Being an Olympic athlete is anything but easy. It requires an untiring work ethic, an incredible amount of skill, and the will to persevere even when the going gets tough. Athletes can have an immeasurable amount of skill, but if they lack the dedication and commitment to achieving their objective, they are unlikely to be successful. Like any high achievers, including innovators, creators, and entrepreneurs, the path to success is a long, hard road. This begs the question – what drives these competitors to keep going, even when the going gets tough?
Recently, the New York Times asked Olympians how they stay so driven. Sarah Hughes, who won the gold medal in women’s figure skating at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, believes that keeping track of progress is an effective way to stay motivated. “Numbers are important because — like the numbers on a scoreboard — they represent progress. Numbers can signal setbacks, participation, and help frame our goals. They keep me motivated in sport and in life.”
Another Olympic champion, gymnast Nastia Liukin, believes that an important way to stay motivated is to focus on day-to-day progress and keep things in perspective. She believes that “it’s not just the long-term goals, but the daily, weekly and monthly ones, that motivate me. It’s important to strive to achieve something on a day-to-day basis.” Keeping perspective focusing on the smaller triumphs that ultimately make up the crowning achievement seems to be a common answer among these world-class athletes.
Dana Torres is one of the most decorated female athletes in the world. In fact, she has the most medals of any female U.S. Olympian. Dana found inspiration not in gliding through the easy days, but in plowing through the difficult days. “I’m very much a goal setter like most athletes. There were days when I didn’t want to get out of my comfy bed at 5:30 AM to go workout, but I’d remember that there’s no way to reach a goal while in bed sleeping. We all have those kinds of days, but to be truly dedicated, you have to push through them.” Pushing through the hard days is paramount to achieving worthwhile goals.
Regardless of field, whether in sports, business, or innovation, Olympic athletes set a standard of performance that can be replicated with the right formula. A dedication to one’s craft, tracking progress, focusing on the task at hand, and perseverance in the face of adversity can propel competitors to greatness. Olympians may only enjoy a brief moment of recognition for their achievements, but their achievements and lessons have long lasting impacts.