Life can change on a dime. For Howard Davis, Jr, his pivotal moment came when his dad asked him a simple question: Do you want to go to the Olympics? As an amateur boxer, he didn’t blink. The answer led him to gold in 1976 and altered the course of his life forever.
Having interviewed about a dozen Olympic hopefuls and medalists over the past few days, I have come to the conclusion that they all have several things in common. Whether it’s curling, swimming, boxing or running, every one of them had focus, commitment and passion for what they do. They had an innate curiosity about how far they could take themselves. They spoke of being so in tune with their bodies that they virtually left them in the pursuit of their dreams, swaying in the Zone, that place of delicious Flow when everything else falls away.
How on Earth can we have a piece of that? I got curious and probed further.
Katrina Radke, author of the forthcoming Be Your Best Without the Stress, is an internationally recognized Olympian, therapist, college psychology instructor, and a peak performance and health coach. She recently shared her insights with me about the importance of focus as the driving force behind any athletic endeavor. As a swimmer who placed fifth in the Olympics in 1988, Katrina said: “If we focus on doing what makes us feel good, we can commit to it more easily. Once we get in the habit of ‘showing up’, we can have more chances of fully engaging our full self into the activity. In this place, I experienced much bliss. We all can have these moments of feeling free, connected to everything, having our body take over and do its thing.”
‘Showing up’ is the easiest thing to do when it becomes a habit. So it starts with looking at what are current habits are. Do you engage in things that make you feel good in a sustainable fashion? Do you show up for yourself, your commitments, your dreams? Do you feed those dreams daily?
To do: Examine your habits. What one thing can you change to inch you closer to your dreams?
Passion is another common trait that these Olympians share. Kelita Zupancic, who qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games in Judo, told me she drew a picture of herself standing on the podium at the 2012 games. “It just shows that from a young age I set out my goals; I was determined to train hard and fight my way to the top in order to fulfill this dream.”
To do: Write down your goals. Believe in them. Don’t take “no” for an answer.
Commitment is the third common trait. For those who identified their dreams early, they made a promise to themselves that they would stick to it, even when times got tough. For Katrina Radke, it was a twelve year debilitating illness that set her back. But she never forgot the feeling of the water and how it made her feel.
To do: Never give up.
Your dreams are real. Live them.