yourself through it. Life is like photography – we develop from the negatives!
9. You lose only when you give up
Gymnast McKayla Maroney fell on June 10th during the Visa Championships and suffered a concussion and broken nose just weeks before the Olympic trials. She could have given up and decided not to compete, but she persevered. She is now in London competing for a gold medal in vault.
10. Set clear goals and then smash them!
Olympians know the importance of setting and reviewing their goals in order to continue pushing forward towards success. Do you think Rebecca Adlington just thought one day “well, I quite like swimming, maybe I’ll register for the Olympics”? No, she has been working towards it for 12 years – setting and resetting her goals as she achieves them!
In 1972, Mark Spitz set a very public goal of attaining SIX gold medals at the Olympics. He was only 22 at the time. He smashed this goal by not only winning SEVEN gold medals, but also setting a new world record in all seven events! That just shows you the power of goal setting!
What Olympic stories have inspired you? Are there any other lessons that you have learnt that I have not covered?