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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 December 9, 2019

    5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

    5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

    Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

    Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

    Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

    1. Get Rationally Optimistic

    Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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    This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

    In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

    The result: no more mental stress.

    2. Unplug

    Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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    How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

    It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

    Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

    3. Easy on the Caffeine

    Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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    Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

    4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

    That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

    How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

    • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
    • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
    • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

    While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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    5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

    This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

    The result: mental stress will be gone!

    So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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