The Shrink Tank

Psychotherapy in practice, research, and pop culture

I Want to be an Olympic Athlete

Find your inner gold medalist.

I love watching the Olympics. Majestic theme music? I'm listening. Kitschy local flavor pieces about polar bears and blind sled dogs? I'm watching. Bob Costas's snarky comments and witty banter with Chris Collinsworth? I'm giggling. Heart-rending human interest stories about peoples' devastating obstacles and against-the-odds comebacks? I'm moved. Awe-inspiring displays of human skill, emotional performances, underdogs, home country favorites, bizarre twists of fate, and blink of an eye differences between celebratory victories and devastating defeats? Love it. Love it. LOVE it.

BiathalonAnd thanks to whiz-bang DVR technology, I get to catch every bit of it. I hung my head when the US curling team couldn't drop shot rock on their last throw of the 11th end not once, but twice. I snickered when NBC introduced Colbert the moose. I got to my feet to urge on Billy Demong for the final stretch of the men's Nordic combined relay. I cheered when Bode Miller placed in the downhill, and even when Aksel Svindal of Norway won with his father cheering on. My jaw dropped when Dutch speedskater Sven Kramer was disqualified after skating over six-miles due to a bizarrely brain-fogged lane switch miscall from his coach in the middle of a 25 lap race. I was awed by Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir's elegant ice dance and moved by Joannie Rochette's emotional skate completed in the wake of her mother's untimely passing.

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So I've decided to become a winter Olympian. Sure I can't ski, skate, shoot, sled, or slide a stone, but I can yawn with the best of them.

Ok, so the sight of me in a lycra jumpsuit might be more frightening than the experience of plunging head first down a giant ice slide at 90 mph. While I can run a pretty good distance, an Olympian on cross-country skis could probably speed past me on sneakers and I'm approaching an age at which some Olympians seem to be seriously contemplating retirement.  But my ambition, like the Olympic torch or an overly colorful figure skater, is ignited.

And according to Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code (a book which I recently plowed through at an Olympic-style sprint pace), that's the first step towards greatness. Coyle writes that combining that spark of determination with effective coaching and at least 10,000 hours of something he calls "deep practice", anyone can achieve excellence.

By my calculation, at about 8 hours a day, I'll be ready to go for Sochi in 2014. Better dust off the stopwatch and get started as soon as possible...after the closing ceremonies.

 

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Jared DeFife, Ph.D.
www.psychsystems.net

 

Jared DeFife, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Emory University School of Medicine."

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