5 Ways to Embody the Olympic Spirit in Your Daily Life

Photo by Shinnosuke Ando

When we watch the Olympics, we all do it with awe — all of these seemingly ordinary people doing completely abnormal things. And those athletes do deserve our admiration, but not only for the things they can do with their bodies.

Being an athlete is about more than just winning. It’s about striving, sacrificing, learning to lose, but most importantly, it’s about work, effort, and dedication. The journey to the Olympics is not easy. It’s full of pain, often cruel, and often ungrateful. It’s an endlessly difficult journey that may lead to only suffering and no joy. Just remember that only three people medal in each competition, all of the other athletes are just there to lose.

I’ve been an “athlete” for my entire life, in one form or another. When I was a kid, I played football, basketball, and tennis. Every day I was moving, running, jumping, and most importantly — I loved competing. I hated losing, and it could easily render me to tears whenever I was on the losing side of any game. So I can’t imagine what it must be like to lose on the biggest scale, see all that effort go to waste and lose your dream.

We can learn many things from athletes, and I’ve taken those lessons to heart as I’ve gotten older. I could hardly focus on one task for more than one hour as a child. I lacked determination and the ability to work hard and do things, even when they hurt and I disliked them.

Now, I can safely say that everything I’ve heard from people like Evgenia Medvedeva, Kobe Bryant, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rafael Nadal, I apply to my daily life. I want to share all those lessons with you so that you hopefully take them in as well and apply them to your everyday life.

5 Lessons from Athletes You Should Apply in Your Daily Life

You would hear many people say that athletes aren’t intelligent or that their beliefs are simply unusable in other areas of life. However, that’s an entirely false assumption, and I will prove it to you. Let’s now take a look at five lessons we all can benefit from.

On Handling Pressure Effectively

There’s one famous quote by Kobe Bryant that goes like this: “ Everything negative — pressure, challenges — is all an opportunity for me to rise.” Kobe faced one of the worst moments in his career when he was just 18 years old. He attempted a shot at the final moments of a playoff game in an attempt to win the match, however, shot a horrible-looking airball. The Lakers then lost the game.

After this loss, Kobe was relentlessly bullied by media members and fans alike. However, he turned this apparent failure into one of his biggest motivators for his later success.

Once the off-season started, Kobe would spend his entire training session working on his shot. Then and there, he developed the mentality of waking up early and starting his practices before the sun ever came up.

From that moment on, for his entire career, Kobe went on to make 36-game winning shots. His last game-winning shot came in the final match he ever played against the Utah Jazz. That first failure became the backbone for Kobe that helped him learn how to handle pressure expertly. With calmness and no fear.

No matter what you do in life, you will have to be able to handle pressure, regardless of whether you’re a doctor, a businessman, or an SEO. Making the right decision when people are counting on you is difficult. But if you can rise above the occasion, you can achieve greatness. But just like Kobe, remember that handling pressure is all about endless preparation.

On Becoming Better Everyday

One of my favorite mantras in life says that we need to strive not for perfection but to become a better version of ourselves. This lesson, I’ve heard from more than one athlete, including Kobe, who also has a famous post-mortem Nike ad that follows the refrain — “Just be Better.”

Nike Commercial “Just Be Better”

However, this lesson won’t come from Kobe. Instead, it will come from a young Russian girl who faced challenges few of us will ever even imagine. Evgenia Medvedeva had it all. In 2017, she was a two-time World Champion two-time European Champion. She won every competition she had entered for the past two years. All that at the “old” age of just 17.

In 2018, she began preparing for her biggest dream — winning the Olympic Games. However, things soon started getting difficult — first, she lost the European Championship to her 15-year old teammate Alina Zagitova. Then she got diagnosed with a stress fracture on her right foot. She had her first-ever fall on the ice in over two years. She was tired, broken, and could barely train, but she said one thing — “I will die, but I will go to the Olympics. Broken, unbroken, with a fracture or not, I will go, and I will skate because that’s my dream.”

At the Pyeongchang Games, she faced competition from only one person- her teammate Zagitova. After their short programs had ended, Evgenia had figured out one thing — if they both did their long programs perfectly, she would still lose. Medvedeva gave it her all. She scored +3 on all of her components and achieved one of the highest scores ever recorded. And she lost by 1.5 points. A margin so small, it’s unbelievable that it’s even possible. Once her skate had ended, she began to weep. She cried hard, all the way into the Kiss&Cry.

Now, almost 4 years after the event, she has come to peace with what happened. She says: “I thank God that he didn’t let me win back then. Who knows what would have happened had I won. Now, I have this thing within me that I feel like I will never get. This little fire inside of me pushes me to get better — to learn more, achieve more, and strive for more. I look in the mirror every day, and I think to myself, what more can I do, how can I become better. And I know that feeling will stay with me until the rest of my life.”

The story of Medvedeva teaches us two things — how to overcome heartbreak and what you can do to get past the things that break you. Evgenia knows she will never achieve her lifelong dream. She has injuries that will not allow her to compete any longer. She will never become an Olympic champion.

But she doesn’t let the betrayal of her coach, the fall of her dream to make her fall down the rabbit hole of losing herself. Instead, she takes that disappointment and heartbreak and uses them as fuel to drive her self-improvement. She looks in the mirror every day and looks for things to improve.

You can do the same. Regardless of what you do in life, what you want to achieve, and what your dreams are. You can take the “get better every day” approach and relentlessly apply it. If it does not make you a better professional, it will surely make you a better person.

Use Competiton to Push You Further

Ronaldo vs. Messi, Nadal vs. Federer — all greats have had competition. The only way to actually become better is to strive towards something. And having someone who’s near your level, constantly pushing you to get better, to keep improving, can be extremely helpful.

Some people hate having competition-don’t be one of those. Love thy enemy is the mantra I’ve learned from those people instead.

By yourself, you can reach a certain level. But after a while, pushing yourself might become daunting, especially if you’re at the very top of your career. However, if you have someone, who’s just as talented, hard-working, and dedicated as you are, it ensures that you will always have a reason to want more. And that you will also never have a ceiling that you can reach. There’s always more and more to go for, which means you can end up exceeding everything you ever dreamed about.

So take this one lesson to heart. Find someone who you consider to be just as great as you are and look to them as a source of inspiration, a worthy competition, as that will only serve you well.

Remain Humble at All Times

Think of your loudest, most obnoxious, over-confident colleague. Do you admire that person? Or do you consider them to be someone to be pitied?

No matter how good you become, remembering that you can always get better and that there are many factors in becoming “great” is the best way to remain down-to-earth and humble. The best example of this behavior is none other than Rafael Nadal.

21 Grand Slam Titles. More than 90 titles overall. One of the greatest athletes of his generation and a member of the group of tennis GOATs. Nadal has come back from horrible injuries more often than any other top athlete. He has won matches that seemed impossible to win. He has shown relentless spirit, willingness to win, mentality, and never give up. He is the human embodiment of the “Never Say Die” mantra. And even though Nadal is all that, he is perhaps the humblest athlete on planet Earth.

He always stops to take pictures with fans. He never boasts about his accomplishments or puts his competitors down. Rafa always attributes his success to his love of the game and desire to win. He will never say he is better than anyone and respects all of his opponents just the same.

Nadal’s approach to greatness should be applied by anyone who has ever achieved anything. It’s a reminder to not take yourself or what you do too seriously. That even though you’ve achieved highs in your career, there are others whose accomplishments aren’t any less meaningful.

So, keep your head down. Be proud, but be humble. Remember where you came from and how you arrived at where you are.

Have a Clear Goal in Mind

We always talk about “achieving dreams,” but how can you achieve something if you don’t know what it is. Having a clear goal is vital. Without it, it’s impossible to strive, to remain motivated, to be dedicated. The athlete who I believe is most focused on one clear goal is Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ever since he burst into the footballing scene in 2006, Ronaldo has been clear about his goal — to become the best football player to ever live. In the beginning, people took his statements as a way to make jokes about his self-belief and over-confidence.

Now almost two decades later, everyone sees those first interviews as an omen. As a prediction of where he would get to. As proof that the unwavering belief he had in himself genuinely led him to get to where he is now. And we all admire that about him.

From personal experience, I know that being so clear about what you want to achieve is hard. But, before you start your journey, you should identify an end goal. Otherwise, it will be hard for you to get anywhere. Take Cristiano’s way of thinking to heart and just state your goal, no matter how ridiculous it may sound to your friends and family. Even if they mock you, don’t fear that. If you end up proving them wrong, it will be an even grander victory for you.

The Olympic Spirit in All of Us

People watch the Olympic Games and think — “Oh, these athletes aren’t human; they have something inside of them that I can only admire. They are superhuman”. And all the commercials fuel that feeling that the Olympians are something greater than us, the ordinary viewers sitting at home.

And while that’s true to an extent — you likely won’t be the fastest runner ever, and you probably won’t score the winning goal in the World Cup final. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t be an Olympian in your daily life.

I hope that these five lessons from famous athletes inspire you to do just that. To be a hero in your everyday life. To continually strive for being better, to thrive under pressure, to love competition, and cherish it. If you can remain humble on your journey to becoming the best possible version of yourself, then that’s even better.

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Notes from a Confusing Time

Notes from a Confusing Time

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freelancer writer. semi-pro athlete. always striving for improvement