Aiming high? Think like an athlete.
When striving for excellence there's a lot we can learn from thinking like an athlete...but not just for the reasons that are immediately obvious. Sure, setting goals and working towards them in a systematic manner are important steps, as is dedication to the sport, but there are other aspects to an athlete's mindset that we can draw upon when aiming high. The key is to plan for sustainability in whatever you do, so let's look at key takeaways when it comes to thinking like an athlete that we can apply to our own lives.
What are some key takeaways?
1. Set your direction
Before we launch into setting goals, let's look first at setting your direction. What's your purpose in life? What drives you? Who are you doing it for - for yourself, for your family, or because it looks good?
Even the most talented athlete can easily get demotivated and burnout when there is neither passion nor a bigger picture. It's good to clarify in your own mind your reasons for doing what you do, or you may easily find yourself facing burnout.
2. Set SMART goals
Athletes structure their training around minor and major competitions. In order to peak at precisely the right time, they follow a specific routine with goals that are achievable given your ability and competing obligations, relevant to your overall direction, time-bound so the goals have an end point for evaluation, and measurable so that they can track their progress.
So, when considering your own goals, identify when it's critical for you to peak and plan SMART goals to get you there. Need a bit more help? Check out this post on How to set goals to maintain motivation and stay on track.
3. Take a holistic approach
Being an elite athlete is so much more than working on technique and skill. It's also about having the right building blocks so that the body and mind can perform. The building blocks that are important include eating the right types of food for energy, being hydrated, and being sufficiently rested including sleeping well.
If you're aiming high in life, step away from being single-minded in your approach (e.g. focusing only on work, or only on studies). It's when your body can last the distance, and your mind is able to think clearly, that you can truly excel, so prioritise the building blocks for success - physical health, psychological wellbeing and overall resilience.
In fact, why not check out our FREE 14-day Wellbeing Challenge? We've written it with busy lifestyles in mind. Join the challenge for a taster of easy-to-action wellbeing tips.
4. Seek help - assemble your team of professionals
Athletes assemble an entire team to help them achieve peak performance - not just their coach who advises on skills and techniques, but their exercise physiologist, dietitian, physiotherapist, and...yes...psychologist. You see, getting ahead in their fields means knowing when to call in the experts.
Similarly, it's helpful to think about who to bring to your team when it comes to aiming high in life. Would it be a mentor to guide you in your career? What about a dietitian to help you develop an eating plan that gives you sustained energy throughout the day? Or a psychologist (okay, so we may be a bit biased) to give you the right mindset for building your resilience and dealing with challenges?
5. Think sustainably
When people pursue excellence there is a tendency to adopt the adage of "Go hard or go home" and "Give 110% effort, all of the time". Yet this way of perfectionistic thinking is a fast track to burnout. What ends up happening is that there are peaks of heightened performance, then a prolonged period of recovery in order to regain the same level of functioning.
Think about it - elite athletes wouldn't treat every practice run as a gold medal race. They can't afford to 'go hard or go home' each and every single time. If they chose to do this, they would quickly burnout and fail to peak when required - or worse, experience injury.
The bottom line? Recognise when it's critical to peak (e.g. significant projects) and when it's time to focus on keeping things sustainable.
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