People who make it to the Olympics are REALLY good at what they do. Even people who finish LAST at the Olympics are way better than most of us. How do they get there? Well, the easy answer is that they work very hard. It is way beyond that, though. They start out good. They are good enough that someone, someplace, gives them positive feedback that motivates to keep going, to keep getting better. They keep getting better. They make steady (or better) progress. At some point along the way, they get a coach. The coach is not better at what they do (usually) than they eventually become, but the coach knows how to motivate them, how to guide them to better performance and how to critique them, push them, and persuade them. They practice, practice, practice. According to Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers, the people who are the elite at what they do–sports, music, art, academics–have put in 10,000 hours of practice to get there. They also have a lot of support–parents, teachers, coaches, other family who set up the environment and resources to help them get there. People in the Olympics understand the importance of visualization and they do it over and over. Did you see the gymnasts, the divers, the runners, imagining their way through their performance? You could tell that is what they were doing by the little jerky movements they did as they imagined themselves through the routine. They didn’t just do it once. They did it over and over till it was time to perform. They used powerful, positive (and effective) self-talk. It is not a coincidence that the fastest man in the world says he is. The competitions were full of examples of athletes motivating themselves through positive self talk. The athletes in the Olympics won and lost, learned from it and did it again. They put ALL of themselves into what they were doing. They weren’t just sitting there thinking about what they were going to do this weekend or what was for dinner. (Well, maybe they did think about what was for dinner–they were definitely burning a ton of calories.) They were focused, though, while they were doing what they were doing. And you could tell when they weren’t focused.
So, What Can We Learn?
- Be motivated to be the best
- Practice, practice, practice what you want to be good at
- Get a coach
- Get, use, create, and appreciate a support group
- Use positive self-talk