You may not feel like a high level athlete, but you may have (or need!) more in common with an Olympian than you think. Are you highly driven, determined and persistent? Do you have a desire to do the things that really matter to you exceptionally well - ideally perfectly?
I was certainly an avid armchair supporter of Rio 2016 and am missing my daily dose these last couple of weeks. So what is it about the Olympics that has us glued to our seats? Why are we suddenly interested in a whole array of sports we perhaps don’t care much for the rest of the year ? It’s really that we love to witness the pursuit of excellence and dreams, because most of us have that desire deep inside. It gives us hope - to see that it is possible to strive and succeed in achieving your high-reaching goals.
You may want to perform to the highest standard in your work, or have dreams to set up your own business so that you can be with your kids more AND feel fulfilled in your work. You may desire to live overseas in a warmer climate, eat only organic food or run every day. Often we want all of the above (and there are plenty of self-help books to assure us that this IS indeed possible), but if that’s not expecting ALOT from our bodies and mind and lives, I don’t know what is. It takes alot of effort, organisation, strength and resilience to live with these high standards. It’s not for the faint-hearted!
If we’re to thrive AND strive in this busy era then maybe we do need to be looking towards how our athletes manage it?
By the time many of my clients find me they’re often verging on burn-out, facing medical niggles and often crumbling relationships. They’re exhausted emotionally and physically from the busy go go go of everyday life.
The ones that differ? THE ELITE ATHLETES. They rest before they’re tired. They seek support before they’re broken. They’re proactive in their self-care, knowing that’s how they get the best out of themselves.
Despite the differences in the exact concerns the elite athletes, ambitious parents and high-flying business clients face, I’ve noticed they do share several common traits:
They know EXACTLY what they want. Their goal is super clear and they visualise it every day.
They can’t afford the inefficiency of ‘breaking’ at a critical moment of the year. They know they need a body and mind that is strong and resilient to the constant demands of their busy lives.
They want to be their best - for themselves and those around them they inspire. They understand this means walking their talk and often changing a few habits or beliefs along the way.
They’re smart and they understand a fair amount about their body and mind. They inform themselves to such a degree that they often come in with their own ‘diagnosis’. The problem is the internet search doesn’t know much about them and isn’t particularly well trained!
They’re action-takers. Whilst they take time to reflect, they don’t dither on ideas for weeks, months or years. When there’s a next step to be taken they move forwards with it, as opposed to allowing themselves to be paralysed by fear or indecision.
They know they can’t achieve their full desires without support. They have a team around them which may include spouses, kids, paid home help, friends, therapists and coach.
They’re coachable - believe me, not everyone is! Coach? That’s if you’re running a marathon right? Well yes and no ... whilst it can be, more often than not a coach comes in where people have big goals and need support to help them get there.
So what else is so special and similar about the people who manage to ‘have it all’ and the athletes who succeed? They’re certainly all highly motivated. But that isn’t all.
Research has shown that the ability to cope with pressure and anxiety is an integral part of successful sportsman and women (Hardy, Jones & Gould; 1996). Another report shows that many consultations among athletes at an Olympic Festival were related to a stress or anxiety related problem (Murphy, 1988).
When I had a look for the common thread running through the clients I’d seen over recent years, anxiety and stress was right at the top. As a result of this high link between performance and anxiety, anxiety in athletes has become one of the most common topics of sports psychology research.
Sometimes very smart ambitious people become unsettled or unfulfilled. Others are working really hard and realise that something is either a bit ‘broken’ or off kilt. Sometimes people just want to be stronger, resilient, more energised. Ultimately smart successful people know it is a sign of strength not weakness to seek support before they’re broken.
For more about how to live life as your best self, do check out our 3 essential strategies to help "Keep your Life On track and in Flow'. You can access the free mini video series HERE.
Hardy, L., Jones, G., & Gould, D. (1996). Understanding Psychological Preparation for Sport: Theory and Practice of Elite Performers. Wiley, Chichester.
Murphy, S. M. (1988). The on-site provision of sport psychology services at the 1987 U.S. Olympic Festival. The Sport Psychologist, 2, 337-351