Olympic Inspiration and Peak Performance

Olympic Inspiration

As always, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching the Olympic athletes achieve feats of seemingly impossible levels of mastery and peak performance over the past weeks. I’m consistently inspired by their unwavering quest to realize their potential at levels far beyond the norm.

These highly disciplined individuals serve as a powerful reminder of what’s possible for those of us who are willing to consistently hold a potent vision of self-actualization and ceaselessly work towards its realization. We all aspire to be more, to manifest more of our potential as human beings. Aspiration is a fundamental aspect of who we are as humans.

Unfortunately, many if not most of us choose to believe that top notch peak performance is beyond our capacity. We think that the accomplishments of those who, as Abraham Maslow described it, “must be what they can be” are so far out of reach that it’s pointless to even consider the attempt. But the truth is that we don’t have to be world class athletes in order to begin realizing more of our potential and become “peak-performers” in our own everyday lives.

The Olympic athletes can serve as an excellent model for our own peak performance and self-actualization. All world class athletes begin with an inspiring vision of what they hope to achieve. Many are inspired by athletic performances they witnessed as children. They think, “I want to do that!”

Inspiration is the beginning point of all aspiration. What inspires you? What does it say about who you are as a unique individual and what you’d like to achieve in your life?

Next, the athletes form a vivid mental image of their desired outcome, which in their case is to envision a perfect performance in their event, as well as, perhaps, seeing themselves winning a medal at the Olympics.

Mental rehearsals can also play a powerful part in this process. Shortly before the 2000 Olympics, platform diving favorite, Laura Wilkinson broke her foot in a training accident. At the time when all of her competition was undergoing their most intensive training, she was unable to even climb up on the platform, much less practice her dives. All the experts said there was absolutely no way she’d even be able to qualify for the Olympics, not to mention competing or hoping to place.

But each day as she recovered from the injury, she went through her entire training regimen in vivid detail in her imagination—over and over again. She also envisioned herself winning the gold medal at the Olympics. And that’s exactly what happened. She did qualify, and though she started out the competition behind the Chinese divers, she came from behind to win the gold in her event.

Our subconscious minds cannot distinguish between an actual experience and one that’s been vividly imagined. So when we practice peak performance of any kind in our imagination, it powerfully programs our subconscious goal-seeking minds for success.

What is it that you’re inspired to achieve? Begin seeing it vividly in your mind as though it were already an established fact. Then do the next thing that Olympic athletes practice: add a burning emotional desire to your inspired vision. How would you feel, if the objective were already achieved? When used in this manner, our emotions act as a powerful magnetic force which attracts us unerringly to our goal.

Finally, Olympic champions take action on their dreams. They undergo both the repetitive practice as well as the physical conditioning which propels them towards victory. In everyday terms, this translates to simply taking whatever physical action is required to achieve the desired outcome—doggedly, determinedly, and persistently—until the goal is reached.

From inspiration to mental vision to emotional passion to physical realization, we can all begin to realize our aspirations and move towards greater self-actualization. Find what inspires you, see it clearly with a burning desire, and act until it becomes reality—and you’ll surely find your inner champion!

What I Learned from the Holidays

Over the past few years, I’ve experienced conflict over how to celebrate the Holidays. I’ve been concerned with the rampant materialism and the need to not contribute to it in any way. This has included my feelings for both the often gaudy and extravagant decorations, as well as the expectations of giving people gifts, often things that they don’t really need or that aren’t benefiting them in any way other than to add to the craving for personal materialistic gratification. At times I’ve felt so strongly about this that I’ve even considered opting out of the whole “Holiday” thing entirely.

I’m happy to say that I was able to resolve many of these conflicts this year, simply by shifting my perspective a bit. My wife, Kathi, always feels strongly about wanting to decorate for the holidays, to put up the Christmas tree (whenever possible, on the day after Thanksgiving), and to hang lights and other decorations. I’ve always gone along with her desire to do so, but have felt some inner resistance to it and conflict over how I really felt about it in terms of contributing to a materialistic and superficial expression of “things”.

Something she said about it this year really resonated with me though, and has helped me to resolve these feelings of conflict. She’s always conveyed that for her, the Holidays were a time to express and experience connection and closeness with the important people in our lives. She mentioned that for her, decorating, especially when we’re going to have guests during the Holidays, is about creating an inspiring environment that contributes to the experience of connection.

Kathi is masterful at creating inspiring environments, so her decorations for the Holidays always have an esthetic sense of balance, beauty, and perfection about them. One of the treasures that Kathi has brought to my life is a greater awareness of the impact that environment can have on us, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. She is consistently able to create environments that transcend the outer appearance and inspire a deeper sense of tranquility, warmth, and nurturing. It is in a real way, a sacred space.

People often talk about how they love seeing Christmas lights and decorations with a certain nostalgia for how it makes them feel. But I’ve realized that there is really something much deeper at work here. It’s not just about “warm fuzzies” in any purely superficial sense. It’s not about mere gratification or “feeling good”. It’s about transformation and transcendence and connection. It’s about celebrating the deeper and truer value in our lives.

It’s about sharing and generosity and gratitude. It’s about Love.

Peaceful, esthetically inspiring, warm, welcoming, and nurturing environments have the ability to impact us subliminally but profoundly. Often without even realizing consciously how we’re effected by them, they help to shift us into a deeper state of inner peace, of receptivity, and of communion. When we had my family over to our house on Christmas day, I noticed how everyone was seeming a bit worn out and stressed from all the rushing and shopping and preparations over the preceding days. And I noticed how they relaxed in the environment that Kathi had created. They were at ease and more receptive to sharing the connections between us. I realize now that “Comfort and Joy” are not merely nice platitudes. They represent a deeper potential to be realized and shared.

And once I reframed the whole thing in these terms, and better understood specifically the potential value of both decorating and of giving gifts, the conflict I’d been feeling went away. I’m still concerned with avoiding anything that reinforces a materialistic approach in any way. But I’m much clearer about how to do that.

We can decorate and choose gifts in ways that align with our goals of connection, inner peace, compassion, connection, sharing, and gratitude. We can do it creatively, and artfully, and with inspiration. We can come from a place of inspiration, express that inspiration, and share it with others, leading to the possibility of their own experience of inspiration, connection, and joy.

We can choose gifts mindfully, with the desire to give something that actually contributes to the life of the person we’re giving it to in some way. Regardless of whether we’re completely successful with this, the thoughtfulness will be conveyed, and gift-giving can actually have deeper meaning than mere materialistic gratification.

When we think of decorating as creating an inspiring sacred space, it completely transforms the way that we decorate. We eschew gaudiness and gross displays of affluence in favor of artful and soulful expressions of peace, tranquility, joy, and “Home”, with all that that word connotes.

And this, to my mind, is the true magic of the Holidays. It goes to the heart of the childlike sense of wonder and makes it clear how we can recapture that wonder and magic. And it also flows forth into our lives throughout the rest of the year, reminding us to experience wonder and inspiration and magic and connection.

I hope your 2016 is abundantly filled with all of these!