Learning from olympians about how to achieve our goals
Updated: Oct 14, 2021
Well, it’s been close to two months since those New Year’s resolutions were set. It can be incredibly hard to stay the course and stick to achieving goals over the long run. If you’re like many people (dare I say most?), you’re feeling like you’ve dropped the ball on what you wanted to accomplish.
Have you watched any of the Winter Olympics recently? When I reflect on these incredible athletes and their journeys, I always find myself thinking about how they push through on the days when they’re tired. When they just want to lay around and eat pizza. When they’re just done with training.
These athletes know a secret about moving from being pretty good at what they do to having enormous success in life. In my work as a psychologist, I see a certain behaviour that works time and time again for helping people achieve a life they love.
Once a person is at the point of being in the top 5 of all athletes in a certain sport, really any one of them can win that gold medal. What separates the absolute top athletes from those that almost make it?
This is because “there is not enough action in the word to compensate for not being mindful.” ~Abraham Hicks
Mindfulness is a mental state of being focused on the present moment in a state of acceptance and non-judgement. When athletes are able to accomplish a state of being mindful, they let go of worries about their competition and get in the flow of their sport. They are empowered, in the zone and virtually invincible. They’re not thinking of the past or the future but just focused on what they are doing right now.
Can you think of a time when you achieved a state of mindfulness in your own life? It often happens when exercising or when you’re focused on an activity that’s fun for you, like skiing, art, gardening, surfing or riding a motorbike. When you’re in a mindful state, you’ll often notice that you lose track of time.
So you might be wondering about how to achieve a state of mindfulness. Here are a couple of tips:
Meditation is a wonderful way to train your mind and body to be in a mindful state more of the time. To practice a form of mindfulness meditation, remember this advice, “don’t just do something, sit there” ~ Sylvia Boorstein. Sit in a quiet place and get in a comfortable position. Breathe naturally and focus your attention on your breath. Any time your thoughts drift off to something else (and they will!), just gently bring your attention back to your breath. Sounds simple, but it can be challenging in practice. Start with 5-10 minutes, moving up to around 20 minutes per day.
Set a reminder on your phone to pop up throughout the day to remind you to be mindful. When the reminder comes up, work to release all thoughts about the past and the future and focus on whatever you’re doing in the present moment. Remember, you can be mindful of doing anything. Standing in line at the grocery store. Driving. Playing with your child. Checking your email. Making a cup of tea. Just focus on what you’re doing and notice and accept anything you’re feeling. Recognize what is happening within and around you and do your best to appreciate the little moments.
Add in one mindful activity.
Another great way to incorporate mindfulness into your routine is to choose one activity and try to do it on a daily basis in a mindful way. Good examples are brushing your teeth or eating breakfast. If you choose to eat breakfast, you would take away all outside distractions like TV or your phone and focus on the taste, smell and texture of the food. Focus on the sensation of the food in your mouth and how it feels as you chew. Over time, add in another activity. Begin to recognize the difference between doing something mindfully and doing something mindlessly.
As you begin to incorporate more mindfulness into your life, you’ll likely notice some wonderful benefits:
Feeling more clear-minded. Feeling happier. More motivated. Sleeping better. More able to focus on your goals. Less anxious.
So can you see how mindfulness might help you to achieve your New Year’s resolutions? Mindfulness reduces a sense of competition with others and helps you to focus specifically on yourself and your life. It helps you to release any thoughts that might be holding you back. It helps you to focus on the here-and-now, rather than the past or the future. It helps you to be more forgiving and accepting of yourself.
If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness, a few great books are Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn and The Mindfulness Solution by Ron Siegel.
I’d love to hear from you! What is one step you plan to take in order to incorporate more mindfulness into your life? If you want more tips about how to live a life you love, sign up for our email list here.