A lifetime of practice, striving and sacrifice; the hopes of a nation resting on your shoulders; a split second separating glory from bone-crushing disappointment. As we watch in wonder as the world’s top athletes go for gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, held July 23 to August 8, 2021, we look at the psychological strategies elite athletes use to make it to the top and stay there. We explore how these strategies are applicable to scenarios you might encounter every day, whether in business or in your personal life.
Whether you’re an athlete or a sales professional, learn the secrets of how the best become the best from experts, like top sports psychologist Dr. Kevin Elko, in a new masterclass from New York Life Investments. It helps if you have the awesome raw talent of Michael Phelps or Simone Biles, but you’ll learn that top performers need more than speed or strength to be the best. They possess core traits and values such as discipline, self-control, confidence, and the ability to focus in critical situations: what Dr. Elko calls a “Maximum Performance Mindset.”
US gymnast Kerri Strug showed her Maximum Performance Mindset at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. With the hopes and expectations of her coach, the crowd, and the nation on her shoulders, she won a first-ever gold for her team by performing her vital final vault routine with a broken ankle.
Planning for uncertainty
It’s not only in critical moments that Olympic athletes must practice a Maximum Performance Mindset – it’s throughout a lifetime of training and preparation. That preparation was upset when the Tokyo Games was postponed. The 2021Olympians have had to be resilient and flexible while maintaining the same levels of discipline and dedication, despite the doubt around when, or if, the event would be held. Likewise, recent times have taught us that we need to be prepared for the unexpected, flex our financial preparations, and remain resilient in the face of uncertainty.
Goals, bumps and resiliency
Whatever your next big goal in life, whether it’s a job promotion or buying a home, it helps to have a strategy for how to achieve it. But it could be a long road, so keep up your motivation by setting interim targets, and measure your progress – whether saving a certain amount per month, or identifying and documenting the skills you need for that promotion.
There may be some bumps in the road. Resiliency will help you come back stronger – and achieve your goals. US women’s soccer star Alex Morgan is one of the best in her sport. After the heartbreak of losing out on gold to Sweden at the 2016 Rio Olympics, she bounced back to help her team win the World Cup in 2019. She has thrived on, and off, the field. Along with teammates like Megan Rapinoe, she has overcome soccer’s gender pay gap (and doubled her earnings) through endorsements from the likes of Nike, while campaigning for equal pay.1
Planning for the future
With their laser focus on achieving greatness, Olympic athletes won’t be looking beyond Tokyo right now, but Olympic champions know the importance of retirement planning. Many utilize their skills by going into coaching or find other outlets for their talent. For example, sprinter Michael Johnson passes on his knowledge of being the best with his sports management company. Basketball legend and star of the US “Dream Team” from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Michael Jordan, went into business. Today he owns NBA team, Charlotte Hornets, and NASCAR team, 23XI Racing, and is the world’s richest former professional athlete.2
While achieving a worth of $1.6 billion like Michael Jordan might be an unrealistic goal for most of us, we can learn valuable lessons from these inspirational Olympians. In the meantime, we’ll be watching the Games in awe and excitement as they strive to become the best.
1 “The U.S. women’s team won the World Cup, and they’re about to get paid — by sponsors, anyway.” Pesce, Nicole Lyn. July 13, 2019. Accessed 15 July, 2021
2 “Michael Jordan Ranks No. 1,931 on Forbes' 2021 Billionaires List at $1.6B”. Conway, Tyler. April 6, 2021. Accessed 15 July, 2021
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