It goes without saying that an elite athlete is a highly tuned physical specimen. You just have to look at Serena Williams or Roger Federer to know they have put the work in physically, both on and off the court.
However, while the physical work is vitally important to an elite sportsperson’s success, the difference between being good and being great is much, much more than just showing up to training.
Ok, so that is very much stating the obvious; we don’t need to be athletes ourselves to know that there are many physical, mental and emotional elements involved in high performance sport.
What I’m interested in, is which elements make the biggest difference? What gives Williams and Federer the edge over Stephens and Garcia-Lopez? Unless you’re a die-hard tennis fan, I’m guessing you’ve never heard of Stephens or Garcia-Lopez. That’s because they’re good players, not great players.
When it comes to success, I believe there are some key beliefs and behaviours demonstrated by elite athletes that we can model off to raise our game and uplevel our performance in any area of our lives.
1. Consistent Commitment – No Matter What
If we do our own version of commitment, the only thing we can guarantee is that we’ll get mixed results. An elite athlete shows up, gets on court and stays on court, no matter what. She gets up at 5am for training, every damn day; he goes through his visualisation routine prior to every single match.
So, what is the recipe for consistent commitment? The kind where we show up, no matter what? Even when the last thing we feel like doing is writing a Blog, going out networking or making that cold call?
We need look no further than the work of Simon Sinek for the answer. Getting really clear on your “why” is absolutely imperative to consistent, unwavering commitment. The “why” needs to be big and it needs to speak to you deeply, otherwise you’re just going to press the snooze button on the alarm clock.
Serena Williams knows why she gets up for training at 5am. It’s because she wants to win the elusive ‘Grand Slam’ (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open, all in one year). Well, I’m guessing that’s at least one of her “whys”, given that she got so close to it last year.
2. Being Absolutely Present – It’s Now or Never
There is a lot of thought leadership focusing on the ‘power of now’ and choosing to be present in our everyday lives. However, that doesn’t deter me from highlighting it again here. The fact is, the past has already happened and the future is yet to appear.
What we do, right here, right now, is absolutely imperative to creating the results and the success that we want in our lives.
If you watch a good tennis player, you might admire her topspin forehand or her smashing serve. However, do you also notice her get rattled when the line judge makes a marginal line-call? Can you see her still thinking about the double fault she hit 3 points ago? The greatest athletes on the planet let go of the past and just focus on their game, point by point. You don’t see Roger Federer getting ruffled very often.
One of the biggest differences between being good and being great comes down to our ability to re-presence ourselves moment by moment and let circumstances fall to the wayside.
One of my former clients is an extraordinary athlete in her own right. She is a gifted long distance runner who had been attempting to crack a 90 minute half marathon for several years. Running is just as much a mind-game as the next sport and all the physical preparation in the world was not rewarding her with the result she wanted the most.
It wasn’t until she got truly present while racing and was able to master her inner critic moment by moment, that she smashed those 90 minutes out of the park.
3. Optimising Your Mind-Body Connection – Central Nervous System function
There is a reason why every single professional sports team in North America has a chiropractor on its staff. And contrary to popular belief, it’s not just to treat back or neck pain. Chiropractic is the only healthcare modality in the world that specialises in correcting misaligned vertebrae in the spine to optimise nervous system function.
Elite athletes require every part of their body to be functioning optimally and their mind-body connection needs to be sharp as a tack. If the nerves to Usain Bolt’s leg and arm muscles are impinged, do you think that will affect his ability to perform at his best? That’s why Bolt gets adjusted prior to every single race. Not because he has a sore shoulder or leg but to optimise his performance.
Just because you’re not an elite athlete, doesn’t mean that nervous system function and mind-body connection is any less important for you. Being sharp, mobile and enjoying optimal energy levels is absolutely compulsory for success.
4. Fuelling Your Body for Success – Self-awareness is Key
It’s fair to say that the very top athletes monitor almost every morsel of food that passes their lips. They know that downing a pizza before a big match is definitely not going to fuel them to go the distance and win big.
Here’s the thing; one man’s fuel is another man’s fire. We are all unique and just because the latest diet fad tells us to eat no carbs, doesn’t mean that that approach is right for us. When it comes to food and diet, are you like the vast majority of people, doing ‘busy’ so well that your only focus is getting a quick fix in the meal department? Or are you so focused on your weight that your diet changes according to how you look and feel?
Elite athletes focus on neither. It’s all about fueling their bodies for success. We need to become master observers of our bodies so that we become hyper aware of what foods fuel us and which foods cause a fire in our belly. Did you know that Novak Djokovic eats a gluten free diet? He observed that gluten made him sluggish and affected his performance, so he cut it out and look where he is now: World No.1.
Can you be overweight or unhealthy AND successful? Absolutely! However, how much more can you be, do and have if you become an energetic, lean, mean fighting machine?!
5. Optimal Environment – Support Your Success
If you’re on a health kick, does it serve you to have a cupboard full of chippies and chocolate? If you’re working towards a major goal, is it easier to go it alone or create a support network to get the job done?
Take a look at your current environment. Is it set up for support or sabotage? If you’re absolutely flying in every area of your life, I can guarantee that your environment is well set up to support your amazing results. However, if you’re still wanting to be more, have more and do more, it may be time to look at your lifestyle and support systems to see where you’re sabotaging your results.
Without a doubt, the top athletes in the world live in an optimal environment. They know that freedom and success lies in discipline, focus, persistence and determination. So, they create an environment that supports that knowing. However, most of all, they don’t do it alone. An elite athlete has a trainer, a coach, a physio, a massage therapist, a chiropractor, a sports psychologist and an epic support team who each contributes to that athlete’s optimal environment and their ultimate success.
Your environment can be the difference between good and extraordinary results.
I specialise in helping people identify the areas where they’re not performing and helping them turn their poor or good results into extraordinary results. If you’d like to explore putting in place a support structure like you’ve never experienced before, please contact me for a complimentary Exploratory Session.
Sally Guest is a High Performance Coach certified with the Australasian organisation, Evolved Leadership. She is a former corporate/commercial lawyer who now owns Evolved Living in Ottawa, ON. Sally works with high achieving executives, entrepreneurs and leaders to help them step into their full potential and create extraordinary results in every area of their lives. You can reach Sally at firstname.lastname@example.org or (613) 292-1393.