Were you inspired by the Olympics?
They certainly were brilliant – the organisation, the crowds, the stunning opening ceremony, and of course the performance of the athletes – what amazing people they are, yet also strangely ordinary people – just people like us, who are somehow doing amazing things.
So many thoughts swirling in my mind about it…
Do I want to be like those athletes? If not a track cyclist, then at least a gold-medal-standard trainer! Do I want to be the best in the world? Do I need to be? Do I have the talent, the ability? Or the motivation? Would it make me happy?
I think the question is: What should a normal person do having seen the Olympics and been inspired by them?
Let’s take it apart a little:
Reasons for Post-Olympic-Depression
• It’s been really easy and fun just putting the TV on and wallowing in the spectacle
• Our normal lives and all their problems have been suspended for two weeks
• Now it’s back to reality
• We hope that the Olympics and their after-effects will somehow improve the country and our lives, but of course they won’t. Reality is still there.
• “I’ll never have a body like Tom Daley or Chris Hoy or Usain Bolt, and I’ll never get a medal in anything or be cheered on by an 80,000 crowd. I’m a failure compared to them”.
Reasons for Post-Olympic-Achievement
• “I can see that ordinary people can achieve their dreams if they are prepared to do the work”
• All it needs is a small step to get onto the Spiral of Achievement: motivation leads to effort which leads to results which leads to more motivation which leads to more effort which leads to more results which…… and the Olympic Effect just might be enough to get people to take this first step.
Are the Olympians ordinary, just like you and me, or not?
Well, with the possible exception of the godlike Usain Bolt, my belief is that they are ordinary people who had the luck to get onto the Spiral of Achievement, and then, perhaps with the help of others or through their own strength of will, had the strength to persist and keep doing the work to get there. And to reach the very top that work is very considerable. Did you see the video of Chris Hoy training, to the point where he collapsed off his bike and lay on the ground in lactic acid agony, groaning in the foetal position, while they just put a blanket over him and left him to recover. THAT’s doing the work! If you tell any successful person they are lucky they have every right to be annoyed – they have done the work!
It’s possible that to be the best in the whole world you need great talent as well as doing the work, but seeing interviews with the boxer from Hull, the canoe medallist, the Taekwondo and judo winners, and the rowers, I got the distinct feeling that they were ordinary people who had just really really focussed and then done the work. And certainly, if you wanted to be very good at something, as opposed to the best in the world, then it’s really not about talent, it’s about work. Anyone, including you (yes you reading this) really can do anything you want if you’re prepared to do the work.
I used to think that the challenge was to find the thing that you have a talent for. But maybe the
challenge isn’t to find the thing that you’ve got a talent for, but to find the thing that you enjoy enough to then be motivated to do the work required. If you have a talent but you don’t enjoy it then you’ll never do the work and so you won’t succeed.
So maybe the legacy of the Olympics will be that lots of people will take that first step onto the Achievement Spiral and find that they can get results. All that undiscovered talent! Maybe there is a future Usain Bolt living in Hull! However I suspect that
1 -the greatest evil of all, laziness, will again triumph and most people will plan to do something and then not bother, (like all those people who join the gymn in January and then stop going by February) and also that
2 – most people won’t make the leap from Sport to Everything Else. Why not decide to be really good at computers or music or languages or selling or…..? They are all the same, they just require you to do the work. But will people realise this?
I do hope that all over the UK people decide to be better at all sorts of things, and they get onto the Achievement Spiral as a result of the Olympics.
But then I think about Victoria Pendleton (or Queen Victoria as some commentators amusingly called her) – who is retiring from cycling, saying that she doesn’t enjoy it any more. She’s the best in the world, how can she not?? And I think the answer is that she is paying such a massive price to be the best in the world that it outweighs the happiness. Quite right Victoria, you’ve achieved enough, and you deserve to have some fun! We all remember Steve Redgrave saying after Sydney “If anyone sees me getting into a boat again would they please shoot me” and then within 2 weeks he declared himself in for Athens. It’s great to see him enjoying himself now, he’s more than earned it!
So, bearing in mind that you can achieve anything if you do the work, but you want to avoid the Pendleton Factor, here is my overall conclusion from the Olympics:
1. Set yourself at least one goal, based on something you enjoy doing – don’t worry about talent. It doesn’t have to be in sport, it can be anything you like.
2. Make your goal large enough to be exciting, but not so large that in order to achieve it you’ll have to give up the rest of the things that make you happy. So Olympic gold is probably out! (e.g. to be able to run 5k in 45 minutes, or to play in a band in your local pub, or to speak good enough Italian to joke with locals, or to be good enough at tennis to hit the ball hard and it still goes in).
3. Focus reasonably strongly on achieving your goals – this means giving up some things and fighting against the demon laziness. Focus strongly but not obsessively. Obsessive focus will reduce your overall happiness.
Onwards and Upwards like a lightning bolt (imagine me assuming the position in front of my flip chart)