Olympic Athletes and Being Mentally Strong

July 24, 2021

If you’re like me, you’ve probably been curious about The Olympic Games, which kicked off with the opening ceremony on July 22nd. So my curiosity led me to the same place you might get your information: the all-knowing Siri. Do you talk to Siri like I do? I asked her about Olympic athletes and what it takes to become Olympic ready. Here’s what she had to say.

Becoming Olympic Ready

According to Siri, it begins with a dream to prove your athletic ability on an international stage. Then, you need to choose a sport, train rigorously with persistence, and possess the right mental mindset. This is what happens before the athlete even starts training. This is where the dream begins, but for these athletes, they can’t stop there. They start with a dream, but then they put their dream into action. Remember when I talked about the difference between Dreamers and Doers? Dreamers talk, and doers do.

Once the athlete has goals in mind, it then takes around 10,000 hours or 10 years of practice to get to The Olympic Games. Think about that commitment for a moment. That is an immense amount of time to devote to your sport. And even then, if you mentally and physically prepare yourself, there’s still not a guarantee that you will make it to the opening ceremony. As few as 1 in 30,000 competitive basketball players will get to the Olympics in their lifetime. With statistics like that, it’s easy to get deterred.

Mental Health Connection

You can be as physically strong as you want, but your efforts will be in vain if you’re not prioritizing your mental health. It doesn’t matter if you’re an Olympic athlete, a 13-year-old volleyball player, a 19-year-old college athlete, or a 10-year-old in junior football camp. You have to be mentally there. You have to be mentally in it.

To help you assess your mental health, ask yourself these questions:

How do I make sure I am living according to values that really matter to me?

There will always be people who don’t like you or disagree with your decisions. You can certainly listen to what they have to say, but don’t sacrifice your values. In the words of Brene Brown, “A lot of cheap seats in the arena are filled with people who never venture onto the floor. They just hurl mean-spirited criticisms and put-downs from a safe distance.” While they have the freedom to have an opinion, don’t give them the freedom to allow their opinion to impact you. Remind yourself: my job is NOT to please other people. If you try to make everyone around you happy, the one person who becomes unhappy is you. The more you try to put sunshine and rainbows over someone else, the more you find yourself in rain clouds and darkness.

A hard lesson for me was learning to stop pleasing people. I realized I couldn’t let others control my thoughts or my actions. I need to live by my values and take care of my most important asset- myself. Oftentimes, saying “no” can be just as powerful as saying “yes.”

How do you assess failure?

Failure is part of the road to success.

And think about it. Athletes fall, miss goals, and suffer from injuries- but many bounce back to become the most iconic champions of our time. For example, did you know Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team? While he saw this as a “failure,” he also credits it as one of his biggest sources of motivation. That moment in time encouraged him to work even harder on his skills. Ultimately, his hard work led him to become the best basketball player in the world.

To be successful, you must accept the good and the bad. I know, it’s not fun losing. No one likes to lose, no one plays to lose, and no one plays to fail. But, at the end of the day, failure will teach you about yourself and show you how you can improve.

If you aren’t already doing so, get into the habit of evaluating yourself monthly. Think about skills you can examine month to month. Are you organized? Are you exercising? Are you taking mental breaks? Assess your progress and identify the failures first. Then you can look for what you can improve.

How can you make sure you win next time?

Do you feel like this is a hard question? Of course, it is. But, I’m here to tell you, winning isn’t everything. Sometimes, simply doing your best is more than enough. Before you think about winning anything, ask yourself: “Am I holistically taking care of myself each day in order to put my best self on display?”. It’s a tough thing to do every day, but it’s an honest and essential task.

Once you do this, you need to identify what “your best self” is. Create a roadmap for your life. What makes you feel your best- mentally and physically? Are you consistently practicing self-care? Are you cognizant about not overextending yourself? It all goes back to making smart goals and choices. If no goals are set, your best becomes an enigma you’ll search for forever. If you’re prioritizing your mental health, you will be able to better define what success looks like to YOU. If not, you might start picking yourself apart and will sway from your goals.

We are stronger than we think we are, and we are stronger than our strongest excuse. We’ve learned more about ourselves over the last year than we ever thought possible. Keep that in mind and adopt the approach: I can recover from anything anyone throws at me, but that starts with prioritizing myself.

The strongest thing we have is not the muscles, it’s the mind- so take care of it as you would any other part of your body.

 

 

 

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Ayanna Allen
Ayanna Allen
4 months ago

I’m sure I’ll be reading this one again. I’ve definitely been paralyzed this week and my bank account, debt and retirement are surely on my mind and making me feel uncomfortable. A less than stellar flash sale didn’t help the situation either but I definitely will get through this. Reading… Read more »