As someone who as trained and rehabilitated multiple Olympic medalists, I’ve seen what the very best in the world do to reach their intentions. These practices are not rocket science. They are not unrealistic for the common man or woman. They are real life doable strategies that every one of us can implement in our lives to help us achieve our personal aspirations.
The first habit in some ways isn’t always intentional on the part of the Olympian (often created or defined by their coach), but is part of the key to success; have a plan. Establish where you want to be in a given period of time, and then reverse engineer the process of getting there. For an Olympian this is a four year process, for you it could be as simple as saying, “where do I want to be this time next year?” How do you want to grow personally in the next 12 months?
Clarify what you wish your life to look like, and then identify the things you need to achieve in order to get there. It might be something as simple as, “I want to be able to play a piece of music on a guitar in 12 months”.
Now you know what you want, what do you have to do to get there?
1) Buy or rent a guitar
2) Establish whether or not you want to learn with lessons or off the internet
3) Define an available amount of time on a weekly basis you can allocate to practice
4) Schedule practice in your daily and weekly calendar
Now you have a plan to learn how to play guitar!
Now you need the second habit of an Olympic medalist, practice with intention. Each time you’ve scheduled your practice session, take the time to be present, to be focused on the moment, to remove all distraction.
You see, we try to do too many things these days, we try to be kings and queens of the multi-task, but ultimately if we want to truly learn how to do something, we have to practice or do it with all of our intention. It doesn’t have to be for long periods of time. What’s most important is that you do it, and you do it with complete attention.
When an Olympic medalist practices, there is no distraction, no room for fog in their clarity, they work hard at being connected to what they are doing. This is “how” they get so good at what they do!
Habit three is accountability. Hold yourself accountable to the practice. Nothing good will come of pushing things off, deleting the session from your agenda, or just going through the motions.
Ultimately, if you want to be able to play the guitar at the end of twelve months, you need to do the work consistently and persistently.
A great way to do this is to keep a calendar on your wall, or somewhere where you can see it and identify with it (Olympians like to keep a training journal). Every time you complete your practice, mark an “X” or a check mark on that date.
Challenge yourself not to have any un-intended blank spots on that calendar. Be smart, before you start, plug in the days you know you will have trouble practicing because of your schedule, don’t let that be a coincidence, make it a part of the plan!
Every “X” on that calendar will inspire the next “X” and before you know it, practice will become a habit!
The fourth habit is organizing your day. Every day when you wake up, take 5–10 minutes to establish the 3–5 things you really need to get done. The priority items should always align with your yearly intentions.
In this instance we used learning to play the guitar as an example, but let’s say you are trying to build an extension on your home, or complete a new project at work. It doesn’t matter what the intentions are, just make sure you have established the plan and you know the steps, or at least you understand the initial steps in the process.
If you know these steps, then each day or at least each week, you should be accomplishing (practicing) the work necessary to create forward momentum. There will be days and weeks that you don’t make as much progress, that’s not important, what is important is that you are taking the steps!
Back to habit four, organizing your day. As much as possible each day try to do work, or invest in the process of accomplishing your intentions. Write down on a piece of paper, in a journal, or on your phone, what 3–5 things you are going to do today to move your needle. They don’t all have to align to one intention, as you may have several actual intentions, but your priorities should be focused on your intentions not just a “things to do” list.
The fifth habit is regularly assessing your progress. Olympic champions take the time to understand their progress and then revise their intentions. They KNOW that they are moving forward and progressing, they don’t HOPE they are going to get there. And if they are not where they believe they should be in a given period of time, then they revise their program and they re-double their efforts and focus.
Back to playing the guitar!
If you want to be able to play a piece of music on the guitar by the end of the year, well chances are you should be able to string together some chord changes by the end of the first quarter or maybe first half of the year, no? If you can, then maybe its time to choose what piece of music you want to be able to play. Revise your program and insure you are on schedule to arrive at your intended destination.
If you are still struggling, ask yourself the hard questions:
a) Have I kept up my schedule of practicing?
b) Have I been practicing with intention?
c) Am I stuck on something and I need help?
Once you’ve answered these questions, revise your program accordingly, maybe add an extra session of practice per week, maybe make the sessions shorter so you can be more focused, maybe get one lesson each week for a few weeks if the internet program hasn’t hit the mark. Whatever it is, make the necessary adjustments and then get back on the program.
Every Olympic medalist works through a variation of this process. This habitual process insures that the necessary work gets done regularly to create progress and eventually accomplish their intention of winning an Olympic medal.
There they are, five habits of Olympic champions that will make a different in your life. I guarantee that if you use these habits in your daily practice, you will indeed accomplish what you set out!
Originally published at medium.com