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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 January 21, 2020

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

    your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

      Why You Need a Vision

      Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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      How to Create Your Life Vision

      Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

      What Do You Want?

      The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

      It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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      Some tips to guide you:

      • Remember to ask why you want certain things
      • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
      • Give yourself permission to dream.
      • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
      • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

      Some questions to start your exploration:

      • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
      • What would you like to have more of in your life?
      • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
      • What are your secret passions and dreams?
      • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
      • What do you want your relationships to be like?
      • What qualities would you like to develop?
      • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
      • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
      • What would you most like to accomplish?
      • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

      It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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      What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

      Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

      A few prompts to get you started:

      • What will you have accomplished already?
      • How will you feel about yourself?
      • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
      • What does your ideal day look like?
      • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
      • What would you be doing?
      • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
      • How are you dressed?
      • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
      • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
      • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

      It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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      Plan Backwards

      It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

      • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
      • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
      • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
      • What important actions would you have had to take?
      • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
      • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
      • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
      • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
      • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

      Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

      It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

      Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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