Olympic athletes are when the world’s best shine on the biggest stage. They give us something to cheer about and inspire viewers around the world every few years.
But have you ever wondered what separated an Olympic athlete from other athletes? What makes them so extraordinary?
If so, we got you covered, as you just finished with the 2021 Olympics. Here are five things that you can learn from Olympic athletes and five tips to help you act like one too.
1. Mental Toughness is a Choice
I would argue that the number one thing all Olympic athletes have in common is an unbelievable amount of mental toughness. To get to the top of their sport and represent their country in the games only comes from overcoming a ton of adversity, setback, and failure.
Without an incredible amount of mental toughness, they would have given up a long time ago.
As Psychology Compass said, “Research indicates that mental toughness is characterized by traits such as determination, focus, confidence, perseverance, positive attitude, emotional regulation, and desire for success. In many ways, it differentiates those who crack under pressure from those who thrive off it.”
Luckily, you can also develop mental toughness for more resilience with enough focus, determination, and perseverance.
2. Learn From Setbacks
Speaking of perseverance, another trait to learn from top athletes is how they bounce back from failure and setbacks. For a lot of people, they think failure means they should quit instead of adapting.
But for elite athletes who want to win a gold medal, failure is just a stepping stone to greatness.
One of the best examples is Kieran Behan. At 10 years old, he had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor, but the operation went sideways and woke up screaming from nerve damage. Afterward, he started his road to recovery until another setback happened when he had a terrible head injury.
The recovery process took three years to get to where he was before the original accident. Then, he had another injury to his knee, but somehow, didn’t give up. He kept rehabbing, getting stronger, and qualified for the London 2012 Olympics, showing true grit in the worst circumstances.
Remember, failure and temporary setbacks don’t define you unless you let them.
3. Mental Health Matters
While these athletes are often in the best shape possible, physical health isn’t everything. As we saw in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, these athletes are still suffering the same negative emotions that we all do.
The greatest example is Simone Biles, aka “The Goat” of gymnastics. With a ton of pressure heading into these Olympics, she had a rocky performance and ended up withdrawing from several events. While a lot of people judged her online for backing out, no one knew what she was going through.
It was revealed that while she was in Tokyo, she lost a family member back home and didn’t share it with anyone around her. She took a few events off to focus on her mental health, but eventually came back and won a bronze medal.
4. Teamwork is the Key to Success
Perhaps no event in the world showcases the value of teamwork like the Olympics. As NBA legend coach Phil Jackson said, “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”
So what’s the secret to making a team work?
One word: trust.
According to Positive Psychology, “To build a strong team, trust is essential.
“Trust is a psychological state that implies positive expectations regarding the intentions, attitudes and behaviors of others towards oneself in situations that may imply some uncertainty or ambiguity.”
5. Keep Chasing Your Dreams
I would argue the best lesson you can learn from these athletes is that anything is possible. It’s so important to never give up on your dreams that mean so much to you.
As Earl Nightingale said, “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. Time will pass anyway.”
How to Act Like An Olympian
If you’re like most people, chances are you will never compete for a gold medal in the Olympics. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from these extraordinary humans to help improve your own life.
Here are five ways you can act like an Olympian to max out your life.
1. Create a Plan
These elite athletes didn’t just win a medal by accident. For a lot of them, this is a lifelong dream in the making and might have taken 10-20+ years to achieve.
But it all started by creating a plan in their mind about what they wanted to achieve. This plan acted as a roadmap to where they are today.
The good news is that this is a step that you can take too.
Whether it’s getting into the best shape of your life, getting to the top sales position in your company or growing your business to $1,000,000 per year, it all starts with a plan.
Before you go chasing your next goal, make it a point to get wildly clear about your ideal outcome. Write it down, imagine it, think about it, and review your goal often so that you’re more likely to make it happen.
2. Believe in Miracles
One of the reasons why so many millions of people tune into the Olympics is for a shot to witness history. To watch a team or individual athlete perform a miracle.
Perhaps there is no better example than the 1980 US Men’s Hockey team. It was a scrappy team made up of collegiate players and amateurs. But with the help of their coach, Herb Brooks, they believed in themselves, despite the odds.
They went on to beat the Soviets in a 4-3 semi-final win and then beat Finland for a gold medal. The story was so inspirational that it went on to become the Kurt Russel led movie, Miracle (which I highly recommend you watch if you haven’t).
Remember, no matter what’s going on in your life, always believe that miracles can happen to you too!
3. Block Out the Noise
Whenever you’re chasing a big goal, there will be plenty of distractions along the way. It’s up to you to stay focused and block out distractions, especially from people who doubt you, to keep going.
If you set the right goals, have tunnel vision, and not listen to the naysayers who will try to hold you back.
4. Maintain an Optimistic Attitude
Another trait that you can develop to act like an Olympic athlete is an optimistic attitude.
Think about it, the chances of them getting to where they are is so minimal it’s hard to fathom. But I bet if you asked them about their chances, they would always say they’re optimistic about them making it and then competing in the Olympics.
Here are four helpful tips from Psychology Today to cultivate more optimism in your life:
- Choose your version of optimism. Everyone has a different level of optimism, but it’s important to choose a level that is authentic to you (and it can evolve over time).
- Question pessimistic thoughts. The next time you get those pesky negative thoughts, challenge them! Remember, they are not facts, they are simply your brain trying to protect you. When you question them, it makes it easier to eliminate them and maintain a positive mindset.
- Surround yourself with more optimists. If you hang out with negative, pessimistic people, it’s easy to give in and think like them. Luckily, the same is true if you hang out with positive, optimistic people. Choose your inner circle wisely!
- Don’t force optimism. The final tip is to not force it 100% of the time. Like any new habit, it will take some motivation and practice to have the right attitude more often than not.
5. Stay Coachable
You don’t get to become a top athlete in any sport by doing it all on your own. The best athletes in the world have coaches to help them turn their plan into reality.
As legendary coach Tom Landry said, “A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what you don’t want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be.”
A coach can help you miss your blind spots, overcome what you once thought was impossible, and most importantly, make sure you don’t quit. Regardless of whether you’re an athlete or not, a coach or mentor can be a game changer in your life.
Athletes aside, top executives and entrepreneurs hire coaches and mentors to speed up success. As you chase your goal, make it a point to hire support and help along the way. They will help you in more ways than you can imagine and will be there to support you when times get tough.