A lifetime of practicing and perfecting; dreaming and dedicating. The hopes of a nation resting on your shoulders – a split second separating glory from heartbreak.

It’s that time again. From February 4, the world will watch in wonder as our top athletes go for gold at the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

But how do elite athletes make it to the top, and stay there? How do they push their bodies whilst protecting their minds? To find out we explored the psychological tools and techniques required to reach the top of your game, and how these same strategies can help us excel, both personally and professionally.

Bounce back stronger

If there’s anything the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us, it’s that we cannot control the future. There will always be obstacles to overcome. Whatever your next big goal in life is, whether it’s a job promotion or buying a home, it helps to have a strategy for how to achieve it, so you can tackle any bumps in the road. Keep up your motivation by setting interim targets and be sure to measure your progress – whether saving a certain amount per month, or identifying and documenting the skills you need for that promotion.

A few bumps in the road came at once for Winter Olympic star Mikalea Shriffin, when her father passed away in an accident. The American Alpine skier holds two gold medals and is the youngest slalom champion in Olympic history. Losing her father, alongside battling a severe back injury, and facing the disruption to sporting events caused by the pandemic, could have been too much for Shriffin to handle. But Shriffin sidelined the ideas of retirement that had begun to creep in. She decided to summon the strength to keep going, and so demonstrated the kind of resilience required to achieve your goals in the face of adversity.

Know your limits

Pushing yourself is an integral part of being successful and ensuring continued growth. Taking yourself outside of your comfort zone is vital to development. But how far is too far?

With 32 Olympic and World Championship medals to her name, Simone Biles is no stranger to stretching herself to the limit. Considered one of the greatest of all time, it was during the 2021 Tokyo Olympic games that the US gymnast demonstrated the importance of knowing when to step back. Losing herself midair, in a dangerous mental phenomenon known in gymnastics as the “twisties”, Biles decided to withdraw from her next four events. And so, became an example in managing risk, and prioritizing safety.

Whether you’re feeling stressed and nearing burn out, trying to fit too much into an already-busy schedule, or taking on one too many new projects at work, Biles can teach us that a healthy work-life balance is vital. Taking quality time away from your desk, using vacations to properly switch off, and making sure you don’t take work home, are all great ways to achieve this.

Able to participate in her final Olympic event, the gymnast proved that sometimes doing less is more.

Stay positive, stay focused

Not yet an Olympic athlete, but arguably the greatest sports success story of the year, British tennis player Emma Raducanu rocked the sporting world by winning the US Open last September. At 18-years-old, Raducanu had ranked outside the top 300 just a few months before. She went on to become the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam title.

Her latest campaign with sponsors Nike, shows her batting away distracting negative thoughts with her racket. Having gone from finishing exams at school to becoming the British No.1 in the space of a year, Raducanu has faced unprecedented pressure. But her positive, upbeat outlook has become a source of inspiration. Dismissing her critics, she chooses to focus on what is coming next, instead of ruminating on the past.

It’s easy to find yourself adopting a glass-half-empty outlook, particularly during tough times. Faced with financial hardships, job loss, or personal challenges, our thoughts can become rapidly negative. We become fixated on a past mistake, letting it distract us from focusing on problem-solving in the present. But athletes can show us the huge advantages of visualization, positivity and belief – and how these are the tools that make a winner.

But ask for professional help

When the most decorated Olympian of all-time advocates seeking professional help, after his own battles with mental health, it might be time to sit up and listen. Thought of as one of the greatest athletes in history, American swimmer Michael Phelps is a vocal campaigner for therapy, after facing deep bouts of depression throughout his career.

Across the US economy, serious mental illness causes $193.2billion in lost earnings each year, and the overall suicide rate has risen by 35 percent since 1999.[1] Michael Phelps is a lesson in asking for help when you need it, without shame. Protecting your mind is the first step in protecting your future, your family and your career.

There’s no “I” in “Team”

Whether you’re embarking on a new business venture and becoming your own boss for the first time, moving to a new city, or starting a family – you might think you can go it alone. During their Winter Olympic qualifiers, the American speed skating team showed how building a solid network of friends, family and teammates plays a significant role in helping you take that next big step successfully. It takes a village to raise a child, and community to change the world.

For the world’s top speed skater, Erin Jackson, it took her friend and fellow teammate Brittany Bowe, to help her try to realize her dream of becoming the first Black woman to win an Olympic gold speed skating medal. After Jackson slipped during the race, Bowe, who’d already qualified in a longer distance, showed true team spirit and gave up her 500m Olympic spot to the world No.1: her friend Erin. The US skating team set off to the Winter Olympics stronger.

Finding the fun

Freeski champion Alex Hall is set to make the podium at the upcoming Winter Olympics. After disappointing himself at the 2018 games with middling results, Hall has spoken about adopting a new mindset this time around. Instead of piling on the pressure and letting the focus consume him, Hall is choosing to reconnect with his love of the sport.

Doing what you love and finding the thing that truly motivates you in life can be a great way to ensure success. But even if you are working a job you once adored, or took the plunge and are pursuing your passions, it is easy to become overwhelmed with the desire to achieve. Hall teaches us a great lesson in relinquishing that pressure and finding the fun in what we do once more.

New York Life is committed to helping our customers successfully plan their financial futures, no matter the circumstances. Through our 176 years of experience, we’ve learned the need to develop resilience and determination; we’ve become the Olympic athletes of the financial world. We hope to foster a place of security, safety and success.

 

1 “Mental Health By the Numbers.” National Alliance on Mental Illness. Jan 28, 2022. www.nami.org/mhstats

 


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Media contact
Kevin Maher
New York Life Insurance Company
(212) 576-6955
Kevin_B_Maher@newyorklife.com

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