Olympic athletes really have it all going on. They’re playing at the top of their game, they’re recognized for their talent, and they get to travel the world doing what they love.
Sitting at home watching winning athletes, we think they make it look so easy. Sure, they’re sweating, and sure, you know they’ve put countless hours into training for their sport. And with those endless hours spent practicing, you know they have denied themselves things they’ve really wanted so they could make their dreams happen.
But still, they have skill, and luck, and talent. That’s what got them to where they are, right?
Certainly Olympians have extraordinary athletic ability and incredible talent, but there’s way more to winning at the Olympic level than just that. To succeed, they have to think like an Olympian.
Optimism isn’t about ignoring reality and circumstances, but seeing hurdles that physical or mental setbacks, weaknesses, or weather conditions can create, and knowing they’re only temporary, not permanent. Great traits like productivity, excellent health, efficient problem solving are all linked to optimism. Bounce back in the face of disappointment, because you know one day you’ll make it.
Learn to manage your inner critic. It’s impossible to ignore your inner voice, so instead, listen to it- then choose to believe it or ignore it, and ultimately move on. Don’t let yourself sabotage yourself. “As humans, we’re predisposed to be self-critical,” states Dr. Tracey Devonport from the University of Wolverhampton, sport and exercise psychologist to many top Olympic athletes. “We say sabotaging things to ourselves that we would never dream of saying to someone else,” she goes on. “We should talk to ourselves as if we were encouraging another person - we’re more productive that way.”
Research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has found that people who speak to themselves using their own name or the pronoun ‘you’ instead of ‘I’ perform better under stress. So go ahead! Give yourself a pep talk!
The more you try NOT to think of something, the more you do. The more you try not to say or do something, the more you do. That’s because your brain doesn’t necessarily process the negative that way. It doesn’t consider the don’t part of the equation, only the topic of concern.
So instead of telling yourself not to make a mistake or not to foul up, consider only positive thoughts. Channel your energy into focusing on you performing a movement or play perfectly. Everything about it flawlessly executed. Give your mind and body something to work towards and focus on. More often than not, you’ll achieve just that, or at least come closer. Focusing on what not to do will only drag you down.
Don’t Confuse Mistakes With Failure
Mistakes are OK, and it’s all a part of learning. The only way that you can become really good at something is by making some fumbles along the way. It’s what you do with your mistakes that becomes the important issue. Instead of focusing on what went wrong, use the mistakes to figure out how to do it better the next time. It’s only failure if you quit.
The most successful athletes set specific goals. While an Olympian’s ultimate goal is to win the gold, they have to look at that road as a series of trips. Learn to set specific, attainable goals that will get you closer to your ultimate goal in steps. It’s the daily objectives leading up to the final competition that will actually get the athlete there. Work on beating your best time by one second, or hitting your target with more accuracy. Focus on the process and detach from the outcome. The process is what will get you there.
Create a training log, but don’t just use it to keep track of how you trained on a particular day. “Keep a record of how you feel on training days, so you can recognize positive patterns,” says Sarah Claxton, ex-Olympic hurdler and personal trainer at Embody Fitness. Jot it all down: how well you slept the night before, what you ate, when you trained, and what you did. That will help you keep track of what you need to do to ensure you perform well every time.
Feel Your Best
Picture yourself in your mind’s eye at at time when you were strong and working at your best. Remember that feeling, and feel it now in the moment. “You can go to that time mentally and see it, hear it, feel it,” says veteran sports psychologist JoAnn Dahlkoetter, PhD. “Wherever you place your attention, your energy will follow.”
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