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Like most people, I am so inspired by all the athletes competing this summer. We are witnessing history in the making and watching some of the greatest athletes in the world either triumph to victory or slightly fall short of their goals after years and years of training. The victories, the losses—it’s all part of this beautiful thing called competition.
But really, I think why so many people are drawn to it is because we are watching individuals strive for a dream. We are watching people try to rise to their potential when so many of us are just too afraid to try for something. And when you become witness to someone’s greatness, it sparks something within your own self and taps into something very personal and very raw. In this one life you’re given, will you fight for your dreams?
Most of us are not professional athletes, yet we yearn for greatness in our own lives but shun the idea or possibility of competition. And competition exists everywhere—whether it’s at work, in a group exercise class, or with your peers.
While some competition is not necessary—for instance, two friend’s fighting over the same guy—a dose of healthy competition is crucial for your evolution and should be expected and accepted. And even though we don’t get sponsored by big brands for our efforts, we all have an inner athlete within us that drives us forward to help us reach our own unique potential.
Even if you didn’t play sports or never want to set foot on a field, the principles of being an athlete are valuable in how you approach competition and your life.
Here are six principles of being an athlete to help you discover your own inner athlete in a competitive world so that you can reach your goals and go for the gold.
1. You need competition to measure where we need to improve
Without competition, you wouldn’t have anything to measure yourself against. It’s important to know your strengths, your weaknesses and where you can improve. When you are forced to work with someone else who might be more skilled than you are, it’s an opportunity to learn from them and improve your own game. Or sometimes, someone is just more naturally skilled at something and you will never be quite as good. But instead of giving up, you can use them as inspiration and it will help you excel greater in your own life.
2. Maintain sportsmanship
The four main words that come to mind when I think of sportsmanship are respect, honor, chivalry and humility. When I was a kid on the soccer field, I was never allowed to gloat when I won. I had to be aware of the feelings of my opponents and teammates and I had to maintain humility. You need your competitors just as much as they need you. You may win one day but you might lose the next time. Even though they are opponents, they should be seen as your teammates in the game of life. Their existence, their fight against you, is forcing you to try harder and be better. I always like to say that friction is your friend because friction forces you to figure out a way to get to where you need to be. The same goes for your opponent. But if you can maintain sportsmanship, no matter what, you have truly mastered the art of competition.
3. Win or lose, you lace up
When I was playing sports, I wasn’t always on the winning team. But I got my shoes on anyway and showed up and put in my best effort. There was always something to learn and there was always something to improve in. So win or lose—lace up.
4. Find the joy
No matter how hard you’re being pushed, you have to find the joy to continue trying. Without some joy, you will lose steam. So when put in a competitive environment, find that one piece of joy that you can hold onto.
5. How strong runs deep
Within competition, you figure out just how strong you are. You don’t know until you try. You’re going to want to give up but you keep going. And when you finally reach that goal, you discover that inner strength. And once you know it’s there, you can tap into it and the sky’s the limit.
6. Always a new goal- never give up
An athlete’s mindset is to always find something to strive for. Remember that athletes, for the most part, play the same sport day in and day out in the same way that you might stay at the same job for twenty years. But an athlete finds something new to learn in the consistent practice.
I will leave you with this. On a personal note, for many years I stopped fighting for things in my own life. I got jealous of people who were succeeding in the areas of life that I wanted to succeed in and rejected any sort of competition. It took me awhile to figure out that it was because I was afraid of what failure (or not being the best at something) might expose about me. Deep rooted feelings of lack and unworthiness kept me from trying. If I wasn’t the best, then it meant I had no value. It meant that I was just average. So it was better to just not try at all. To play it safe.
But if you can learn anything by watching athletes compete this summer, it is this. Safe doesn’t get you the gold. You have to push. You have to try. You have value. You have greatness inside of you. You deserve to have the life you want. You are an athlete, whether you know it or not. You have the fight within you.
Now go be amazing.