The 2014 Sochi Winter Games may have come and gone, but the inspiring performances of the athletes who broke records and defeated rivals will stick with us long after the torch goes out. You may have wondered to yourself as snowboarders flew down the mountain at seemingly impossible speeds, or ice skaters landed daring jumps, “How do they do that!?”
Learning how to stay motivated and positive during tough times, and overcoming emotional hurdles and distractions are skills that Olympic-level athletes have mastered through years of both physical and mental training. As the old sports adage goes, 90% of success in sports is mental, and athletes at all levels agree that it takes hard work to become mentally tough.
The great news is that each of us has the ability to make our minds stronger by investing some time and effort. So this week, we’re looking to some of our favorite athletes for new found inspiration on how we can live our best lives and perform at the highest level in everything we do – whether it’s being a better parent, partner, colleague or leader.
On Positivity: Keeping an optimistic attitude when the odds are against you can be tough. But try telling that to these gutsy Olympians. Olympic hurdler-turned-Bobsled runner, Lolo Jones uses this philosophy to stay positive: “I refuse to be deterred by failure. A failure today is not a failure if it leads to success tomorrow.” And paraplegic snowboarder Amy Purdy says it’s okay to have some negative thoughts every now and then. She suggests scheduling time each day to observe them instead of suppressing them. Then, afterward, decide to move forward. As she says, “”Never let defeat defeat you.”
On Focus: Many athletes use mind fitness techniques to cope with adversity and to get back on track when they lose their way. Says freestyle aerial skier Emily Cook: “We all deal with failures and setbacks and obstacles, but for me, it’s kind of under a microscope—I literally fall on my face. But in life there are many ways to fall on your face. You’ve got to just brush it off and try again.” She utilizes breathing and relaxation techniques to calm herself down and snap back into the present moment after a bad fall. And 2010 Olympic moguls skier Heather McPhie agrees that taking a moment to stop and listen to what your body is telling you is essential to staying focused: “During our last training camp, I took 10 minutes each day to center myself. I set a timer and did nothing. It helped me observe things, like tightness in my right shoulder that I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.”
On Staying Motivated: Dr. JoAnn Dahlkoetter, a sports psychologist who works with a number of elite athletes, says that visualization can be used for any problem or goal you’d like to work on, and can help motivate you to be your best. To make it effective, she guides the athletes she works with to use all of their senses to experience the imagery as if it were real. In fact, Dr. Dahlkoetter says that one of the speed skaters she works with (who set a new record at the Olympic trials after practicing this technique), “feels her forefoot pushing off the track, she hears her skating splits, and she sees herself surging ahead of the competition. She experiences all of the elements of her race in explicit detail before executing her performance.”
Looking for more ideas on how to increase your performance in life? Click here to learn more about the mind fitness tools bLife has to help you get there.
(Photo Courtesy of Iurii Osadchi / Shutterstock.com)