Having spent most of the start of the year head down in different projects, I made a commitment to myself at the end of May that I'd look up, look around and make much more of an effort to connect with the outside world. My commitment must be pretty bad, given than it's now 2 months on and I've remained - in the most part - solitary. And as I watch the amazing athletes on the Olympics, I can safely conclude that commitment isn’t the only Olympian characteristic that I lack. Hours in the gym, repetition and pain might not be for all of us, but there are some practices that might be worth considering. So here goes my top 5 Olympian skills that we can all have a part of.
1. Preparation really does count
I've never really been a big fan of the idea that you can never be too prepared, preferring instead to leave some room to go with the flow. But I'm starting to see how preparation can give you just the room you need to be creative. Now, I'm not saying I’m not prepared, but I've worked with someone this year who has shown me that by considering all the possibilities, you can really open up new opportunities to test out different things and respond in different ways. Being ready for anything makes you both more alert and more comfortable. And that's become really important as we deal with new challenges, like taking workshops and training online. Preparation is becoming my new mantra!
2. Being great when you most need it
One of the things that's really caught my attention is the way that some athletes can improve through different stages of the competition so that they deliver their best performance in the final, when it's most needed. Obviously I'm not competing with others, but I think there's something really positive to take from the fact that you don't need to perform flat out all the time. When you're working on your own, at your desk, doing work that might be relatively low-value, you can give yourself permission to be on your B game. When you're in front of a group of people, or writing an important report, bring your A game. This is a much healthier way to approach working life, especially now many of us are integrating work and home much more closely. You really can save your best for when you need it the most!
3. Adding some flair goes a long way
I'm not really a sports fan, but one of the reasons I love the Olympics is because of the huge range of sports on offer. You can watch archery, swimming and weightlifting alongside BMX, trampolining and volleyball. And that means a lot of different people delivering their expertise in a lot of different ways. The variety, creativity and flair that many of the Olympians bring is truly inspirational. It tells me two things. First, we should celebrate the ways we're different, all bringing different things to the table. And second, there's no single 'correct' approach to anything - so let's all add our own flair and make it more fun.
4. Chameleon characteristics are key
I love a puzzle. Any kind of puzzle, really. Crosswords, number puzzles, escape rooms, jigsaws - anything that involves putting different 'pieces' together and finding a solution. Watching the street skateboarders the other day shed light on how important this problem solving really is. One competitor tried what looked like quite a complex trick, but didn't land it properly. He tried twice more, each time falling off. On run 4, he tried something different. It was amazing and he got a great score. On his last run, he went back to his original trick, and failed again. What lessons to learn! Being too stuck on one thing, not trying anything new, can often lead to disappointing results. Being open to new approaches, adapting to the situation there and then, trying new things and taking a risk on being different can be much more satisfying - and bring better results.
5. A higher purpose
I often bang on about the importance of having a purpose, so it's no suprise that this is one of my Olympic take-aways! Obviously, many of the sports people are there to win a gold medal. But many more are simply there because they want to push themselves to their limits, achieve their very best, represent their country and become an Olympian. I don't necessarily agree with all these sentiments, but I do understand how crucial it is to understand not only what you're doing but why. So let's all take a moment to think about our own why.
If you're like me, you're not an Olympian and probably never will be, but that doesn't mean that we can't revel in the variety and apply some of the Olympic spirit to our own lives. Just be careful on those skateboards - I hear they can be quite dangerous...