C-Suite Network™

Olympic Performance, Business Performance: One in the Same

I love the Olympics! From the pomp and circumstance of the Opening Ceremonies, to the stories of the individual athletes to the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Given that I’m a “people person,” I’m always wondering about the “back story” of Olympians and their performance.

What’s going on in the mind of the athlete? I’d like to interview each one of them and ask, “What did you do to train your mind? How are you thinking – or are you thinking – during the heat of the competition? How do you talk to yourself when you lose – when the dream passes you by?”

These athletes are people, just like you and me. Let’s look at what sets them apart and see how can you achieve that level of greatness in your life and your work. Perhaps you are at the pinnacle of your career and have mastered a great many of the mental skills that are necessary to be calm in the heat of moment. Or possibly, you are in an enviable professional position, but the stress is taking its toll.

Or you may be on your way towards higher goals, but don’t know how to harness your energy in the manner of a true Olympian. Many highly competitive people like athletes, business leaders and entrepreneurs think that success is about working harder. While you cannot achieve lofty goals without hard work, it’s the mental training that makes the difference.

Here are 3 skills that you can begin to cultivate. Many of them you have heard about before. I frequently say that this information is “common knowledge, but not common
practice.” If you want to upgrade your level of performance under pressure, you will need to take it on with the same level of commitment as with any other skill you want to master.

1. Meditation

Meditation is simply “focused concentration,” Pick a sound, a word, an image, your breath, a candle…anything that you can bring your attention back to every time it wanders. One of the hallmarks of great athletes and great leaders is their ability to assess a situation in a split second. They don’t get flustered under intense pressure; they see possibilities where others don’t.

Meditation works on both the mind and the body in profound ways. When we quiet down the nervous system, we also quiet down the part of the brain that is always chattering. At the same time, we are strengthening the pre-frontal cortex, which is the executive part of the brain that we want onboard in pressured situations. I frequently hear people say, “I can’t meditate. I can’t quiet my mind.” Just remember, that the “monkey mind” is our natural state when the mind is untrained. Meditation is one of the keys to changing that situation.

2. Change Your Thoughts to “Productive Thinking.”

Again, I’m sure you’ve heard that you need to speak to yourself in a positive way, yet the mind is prone to offering us “worst case scenarios.” Just telling yourself to stop thinking in a certain way is easier said than done. Rather than glibly telling myself to think positively (because I don’t always believe it), I ask myself, “Do my thoughts produce something useful for me?” For example, If I’ve inadvertently missed an important appointment, rather than beating myself up, I ask myself in a non-judgmental way, “How did this happen and what can I learn from it?”

3. Commit

Every great achievement starts with a commitment to the self. We can’t know how things will turn out, because in taking big risks, we are subject to many variables that are out of our control. But we can control our thoughts and our actions and make that life-changing decision that we’ll do “whatever it takes” to reach our dreams.

While you’re watching the Olympics and marveling at the thrilling performances of the athletes, just know that you, too, have the potential for greatness. Learn how to harness your mind through peak performance training.

If you’d like to see where you are on the level of peak performance skills, I invite you to take my quiz here.

Tina Greenbaum
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