The Olympic Games are over for another four years, where Tokyo will be ready and waiting for us once again to pick it back up in 2020. The Games are the best place to look at human performance at the highest level, whether it is what it takes to perform successfully at such a level or handling the adversity that can often come with such a momentous occasion. The lessons that you can learn from Olympians are endless, below I have seven of these lessons that will help you achieve your own greatness.
The Olympic Games are once every four years, this means that Olympians and budding Olympians have to plan in four year cycles. Everything within our plan has the ultimate goal of putting everything in place, to enable us to have the very best chance of performing to our best at the Olympic Games.
Now, within our four year cycle we also have other goals and objectives, we have other championships like National Championships, European Championships, Continental Championships, Commonwealth Games and World Championships etc. All of these championships are of extreme importance to us where we also aim to perform to a high level. At the same time, they are the stepping stones towards the end of our four year cycle and the place where we learn many, sometimes harsh, lessons. Lessons that we can take with us an improve upon for the pinnacle of our four year cycle - The Olympic Games.
Every Olympian knows that an Olympic Games is not promised to you, a lot can happen within four years and once an opportunity arises, you must do your best to grab it with both hands. Many stars have to be aligned to make an Olympic games.
One of the comments that I found frustrating during the Olympics is commentators stating that athletes had “time on their side”, “don’t worry you'll have another chance at another Olympic Games”. While I’m sure they're doing their best to console athletes that hadn't performed as they would have wished, it isn’t true. Opportunities are not promised to you!
When you see an opportunity, go for it, embrace it, have no hesitation, give it everything you have as you do not know whether you will get another chance.
Things Go Wrong
Sometimes, sh*t happens! You can have the best plan in the world and unfortunately it doesn’t always work out on the day and nobody is immune from this. It will and does happen to everyone at some point. This is a fact of life, you have to put everything you possibly can in place to lower the chances of this happening and then go out there and give it your best shot, thats all you can do.
Secondly, I am yet to meet an Olympian who had their four year plan in place and didn't have to be flexible and adapt their plan along the way. Things change, a part of your plan may go wrong, you have to be ready and know that this will very likely happen. It isn’t the end of the world, it is a natural part of the process, adapt.
If you are in the unfortunate position where things have gone wrong, know you are not alone, others before you and after you will go through the same, this does not dictate your future success.
Teamwork makes the dream work. As much as you are the sole driving force behind your goals and ambitions, you will need help from others. A vital part of an Olympians success is the team they build around them. These are people that can provide the skills that you may not have or that you may require i.e. a coach that has a depth of knowledge.
Personally, I will only have people in my team that are passionate about what they do, that are supportive, are genuine and kind people, know how to have fun and have a world-class skill set. If the team around you are average, basic and not up to scratch how can you expect to perform at the highest level?
You must also weed out the people that pretend they are top class and are only out for themselves, trust me, there are many of these, especially in the world of sport.
Do your due diligence and research people before you allow them to be an integral part of your team. Be wary of all the bells and whistles people hide behind, for example a common trap in sport are therapists and coaches that have aligned themselves with certain sporting stars in the past and now live off the back of that athlete, when in reality that therapists/coaches skill set is below par.
I’ll let you into a secret regarding nerves. If the occasion is important you will always have nerves. Nerves are not a bad sign, they are a sign that this means a lot to you and in fact you need nerves to help you perform to your best. The ability you need to acquire is being able to handle them and stay composed even in situations where the pressure is on.
I can assure you that every single athlete at the Olympic Games will have had nerves before their competition. Therefore, forget about getting rid of them and think more about how do I keep a lid on them and stop them from reaching a level where they are detrimental.
One of the athletes that I thought done this absolutely brilliantly, especially given his age (21), was Adam Peaty who is now the Olympic Champion and world record holder in the 100m breast stroke.
Your Upbringing Does Not Dictate Your Success
The Olympics is full of inspiring stories, one that stood out to me was Simone Biles’ story, if you do not know it then I implore you to read it.
The Olympics is full of a vast array of people from all types of cultures and backgrounds, that have faced all types of difficulties and have still made it to be successful. I often describe the Olympic Village as its own little world, as you have people from every corner of the planet sharing and living in the same environment.
Your upbringing is not an excuse for not being able to achieve your own greatness.
Embrace the Occasion
What you see at the Olympic Games is that the very best athletes embrace the occasion. They know that they have worked incredibly hard for four years, overcame many obstacles along their journey, had to handle stress and pressure, learnt hard and fast lessons, made sacrifices, have millions of eyes around the world watching them and they embrace the moment. What these athletes realise, is that, what is the point of now being worried, anxious, concerned, scared and fearing failure when you have put in so much blood, sweat and tears? Now is the time to have fun and enjoy the occasion, surely that is what you at least deserve after such extreme dedication? They know they have done everything they can to put themselves in the best possible place to perform, that they will give it their best shot, so they can now feel safe and free in that knowledge and enjoy their moment.
Nathan Douglas - Performance Lifestyle and Mind Coach. Double Olympian.