How to employ the secrets of Olympic success in everyday life

Posted August 20

Who doesn’t admire an Olympic athlete with their feats of strength and agility gained from determination and hard work and wish they could imitate at least some of their success? That wish may be more attainable than you think.

Many of the psychological traits these athletes possess to reach the top are adaptable to anyone. What follows are six to try in your everyday life.

1. Be confident, not jealous

Successful people don’t let jealousy or competitiveness get in the way, Quartz noted. Instead, they use someone superior in their field as an example of what they can do better.

“Comparing yourself is only good if it helps you motivate,” Jonathan Fader, a sports psychologist who works with elite athletes, told Quartz.

Too much of comparing yourself to others can hold you back, it continued.

An example of what not to do is swimmer Chad le Clos’ taunting of Michael Phelps before a race that le Clos lost.

2. Stay focused

Track sprinter Allyson Felix told Sports Illustrated that she’s “extremely focused” before she competes.

“I'll see all the cameras flashing and I'll just be, like, unaware of it all. I don't hear any noise around me. I'm completely just dialed into what I have to do,” she said.

To apply this principle outside of a sporting event, advises working single-mindedly toward a goal and not get sidetracked or take on everything that comes your way

"At times I feel guilty for saying 'no,' to collaborating or jumping on board with a new venture, but the reality is that our time is a limited commodity," wrote author Erin Haslag. "And to create the business and life I want, I must stay focused on telling my story and living out its outcome."

3. Take strength from loss

Sue Bird, a 35-year-old point guard in women’s basketball, had this to say to The Washington Post on the national team’s 2006 loss to Russia in the World Championships:

“Being in a gym, playing against a team that is playing out of their minds and the entire arena — none of which, I guarantee you, were Russian, except for maybe their family members — chanting ‘Russia!’ against us. It was rough.

“And that memory motivates us, propels us. You don’t want to live that again. It’s probably the best thing that could’ve happened to us, to be honest.”

4. Trust your experience

Cyclist Kristin Armstrong, the only cyclist to win three consecutive gold medals in the same discipline, told NPR that she relied on her experience to win her third medal in Rio.

When asked by reporters why she came out of retirement and wants to compete at the age of 42, despite several hip surgeries in 2013, she said, “Because I can.”

5. See yourself victorious

Kayla Harrison, Olympic judo practitioner, said, “Every night I visualize myself winning the Olympics,” to The Washington Post.

She’s not the only one.

Swimmer Missy Franklin, winner of four gold medals at the London Games, said, “When I get there, I’ve already pictured what’s going to happen a million times, so I don’t actually have to think about it,” according to The Post.

Visualization, also known as imagery or mental rehearsal, is “commonplace in many Olympic disciplines,” The Post noted.

6. Look good

While New Zealand rower Eric Murray was being tongue-in-cheek when he told BBC that the secret to his and his rowing partner’s success was that they were “just better looking,” according to NZ Herald, he wasn't entirely wrong.

“Your external looks are a reflection of your internal beauty … of your self-confidence and your self-respect,” wrote Melisa Verrecchia for “And if you aren’t feeling so good inside, you aren’t looking good outside.”

Beautiful people are viewed as healthier (and are actually healthier), are more persuasive and are seen as “more likable and trustworthy,” according to Business Insider. So take care of yourself.

Email:, Twitter: @Sarahsonofander.


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