In my work with clients in psychotherapy I like to weave current events into our discussions when appropriate. I’ve found that it helps give people a point of reference in understanding their own situation and their coping skills.
None of my current clients is a professional athlete. But this week I’ll probably find a way to draw on the Olympics as a source of inspiration and motivation.
Psychologists who have studied Olympic athletes have identified common psychological characteristics that help them succeed. For example, Daniel Gould of Michigan State University has found the following:
1. Knowing how hard to push – Work hard but don’t overtrain.
2. Optimism – Searching for solutions
3. Self-awareness – Knowing what you need to work on
4. Intrinsic motivation – Personal quest for excellence
5. Adaptive perfectionism – Focus on achievement, with low concern for mistakes
6. Plans to deal with distractions – Helps keep focus during performance
7. Having a routine and sticking with it – May be the most important strategy for long-term success
All the above apply to success toward any goal, not just athletics. Most people know this, but with the backdrop of the Olympics, they may be more motivated, especially if they’re inspired by some of the athletes’ stories.
Stories are much more powerful than research statistics. People do not personally identify with statistics. They do relate to others’ stories and are influenced by them.
Here’s a video of Olympic judo contestant Kayla Harrison, who followed her dream, despite being sexually abused by her former athletic coach.