With less than 2 weeks until the opening of the London Olympics, sport lovers around the world are getting excited. Now I’m sure many of my readers are not so obsessed with sport, and possibly wondering what all the fuss is about. The Olympics aren’t important in the same way that poverty or suicide are important, but my aim in this article is to take three constructs from positive psychology and share how I think the Olympics matter.
No other single event (well OK, other than a Royal wedding) has the potential to generate so much positive emotion amongst so many people at one time. As spectators, we can easily get caught up in the anticipation and excitement of such a big event. We can be inspired by the courage and commitment of the athletes, and be in awe of their skills and abilities. We can celebrate our athletes’ achievements and the triumphs of our country, and of course we can bask in national pride born of success. All that positivity has got to be good for us!
The Olympic creed “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (“Faster, Higher, Stronger”) is not just about running and jumping. It’s a metaphor for life. Keep going, persevere, achieve, get better, test yourself, try to be the best you can be. Watching the Olympics brings us face to face with ordinary people from humble beginnings who have learnt to live and breathe this philosophy. They’re setting goals, accomplishing them and pushing for more. And they recognise that peak performance results from continuously striving for improvement, and from a relentless search for small gains in every possible area within their control – body, mind and spirit.
This is my favourite element. Sport demands character as much as talent, and I believe the Olympics has the potential to reflect and reinforce the virtues our society holds dear. Sure, the media loves to highlight the dark side – cheating, poor sportsmanship, corruption – but if we look, the Olympics are positively brimming with role models displaying character strength, humanity and virtue. What about Melbourne 1956, when the mile world champion John Landy stopped mid-race to help a fallen Ron Clarke? Landy then came from behind to win the race, but gave up the chance at the world record! Let’s keep an eye out for the great character stories to come out of London.
We know from positive psychology the important roles that positive emotion, accomplishment and character strengths play in happiness and well-being. At a time when much of the world has good reason to be feeling negative, the Olympics offers us a much needed well-spring of positivity. The London Olympic motto is “Inspire a generation”. So let yourself be inspired, savour the experience and make the most of what the Olympics can offer us all.
If you or your employees would like help developing an Olympic level performance mindset to achieve your Personal Best (PB), please email me for a confidential discussion about how coaching or a motivational seminar can help.