This summer has been filled with observing excellence, almost every day. It was awesome! I was definitely sad to see the Olympics come to a close. (Although I’m glad to actually be getting to bed at a reasonable hour now…)
While watching the coverage every night, I found myself paying close attention to these amazingly talented individuals. I was so inspired, I thought I’d share my observations and my opinions on why these folks are so darn good at what they do.
1. Focusing attention on what they do best and obsessively managing their energy for that task. Although Olympians are fit enough for some competence in all sports, they typically don’t do more than one. Those who are seeking true excellence focus on their strongest areas and grow them. In the same way, Olympians conserve energy for the finals and use only as much energy as they need to get through the semi-finals. They diligently time their warm up and when they must perform at their very best, they plan their day/week/month/year to maximize their energy at the most important moment. Us normal folks often do too many things, not very well, and become exhausted in the process.
2. Employing coaches, trainers, and teachers, so they’re always improving. Whether it’s learning new techniques or having sufficient accountability to practice and train – coaches, trainers, and teachers are critical for the success of these athletes. We’re all much better when we have another set of eyes on our performance and when someone else is helping us move beyond our current limits. When we’re on our own, we can’t always see our own flaws and are likely to train or practice much less.
3. Focusing and re-focusing their mindset. Watching the Olympians, I couldn’t help but notice that the most successful athletes were able to become completely focused on their own race or apparatus. They were especially successful if they could reset after a mistake. I thought the best example of this was watching the gymnasts who had fallen continue on and rack up as many points as they could. They recognize what so many of us do not – a mistake does not equal failure. You can get up, brush yourself off, and keep working to gain forward progress toward your goal.
4. Completely not caring what others think, in the moment. Olympians will do whatever it takes, in the moment, to perform at their best. Whether it’s swimming with cup marks on your body, running with strategically placed nasal strips and bandages, or putting chalk all over your body, these folks get it done and don’t care what they look like. They are fully focused in the moment and are serving a much larger goal than whether they look cool. When we worry about what others think of us, we lose focus and cannot be fully present to perform our best.
5. Measuring performance and ability each day. Successful Olympic athletes do not sit on their laurels. They measure their abilities each day. You may have won the race yesterday, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will win it tomorrow. Each day, abilities are evaluated and expectations are made according to those abilities, not what was done yesterday. This is so critical! We must raise and lower our expectations based on so many factors, but so often we do not. We beat ourselves up or plateau in our efforts because we are not truly evaluating what we are capable of, today.
6. Celebrating their wins. Olympians are especially good at this. They take a victory lap, high five, hug, and have a party when they win. Then they have the medal ceremony. There is a celebration for accomplishment that feels so foreign to other fields. And it really shouldn’t. We too often take our successes and strengths for granted and only focus on what we did wrong or what we need to fix. We must support and acknowledge wins– we’re more likely to continue to improve if we do. (And we’ll feel so much better about ourselves!)
Which of these tactics do you want to use today to pursue excellence? What do you see when you watch these amazing individuals?
Let’s continue the conversation in the comments!
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