The Thrive Questionnaire//

The Thrive Questionnaire with Nastia Liukin

The Olympic gold medalist talks about what it's like to fail in front of 20,000 people.

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Nastia Liukin: I head downstairs and drink a glass of water with lemon. Then my fiancé and I make a Bulletproof coffee. We love taking time in the morning to set an intention for the day, whether that means writing in our journals, reading a book (currently reading Thrive by Arianna Huffington!), or just discussing our goals together. Then we get to our phones and check texts, emails, and of course social media.

TG: What gives you energy?
NL: Working out. Even on those days when I really don’t feel like working out, I always remind myself how I feel after working out. I just have so much more energy when I constantly work out.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?
NL: In my opinion, there is no secret life hack. There are no short cuts to success. It takes patience, passion, and persistence.

TG: Name a book that changed your life.
NL: The Secret.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
NL: Not anymore. 🙂 I used to be super attached to it, but I have to give credit to my fiancé for this one. He decided our new rule was that we can’t have our phones in the bedroom with us, or else we will literally be on them until the second our eyes close. At first this was kinda hard, but now it’s great! I sleep so much better now since my mind is clear when going to sleep.

TG: How do you deal with email?
NL: I’m the kind of person that doesn’t have a single unread email in my inbox. I typically like to reply to emails within 24 hours, and if I don’t get to it then I will “flag” it in my inbox so I don’t forget to reply!

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
NL: Spend some quality time with my fiancé and family!! Life is so short. Never enough time to spend with your loved ones.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
NL: Hmm.. Probably my junior year at NYU. I decided I was going to be a full-time student in New York, AND do Dancing With The Stars, which of course is live in Los Angeles. The amount of red eyes I did that semester/season was crazy. I was definitely exhausted, stressed, and probably a little overworked with all of the traveling and rehearsals. The day I got back from the finale of DWTS, I had to get off the plane and go straight to NYU to take three finals. Needless to say, I survived, we got engaged a few weeks later and then enjoyed an amazing vacation together!

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
NL: 2012 Olympic Trials. I went in as the reigning Olympic All-Around Champion. All eyes were on me. On my best event, I fell… face first. I was so embarrassed, I wanted to crawl under a rock. I got back up and finished my routine, knowing I had absolutely no chance of making my second Olympic Team. I landed on my feet, and for the first time in my entire life I had a standing ovation. 20,000 people were on their feet cheering for me, for the absolute worst routine of my career. When I won the Olympics four years prior, nobody stood on their feet. Sure they were cheering for me, but when I fell on my face in front of 20,000 people, when I finished that routine they all rose. It truly became the defining moment of my career. I also thought that in order for people to love and support me, I had to win, to be the best, to get a gold medal. The moment I had at the 2012 Olympic Trials made me realize life isn’t about winning, but more about the journey.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
NL: This one is actually something my mom taught me when I was a little girl… “Never quit on a bad day”—we will ALL have bad days in life, and it’s so important to not give up or quit on those bad days.

TG: What is one technique you use to combat stress? 
NL: I love waking up early, somewhere between 5:00 AM and 6:00 AM, and reading a book or writing in my journal. I like to jot down my intentions for the day or any short term goals I have in mind, whether they’re personal or professional. This morning ritual brings a sense of focus and structure to the day ahead (and also allows me to catch up with all that’s happened so far on the East Coast). When I feel organized and prepared, I’m more calm. I don’t think stress is, per se, a bad thing or something that needs to be combatted. Stress can set fire to your feet and lead you to accomplish things you’ve only dreamed of accomplishing (if honed properly). What’s important is keeping your stress in check by practicing a technique, like the one I’ve described above, that brings you to your center whenever you begin to feel out of balance.

TG: You recently shared via Instagram that writing down dreams is your number one tip for accountability, what are other ways that you hold yourself accountable to follow through with your goals?
NL: Up until the Olympics in 2008, and even for the years following, I had always lived my life in four-year increments. Four years until Beijing. Four years until London. Four years at NYU. By virtue of that, I had, continually, a temporal marker by which I needed to be ready to execute whatever goal I had set for that specific increment of time. I’ve taken that practice and applied it to any goals I’ve sought, both in my professional and personal life. I’ve found that giving myself deadlines, whether they’re 30 minutes or four years, is, for me, an effective motivator.

TG: You seem to always be on the go, do you have any tips for avoiding burnout while traveling?
NL: I think taking time for yourself is so important, whether that manifests as waking up a little earlier and enjoying a cup of coffee in your hotel robe before the day starts, or saying “no” to a late-night event and opting for a relaxing night in with a hot bath and room service. Also, proper sleep and nutrition are key for maintaining my stamina while on the road. Luckily, your body is able to talk to you when deficiencies in these areas arise. When I feel those first signs of burnout approaching, I’ve learned to recognize and give credence to them. I’ll listen to my body and give it what it needs in order to get back on track and back to an optimal state of cognitive functioning.

TG: What is one thing a lot of people may not know about you?
NL: I’m always listening to music. Whether I’m in my car, in a hotel room, or at home cooking, my Sonos/Spotify are definitely in use. I’m a deeply nostalgic person, so I think music brings me a sense of comfort and warmth wherever I am in the world.

Grace and beauty in the sport of gymnastics led Nastia Liukin to her crowning achievement at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, but winning five medals was only the beginning for this golden girl. After returning home, she graced the pages of countless magazines and appeared on various TV shows, while even being chosen as one of 2009’s most influential people by MSN Lifestyle. Liukin’s commitment to helping little girls with big dreams landed her a clothing line, SuperGirl by Nastia along with her very own gymnastics competition, The Nastia Liukin Cup. Nastia was part of the Kellogg’s Tour of Olympic Champions, a national, 38-city tour following the 2016 Olympic Games. She remains an Ambassador for the sport by serving as an athlete representative for both the Federation of International Gymnastics and USA Gymnastics along with work as a television analyst for NBC (She was a commentator at the Olympic Games in Rio 2016) Liukin also graduated from New York University this past spring, has co-founded Grander Sports, a platform of communities to empower female athletes, and also just launched her blog www.nastialiukin.com

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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