This summer, billions of fans watched athletes from around the world compete in the Beijing Olympics. Even with political controversy and global tensions running rampant, these diverse games reflected the delicate balance between reality and entertainment. For many Sandwiched Boomers, the Olympics satisfied the yearning for distraction from immediate concerns about economic instability and caring for a family-in-flux.
The Games provided color, drama and a broad demonstration of excellence. In addition to news about the winners and venues, information from Beijing went well beyond who was winning and losing gold medals. Here are 6 tips about how to incorporate the deeper meaning of the Olympics into your life:
1. Find your unique passion and cultivate it. There were hundreds of events at the Olympics, each representing a specific activity that athletes had chosen to pursue. They ranged from rhythmic gymnastics to javelin throwing, from fencing to sailing, from synchronized swimming to boxing. What brings you joy and the ability to be fully engaged? Recognize the creativity and excitement that emerge as you follow your dreams.
2. Excellence comes with hard work and practice. Learning about the training schedules of Olympic athletes reminds us that accomplishments don’t come easy. Repetition is the handmaiden of success. Set long-term goals as well as realistic and incremental steps to reach them. Give yourself credit when you achieve an objective and, as you set the next one, aim to move ever closer toward your ultimate goal. Strive for your personal best – and remember the most important competitor you have is actually you.
3. Expect to fail sometimes. And when you do, pick yourself up and start over again. Every athlete who has made it into Olympic competition has suffered injury and disappointment along the way – but that has not been the end of the quest. They know that they can learn more from failure than success. You, too, can treat your setbacks as a teaching tool. And as you do, you will become more resilient and adaptable.
4. Be a good sport. As we have told our children, good sportsmanship is an integral part of athletic competition. Be a generous winner and a gracious looser – acknowledge the efforts of others who are in the contest with you. Think about teamwork and how you can operate together to accomplish your goals. Cooperation can be an important adjunct to competition even with the goal of outperforming others.
5. Relish the support that comes from those who care about you. Individual athletes depend on an entourage of people assisting them – coaches, trainers, family, friends, sponsors and teammates. As you work toward your own goals, the cheering section may be more limited – family, friends, teachers, support groups. But, whatever the size, accept the encouragement. Function as a team and be available to help sustain others when they need it. Athletes talk about the Olympic village and see themselves as part of that community. Who makes up your community?
6. Explore other cultures. With its symbol of five interlinking rings, the Olympics celebrate the unity of the games while honoring individual nationalities. Athletes pay tribute to each other by trading pins with those from other countries. China has a population of one and a third billion and is composed of over 50 distinct ethnic groups – all represented in the show of diversity and solidarity at the opening and closing ceremonies. Learn more about people who are different from you. This doesn’t necessarily mean travel to exotic places – it could just be a bus ride to another part of town. You will be enriched by your openness to those who do not share your history and experiences.
7. Enjoy your successes. Did you observe the Olympic athletes when they stood on the winners’ platforms with their medals, listening to their national anthems? Their pride and emotionality were palpable. Reward yourself when you reach a significant target and savor the feelings of power that come from your achievement. You deserve it.
As you think back over the spectacle of the Beijing Olympics, don’t be seduced into remaining a spectator. Jump into the game of life and become a winner yourself.
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