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8 Surprising Characteristics of Winners at the London Olympics

8 Surprising Characteristics of Winners at the London Olympics


    (Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Garret Kramer, author of Stillpower: Excellence with Ease in Sports and Life. Garret is the founder and managing partner of Inner Sports, LLC. His revolutionary approach to performance has transformed the careers of professionals athletes and coaches, Olympians, and collegiate players across a multitude of sports. Kramer’s work has been featured on WFAN, ESPN, Fox, and CTV, as well as in Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other national publications. For more information on the author visit http://www.garretkramer.com, and you can follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.)

    What do successful Olympic athletes have in common? Do they train until exhaustion sets in? Are they positive thinkers? Do they grind through adversity? Have they set gold-medal goals? Indeed, these characteristics are often associated with athletic success. But when Olympic winners are asked about their state of mind, physical preparation, and journey to the top, they almost always define their experience in a different fashion.

    So, what are the common keys to Olympic achievement?

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    Take a look at the following list. Then decide if these characteristics are present, or needed, in your own quest for success, contentment, and long-term productivity.

    1. Winning athletes attribute their success to a lack of thought.

    How many times during the London games have you heard a gold-medal winner say, “I wasn’t thinking about anything. Things just seemed to fall into place for me”? Olympic winners know that they cannot consistently reach this state of high performance by using their intellect or employing mental strategies. Why? Because both require deliberate thinking—exactly what is not present when an athlete is in “the zone.”

    2. Winning athletes relish the ride.

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    Top Olympic performers understand that chasing a medal thwarts their own clarity, freedom, and creativity. Contrary to what many of us have been taught, the “goal” of top athletes is almost always to savor the journey, relationships, and experiences. They know that narrow-mindedly setting their sights on a title restricts awareness and reduces possibilities.

    3. Winning athletes care, and don’t care, about outcomes — at the exact same time.

    Obviously, Olympic champions strive to win, and their competitive spirit doesn’t take losing lightly. However, they also know that, win or lose, they will be perfectly okay. There is a big difference between one’s life (a constant) and one’s life situations (always in flux). The best athletes know that what occurs in their life situations (a particular Olympic event, for example) has no ability to infiltrate their life.

    4. Winning athletes understand that competition is the ultimate form of cooperation.

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    Although athletes are often encouraged to perceive opponents as the enemy, the Olympics show us that respect, compassion, and love are far more conducive to consistent achievement. In fact, conscious athletes understand that their opponents are there to push them past their current limitations — to make them better. This reverence increases awareness, expands the perceptual field, and slows down thought — greatly increasing the odds for victory.

    5. Winning athletes presume that they know little about their sport.

    Openness is an almost always-overlooked characteristic of success. Believe it or not, the most insightful athletes know that there is always more to learn and more efficient ways to operate. As they arrive at the Olympics, these athletes put what they know on the back-burner; they start fresh. Like small children, they live full of wonder and constantly seek to soak up more.

    6. Winning athletes feel pressure and think negative thoughts.

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    Some of us think that champion athletes are immune to anxious thoughts, that they have ice water in their veins. But the truth is that they are subject to errant thoughts and feelings as much as the next guy. What champions know, however, is that low quality thoughts and feelings are a normal byproduct of the human experience; they have nothing to do with a specific circumstance. Therefore, great athletes understand that they can triumph no matter what thoughts and feelings might occur.

    7. Winning athletes use stillpower — not willpower.

    Isn’t it obvious? The winners in the 2012 Olympic Games in London have a light, calm, and clear look about them, while the also-rans seem to be grinding and pushing. Olympic winners rarely try to will themselves through wayward perspectives and outlooks. Instead, they apply stillpower. They leave their low thoughts and feelings unattended, and, instantaneously, clarity and consciousness return once more.

    Keep in mind, Olympic excellence — like excellence in any arena — is the natural result of high states of consciousness. And you can’t get to this powerful psychological perspective by forcing, exerting, or laboring. Compare Missy Franklin to Ryan Lochte; the U.S. women’s gymnastics team to the Russian team; Andy Murray’s state of mind in the Olympics versus his state of mind at Wimbledon — and it’s plain to see: Effort is only as productive as the state of mind from which it comes. Olympic champions know that their perceptions are created from the inside out — their state of mind in the moment will determine their experience (#8), the most essential characteristic of them all.

    (Photo credit: On The Podium via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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