Since the Olympics, I’ve been studying music with the kind of discipline that was present in my rowing training. Today I found myself getting frustrated with my progress only because my expectations have gone sky high somewhere along the way of chasing the Olympic dream. As the 2012 Olympics fade into history, so do some of my memories of just how hard it was to become an Olympic rower.
I find my expectations being formed by an ‘outside looking in perspective’–something that should belong to anyone else but me. I’ve achieved an incredible level of excellence in sport, so I should know the stakes; how I put my entire being into that achievement. But I think to myself, well you did that, so you can accomplish this. Bing, bang, boom, and I forget the details. I have to actively remind myself that ‘doing that’ required the biggest sustained effort of my life over a period of a few years, so ‘accomplishing this’ will require the same persistence, effort, and commitment.
There was a study floating around recently that questioned the ability of Olympic athletes to transfer their gritty character attributes from sport into working life. Apparently some athletes aren’t able to adapt very well. The Olympic experience should help us if we remember the structures we had in place. The routines, the discipline, the sacrifices. We need to take the mental focus from training and keep it going as we transition out of sport. The only thing that should be different, really, is a lack of physicality in our new job (in most cases).
If we slip into remembering only our accomplishments, instead of the blueprint for that success, I think the Olympic experience can stifle us as we move on. On the other hand, anyone who has been to the Olympics or has achieved a high level in any field is capable of doing it again in different areas. Just remember your own narrative and what it took to get there.