8 Ways to Awaken the Olympian Within


The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing is underway and I want to wish the best to all the participants to bring on their best game. One of the inspirational performances was that of Eileen Gu as she had to land a move she had never tried in competition. Gu won a gold medal in freestyle skiing, hopefully the first of many for her. Another athlete to salute is Shaun White who is at his fifth games and is still one of snowboarding's greatest competitors. He finished fourth in his last games this time. He said afterward "I am proud the of the life I have led, and what I have done in this sport, and what I have left behind." At the end of our careers if all of us can say that it would be a great career indeed. On Wednesday February 9th 2022 Lindsey Jacobellis won a gold medal. Her story is really interesting. In 2006 she missed her gold medal by falling while performing a showboating trick near the finish line. She missed the final in 2010 and 2014. In 2018 she was placed at fourth position. Now at the ripe old age of 36 she has won gold. This is truly the Olympian spirit in action.

The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo also showed what the Olympian spirit truly is and this was an inspirational event for the entire world considering the circumstances we were in. I hope the 2022 Winter Olympics goes well and shows what the human spirit is capable of in spite of trying circumstances. I congratulate not only the winners but all the participants in every event of the Olympics. It has truly been remarkable to see the human spirit in action in every Olympics event. I also truly appreciate Simone Biles’s resilience, determination, and example of supporting her teammates in the 2020 Olympics even when she was going through something. It is not easy but she is a shining embodiment of the true Olympian spirit.

My purpose with this article is we need to think like Olympians metaphorically. It is amazing what the Olympics can mean for all of us. It is a true triumph of the human spirit in action. Anyone who participates in the Olympics deserves applause because of the amount of preparation they put in before an event and the type of trials and tribulations they undergo even before they have the privilege of participation leave alone the winning of the gold medal.

I was interested to see what we can learn from the Olympians and how it can help us get the most out of ourselves. I have expanded each letter of the word Olympian so that we can awaken the Olympian within.

O for Optimism — Just to participate in the Olympics athletes have to put in a minimum of 4000 hours of preparation. This requires nothing but complete optimism on the part of the athlete which only a few people are willing to do. It has been researched that a lot of us suffer from learned helplessness. The way to overcome this is to be developing an overall optimistic view towards life and always believe our best is yet to come. At the same time being optimistic alone will not help us unless we marry it with action which can then ignite reservoirs of potential hidden within each of us. Being optimistic means never to take anything personally, never to think that any loss is permanent and finally never think a problem in any area of your life is pervasive across all other areas. Of course, this is based on Martin Seligman’s research. So the first step to be a winner or champion is the belief that you have what it takes to win.

L for Love — All Olympians love what they do. While we might see this as sacrifice the fact is if we don’t love what we do there is no way we can do the sacrifices needed to reach the top of our fields. Love of your profession is a minimum requirement to reach the top of your summit. We can look at all the positive benefits our job provides and how it can help us create meaning in our lives. Loving what you do for a living will enable you to develop the passion needed to win your game. You may not always follow your passion but you can choose to be passionate about whatever you do to get the most out of yourself.

Y for Yesterday — This means you have to let go of yesterday completely. Forget yesterday existed. All Olympians even the best of them including Michael Phelps have had personal tribulations. The way they have overcome that is something we all can take a leaf out of and bring out our best when the chips are down. Leave yesterday behind is easier said than done but if we want to reach our personal Everest this is a must. Look back to your past success but don’t spend too much time there because everyone is only looking to your next performance now. At the same time never dwell on your failures too long. Even Roger Federer loses some matches but if he thinks about those he can never go for his next summit. Recently I read The Power of Regret by Daniel Pink and he gives a well researched book making the case for actually embracing regret as a source of learning. I totally agree to look back and glean the lessons learned but don't engage in self rumination which can ruin your chances of good performance currently based on a bygone performance.

M for Manage yourself — Yes I believe all Olympians also have the same 24 hours. It is how we allocate those 24 hours to get the most out of ourselves that is the key. We all know this but a reminder does help. Managing ourselves among the daily stresses is the key. Each person has a different way of coping with stress but finds out what works best for you before any important event. Listening to some inspiring song before an important meeting can inspire you. This can be told a hundred different ways but Olympians take care of themselves very well. They eat well, exercise, and sleep well. Of course, we are all not competing in the Olympics but we can still do these activities to take better care of ourselves.

P for Perform — Yes preparation is great and a must but it won’t be worth anything until we perform. Every athlete knows that they are only as good as their current performance. Even Roger Federer who has won 20 grand-slams still has to perform each time to satisfy his fans and satisfy his intrinsic hunger for excellence. They still get disappointed whenever their hero loses because only the current performance matters. Of course, this is not easy as all of us do like to look back to see how far we have come. The only difference seems to be the Olympians look to the future to improve their performance even further.

I for Inspired — All Olympians have an internally inspired spirit. When we are internally inspired we can achieve remarkable feats and even with temporary setbacks we can overcome them without any repercussions. One example is U.S. Cyclist Kristin Armstrong who at the ripe young age of 43 had won her third straight Olympic time trail. She is the oldest women’s cycling gold medalist. An amazing feat that can only be achieved if the individual is inspired. We need to have a burning desire to achieve something which results in inspiration.

A for Attitude — We have heard much about attitude. There are some great quotes like” your altitude is determined by your attitude” and other quotes like that. Of course, all winners possess a great attitude in that they are willing to learn from their mistakes and ensure that they don’t take things personally. It has also been found that those who win bronze medals are happier than those who win silver because when you are so close to the gold and miss it can be heartbreaking. Again this part was also mentioned in the Power of Regret book. There are two ways to look at it. The Bronze medalist says at least I won a medal whereas the Silver medalist is thinking if only I had increased my performance. I recently read an article about Bruce Jenner who won the decathlon some decades back. Bruce Jenner doesn’t feel that was the greatest achievement and wants to contribute something more to humanity. Winning the gold is great but sustaining that feeling over an entire lifetime is a whole different ballgame.

N for Never say die — Resilience has been talked about a lot. As I have mentioned throughout this article unless you can withstand failure there is no way we can win. Developing a never say die spirit is the key that unlocks the Olympian spirit. Nothing is ever final you will always get another chance. Yes look at your current failure and make course corrections but never think this is your final chance. One amazing story of grit that I read recently is about Derek Redmond who was Great Britain’s premier 400m runner at the 1992 Olympics. Apparently even President Obama is a fan.

He is mostly remembered for coming last in the 1992 Olympics 400m final. In between the race, his hamstring had snapped and he was in severe pain. However, he never gave up and was determined to finish the race. As he continued painstakingly to the finish line his father joined him on the race track. By the time he did cross the finish line, he got a standing ovation from the entire stadium. This is true grit and courage in action. This was voted the 3rd most famous Olympic moment in an NBC Poll. What a story that can inspire all of us whenever we are down or up.

There you have the ingredients needed to awaken the Olympian within. I hope you enjoyed reading this and if we follow these we have a better chance to hit our goals in 2022. Once again my wishes go to the organizers, participants, reporters, and all the nations who are participating in this Olympics showcasing what the human spirit can achieve if we all work together.

The views expressed here are my own and do not represent my organization.

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