The Pan Am games are coming to Toronto very soon, and it's got me thinking about how someone becomes a world-class athlete.
These sports superstars aren't necessarily born with super-human abilities. Mostly, it's their hard work and dedication to their craft that puts them head and shoulders above the rest of us.
I can think of ten habits that elite athletes exhibit that make the difference between being just ordinary and being extraordinary.
Whether we're into sports, or just wanting to be the best we can be, it might be worth cultivating some of these habits ourselves.
Habit #1: Willingness: These athletes are willing to do what it takes to succeed. Even when a task is difficult or unpleasant, their willingness to go for it is what separates the winners from everyone else.
Habit #2: Commitment: These athletes have made a long-term commitment to their sport, and they never waver in this commitment, no matter how tough things get. That's what puts them ahead of us mere mortals.
Habit #3: Perseverance: Even when they're down; even if they experience injury, hardship or failure, these athletes keep moving forward. They may experience set-backs but they never give up.
Habit #4: Self-discipline: There's always the temptation to stay up too late, eat the wrong foods or avoid the more challenging aspects of training, but these winning athletes know that the only way to succeed is to fight the urge to indulge their child-like impulses.
Habit #5: Focus: These athletes have one goal and one goal alone. They don't get distracted by the possibilities of fame, fortune or glory, or by the fear of losing. They have their eyes on the prize and nothing can tear them away from pursuing their vision of success.
Habit #6: Self-awareness: If we want to be a success, in sports or in life, it's a necessity to be honest with ourselves about our strengths and weaknesses, in order to maximize the former and minimize the latter.
Habit #7: Self-compassion: When we push ourselves to excel, we're not always going to win. There can be only one gold medalist in each competition. The quality that makes it possible to keep trying, even when we're far from first place, is self-compassion.
Habit #8: Sense of Humour: Laughter makes everything easier and better. When an elite athlete can have a sense of humour about their crazy life, it takes off some of the edge and makes it easier to go into the next grueling practice or competition.
Habit #9: Sociability: Elite athletes train, practice and compete within a group. Having a friendly, considerate attitude, even with their competitors, creates a mutually supportive environment in which everyone is more likely to thrive.
Habit #10: Optimism: Being in a highly competitive environment can be stressful, especially when we're not winning the top prizes. A positive, optimistic attitude allows us to make lemonade from lemons; learn important lessons about ourselves and life, and be happier in general, no matter what the outcome of a particular competition.
These habits can easily be applied to our career or our personal lives. When we adopt the ten winning habits of elite athletes, we become winners in our own lives, as well.
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