Friday, August 3, 2012

Olympic Mindset

Olympic Mindset

It’s Olympic time and I am always thrilled to watch the sheer athleticism, focus, and determination of these Olympic competitors.  Imagine the time each athlete has given to make it to this level.  Imagine all the many obstacles and hurdles these individuals have overcome to get to where they are now.  To compete at this level, it is not merely due to physical skill, but to a complete perseverance of mind and emotions as well….truly impressive on every level.

But what is it that makes some of these athletes rise above the rest?  What is it that makes the underdog (even at this level) suddenly perform their all time best and surpass the others?  What is it that makes the top athletes waiver and suddenly perform far under par?  Of course, some of these instances could be due to a physical cause: slept bad, slept good…energized, drained…healthy, sick.

But what about the mental aspect? 

There have been multiple instances in these Olympic Games that an athlete “getting in their head” has been the topic of discussion.  At one point, I even heard the commenter’s talking of how an athlete had been pointing to her head as if saying….something’s not right…and it’s all up here (in her mind).  Basically, if an athlete thinks they are going to win, they perform better, and if that athlete’s confidence is down, they perform worse.  This line of thought has been called many things…”The Power of Positive Thinking” and “The Law of Attraction” to name just a few.  The idea being that we must conquer what we think…train our mind to work for us, not just constantly chatter.

I have used this concept time and time again in my life with great success.  As an example, two weeks before I was supposed to test for my 2nd degree black belt I became sick; one week before I was supposed to test I came down with pneumonia and bronchitis.  My doctor told me to rest and not test….I said no way, I absolutely was going to test, period.  The entire day before my test I relaxed and meditated with the entire goal being to restore and rejuvenate my body.  Test day came, and I conquered each step one at a time.  And you better believe that during the ENTIRE test I was doing positive self talk: “come on, Janell, you can do this…come on, another thing down…just breathe…come one, you can do this…”  After the test, I was tired, yes, but so proud of myself and what I had just accomplished.  And my illness, I think I kicked it to the curb with each strike on that test and each positive affirmation I said to myself.

This is the very same technique that I use every day, while exercising and my muscles burn (!), going out to market for our business, getting up with our son when I am so tired, and going in for an exam at school….all times for a little positive self-talk and cheerleading.  Any time my confidence or drive begins to waiver, I do this.  And, any time I feel confident but I’m going in to do something important, I do this.  This ‘Olympic Mindset’ is a way of life.

Here are some tips to help you conquer your ‘Olympic Mindset’
1.Develop your mantra!  (This is a powerful, concise, statement about what you want to be/achieve such as “I am powerful”, “I am healthy”, and “I can do this!”)
2.Practice giving yourself compliments
3.Practice walking tall with your chest lifted high, shoulders back, neck long, and head high
4.Practice looking people in the eye.  If you have a tendency to waiver, here is a good time to practice some positive self-talk (such as “I am strong”)
5.Work on active meditation.  (A favorite one of mine is to get into a squat position (horse stance for all your Kempo martial art lovers).  Focus on your breathing, full, deep, long breaths.  As your legs start to burn, bring your attention to various other parts of your body: is your chest lifted high, your neck relaxed, your belly in strong, your thighs pressing out, your strong glutes supporting you, etc.  Finally, throw in some positive self talk as well.  Time yourself doing the lowest squat you can do without any of these techniques.  Rest.  Now, time yourself again alternating between focusing your mind on your breathing, your body, and your positive self-talk….it will take practice but I think you’ll be surprised to see how much more you can do with these techniques implemented.)
6.When you have a failure, argh (!), acknowledge it, and then move right on back to step #1.

As you can see during these Olympic Games, even Olympic athletes can let their mind get the best of them, so be easy on yourself.  As with any new skill, it is going to take time to develop.  Just keep repeating the steps and the ‘Active Meditation’ where ever you can.  And with time, you too can achieve an ‘Olympic Mindset’!  Go get that gold!

Some websites to visit on ‘mindfulness’

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