I’ve been thinking a lot about the Olympic games coming up and I’m getting really excited about them. What a wonderful event – one that brings so many nations and people together to aim higher (swifter and stronger, too) to compete against their worthy peers as well as themselves.
I was going to speak about the connectedness and linking of the five rings of the Olympic symbol (representing continents), and the connectedness of all of us but then I found a quote by Baron Pierre de Coubertin and changed my mind.
He was a founder of the modern-day Olympic concept, who liked the cooperative and competitive ideal of the ancient Greek games, and I thought it was a great quote.
“Olympism is not a system, it is a state of mind. It can permeate a wide variety of modes of expression and no single race or era can claim a monopoly of it”
A state of mind… hmmm. Right on target.
What makes an Olympian? Natural and refined talents and abilities – definitely. But also determination, drive, focus, balance, commitment, a ‘never say die’ attitude and belief in oneself. These are traits that help take individuals from the local arena to represent a greater populous on a global scale. If you aren’t one of the few who are heading to Athens this year or competing in Beijing in 2008, there are still lessons to be learned from the world-class – so you too can reach for gold in your everyday.
1. Focus, drive and determination (the little engine that could):
You don’t part-time your way to the Olympics. You don’t say, ‘well I’ll show up, and maybe try to perform to medal excellence, or close enough’ – it isn’t going to happen that way. It takes years, not days, to get the technical part right – and then even more for everything else that goes with it. The focus and drive that elite athletes have is amazing – that everything else can just fade away and there is only concentrated attention on the moment (very zen and VERY hypnotic).
You might have experienced it yourself – achieving something that first started with an ‘I think I can’ then grew with focus and determination to an ‘I know I can’. Everything else fades away and there is certainty of purpose – you know what you are doing it for (country, career, kids) and the path is clear (solutions come from ‘nowhere’, and the perfect conditions make themselves available to you unexpectedly or easily). When you give your best for family or partner, friends, work, community, whatever, you never lose – you have done your all, which is a genuine dedication to excellence.
2. Setting the bar higher (walk like an Olympian):
While the Olympic motto is generally known as ‘swifter, higher, stronger’, I understand that the more literal translation is ‘faster, higher, braver’ – and I think I like that better. To set the bar higher than it has ever been set before (by others or just breaking your own record) requires a reach – and that takes courage to extend yourself out to the unknown. Olympians ‘walks the talk’, revealing that kind of bravery in every move they make.
It can be the same in any aspect of your life. So you might be a little nervous about going to the ‘big time’, to do something not done before, to risk not making it – at work, in love, pursuing and enhancing your strengths or chancing the revelation of your weaknesses – great! – that is Olympic in nature. It involves a trust, a faith, and requires commitment to decide to do it.
3. Belief in the ‘impossible’ (fly, set water on fire…):
Looking at ‘mission difficult’ not ‘mission impossible’ is an Olympic trait. That most Olympic games have seen records broken is proof that our abilities are not as limited by human form than by belief in self. Against perceived odds (personal size, or country history), Olympians look these odds in the face and rejoice in the challenge – bring it on! The personal belief ballast they have fostered keeps their boats on course as well as fills their sails to reach destinations hardly dreamed possible by most.
You can do that as well in aspects of your life – ask yourself what’s your ‘possible’ limit – at work, or sport or hobby, creative-wise, whatever – and then go past it. “If you lack the virtue, act the virtue” said William Shakespeare – belief in the things you can do and maybe have not yet done makes the impossible, possible. It takes commitment and courage but the rewards are worth it.
4. Bigger than the body (important piece in a big jigsaw puzzle):
Strength of body is undeniably a plus when you are competing against some of the best-conditioned individuals the world has to offer. But it is more than mere physique. It is body – mind – heart – and soul. A state of mind, a belief in self, a trusting that is higher than training alone – these are key to Olympic performance. That many medal winners practiced hypnosis or self-hypnotic visualisations is no surprise – the mind and body are snug bedfellows.
If you notice the faces of Olympian who have just won an event, for the most part you’ll see them look up and out (in amazement, joy, thanks) – to family and friends they know are close at hand, to the crowds supporting them nearby, and I feel that most look even further or broader, at less tangible things – looking out and connecting to their country, their world, and beyond. Thanking that larger connection which is big enough to inspire them.
In the things you do every day, it isn’t just your human form that goes through the motions, it is the feelings, desires, heart, soul, and commitment to something bigger that makes your triumphs greater, and Olympic.
Because everyone is either heading to Athens or going to be glued to the TV, courses will only start again in September (okay, in truth, I’m taking a short vacation, but will be in and out, available at times and contactable).
To all the Olympians and especially the one I know, congratulations – the whole world is supporting you and your aims at the games. You can do it!
If, as a reader, you have any words of support to the athletes, take a moment and send it with your thoughts – the power of the mind with deliver it to these committed and talented men and women in Athens this month.
Have a wonderful August – Happy National Day on the 9th to those in Singapore. To those with birthdays in this month, make Olympic goals for the next year – go for gold!