I’ve always loved to watch the Olympics, both winter and summer. Being the empathetic type, I feel the excitement, nervousness, and exhilaration they must feel as they perform, as well as the joy or sadness from winning or not winning.
The Olympics are about so much more than winning or the feelings that go into it.
For me it’s about doing one’s very best after many years of focused practice and extreme dedication. It’s about the ability to be centered enough to perform at one’s peak in front of the world watching. It’s about the drive and passion to be the best we can be at something and going after it. It’s about the ability to perform with precision despite any pain or obstacles that get in the way. And these lessons are applicable to all of us, including the spiritual practices that we can bring to our work, money and other important matters.
My friend Marilyn King was an Olympic pentathlon athlete. About 6 months before the Moscow Olympics she was in a bad car accident and was hospitalized for months. Rather than give up her Olympic dream, she watched videos constantly of other pentathlon athletes performing at their peak and very consciously visualized doing the same.
Although she only had a few months of actual practice time before the Olympics, she placed second. Her practice of visualization was a powerful tool of success.
Marilyn then applied her Olympian wisdom to peacebuilding and education in a process she calls Olympian Thinking. Her formula is passion (source of energy and creativity), plus vision (crystal clear images of goal), plus action (everything I do in alignment with vision) equals exceptional human performance (ordinary people doing extraordinary things).
What lessons can we derive from the Olympics for the workplace?
- Strive for excellence – Excellence doesn’t mean perfection, rather the ability to focus and care deeply about our work to do the best we can. Striving for excellence motivates us; striving for perfection is demoralizing. We all make mistakes, but the opportunity is to learn from them and not repeat them. Excellence takes time, hard work, patience, practice and commitment. It doesn’t mean settling for just good enough.
- Vision – In order to excel in something, we need to be clear where we’re going, what we want to do well. What drives us? What are we passionate about? It’s hard to excel if our heart is not in what we’re doing. Find what has heart and meaning and go for it.
- Ask for Help or Guidance – All Olympic athletes have coaches – people who work with them, oversee their training, encourage them and keep them on track. We can’t do it alone. If we don’t understand something or are confused or overwhelmed, we need to be able to ask for help or guidance. Consider hiring a coach or finding a mentor.
- The 3 C’s – Courage, Creativity and Commitment – Athletes don’t make it to the Olympics by being wimps. It takes tremendous courage and commitment to stretch beyond their limits and practice over and over, even when they are exhausted, until they achieve their personal best. It takes creativity to keep trying new routines (ice skating), faster runs (skiing) or new strokes (swimming) until they discover the best, fastest and most creative they can be. Do you practice the 3C’s in your work?
- Ensure you have the right practical tools – We can never excel if we don’t have the right tools for the job. If you have an older computer, not enough staff, outdated software, need for training, slow internet, etc, be sure you take steps to upgrade. Yes, these cost money upfront, but in the long run save you time and money and enable you to get the job done. Prepare a brief proposal to your boss and explain why upgrading makes sense. Don’t waste time with outdated tools.
- Don’t forget your spiritual tools! This blog is filled with spiritual tools and practices that can be applied to any task. Just click on the “Spiritual Practices” category near the bottom of the categories list.
- Use visualization – See yourself doing what you love at your very best. What does it look and feel like? Remember how Marilyn King used visualization to help her succeed in the Olympics. Use it for yourself.
What is your passion? Your personal best? Where do you excel?
Are you using Olympian thinking to combine your passion with your vision and action to achieve your best? If not, try it.
Kimberly Weichel is a social pioneer, educator, author and specialist in global communications, leadership and peacebuilding. She is co-author of “Healing the Heart of the World” and director of the Institute for Peacebuilding. www.kimweichel.org.