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Winning the Gold Medal in the Game of Life

By Andrew Oser

With the Olympic Games upon us, you and I once again have the opportunity to observe
men and women who are the best in the world at what they do.  It’s my hope that watching these Olympians will inspire you to “go for the gold” in your own life.  You many not have
the physical gifts to be a champion athlete, but all of us can achieve excellence in some
area. By using the Olympians as role models, you can learn the keys to their success and apply them to your own life.

Many of the techniques used by great Olympic champions can be easily adapted to non-athletic settings.  Let’s take a look at just a few of them:

  1. Identify a long-term goal that truly inspires you and commit yourself to achieving it. Olympians are men and women who dare to dream great dreams, then pursue their visions with total dedication.  Are you settling for mediocrity in your life?  Is there something you would love to achieve or create, but have held back from pursuing because you don’t believe you can do it? Go for it!  I know it sounds deceptively
    simple, but with the power of total commitment behind you, you will be amazed at
    what you can accomplish.
  2. Set specific short-term objectives as mileposts toward your goal. Does your dream seem distant and faraway?  Bear in mind that there’s always a powerful next step
    you can take towards it.  You can gain a great deal of momentum by setting very specific and realistic objectives, then achieving them.  Recently, I started working
    on Nautilus machines for the first time.   At first, I had no clear goals, and found it difficult to make it to the gym on a regular basis.  But once I set the goal of being
    able to do 12 repetitions of at least 100 pounds on each piece of equipment, I
    became eager to get to the gym at every possible opportunity.
  3. Visualize yourself achieving both your short term and long-term goals.  Most Olympic champions and other great athletes have discovered the power of mental imagery. 
    For example, when 3-time Olympian Marilyn King suffered an injury in early 1980
    and wasn’t able to train for 4 months, she did daily visualizations of her event. 
    Despite her lack of physical preparation, she performed at a high level in the Olympic trials and made the team. You can use this power to succeed in all areas of your life. 
    If it is your goal to start your own business, frequently imagine yourself, as vividly as possible, doing whatever it is you aspire to do.  Before every important meeting, visualize how you want the meeting to go and see yourself walking out of the meeting felling totally victorious.  Make your images as specific as possible: Imagine the appropriate sounds and feelings, as well as visual images.
  4. Master the art of relaxed concentration.  When the game is on the line, great athletes go into a state of deep focus.  They are totally absorbed in the task at hand, but not
    at all tense.  Think of Michael Jordan hitting a game winning shot, Pete Sampras
    serving a match point, or Jack Nicklaus putting on the 18th hole at the Masters.  Ever wonder how it is that they and other champions consistently perform their best when
    it matters most, rather than crumbling under the weight of all the pressure?  They
    have learned how to bring their full attention into the present and enjoy the moment,
    not thinking about past mistakes or about the consequences of failure.  How can we master the art of relaxed concentration?  Through practice.  Sports are a great way to practice:  so are tai chi, yoga, and meditation.  You can actually practice relaxed concentration all the time no matter what you are doing.  Once it becomes a habit, you’ll effortlessly perform your best when it comes time for the key meeting or big presentation.
  5. Strive for continuous improvement. The greatest athletes never rest on their laurels; they constantly seek the next level of excellence.  For example, basketball stars Magic Johnson and Larry Bird always spent the off-season working intensely on developing new moves, even after winning several championships each.  Think of the specific skills you need to accomplish your dream, then figure out how to acquire or refine them.  Maybe it’s going back to school, maybe it’s working with a mentor, maybe it’s long hours of lonely practice.  Be willing to do whatever it takes.  Keep challenging yourself to go to the next level.
  6. Don’t let fear stop you.  There are two types of fear.  One is a natural instinctive response to a dangerous situation.  The second is the one we need to watch out for.  It’s our tendency to imagine possible future disasters and fixate on them until we are paralyzed.  Once you commit yourself to a big goal and move toward it, it is likely that all sorts of fears will come up.  “What if I fail?” or “What if I succeed and my friends are jealous?”  The champion recognizes these fears for what they are – enfeebling ways of thinking rooted in the past – ignores them, and keeps moving forward.  Your fears are what have made you settle for mediocrity in the past.  Once you start going for your dream, don’t ever let your fears stop you.

Each of us has the potential to be victorious in our lives, both personally and professionally. 
If you find yourself just going through the motions of your life, why not use the inspiration of
this Olympic year to give yourself a fresh start?  Learn from the great Olympic champions.  Commit yourself to winning a gold medal in the game of life.

Andrew Oser, author of The Joy of Tennis and Learning Life Success Skills Through Sports, is a professional speaker, trainer and Executive Director of The Joy of Sports Foundation.  He will be a torchbearer in this year’s (1996) Olympic Torch Relay.  Mr.
Oser can be reached at 703-768-4077 or at [email protected].    2001

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