Monday, August 13, 2012

Live the Olympic dream

Although the 2012 games have reached their conclusion, the Olympic dream is being born in the hearts and minds of young athletes from around the world. So why not join them?  I don't mean for you to shave seconds off your 10,000m run or work on your double-pike dismount.  What I have in mind is adopting the strategies that got those athletes in London this summer.  Try to apply these lessons in your personal life and profession, and encourage these virtues in your students.

Now I haven't ever been in the Olympics myself, but I did take part in a regional version some years ago.  In 2005 I raced in the 6-man outrigger canoe events at the South Pacific Mini Games held in Palau.  The highlight was a 30K race through the rock islands that took us over 2 1/2 hours to complete.  Just to be able to compete against nations from around the Pacific made the six months of training worth it.  Safe to say that was probably my peak as an athlete, but after watching hours of the current Olympic coverage with its non-stop commentary and video-bios of the athletes, I think I've gleaned some pieces of advice we can all strive for.

1.  Set goals

We encourage our students to set goals but we do this enough with ourselves?  Your goals for the school year don't have to be performance-based alone.  What achievements do you want to accomplish?  Perhaps you've considered recording some flipped classroom videos or creating a series of IWB lessons?  Start blogging or learn a new application; there's always new technology to learn.  Maybe you could create a Google Earth activity and submit it to RealWorldMath (hint hint).  The beginning of the school year is one of the best times to set goals.

2.  Aim high

I don't think any of the athletes went to the Olympics without intending to earn a medal.  Aim high when you set your goals and make an impact.  A high jumper doesn't improve his score by keeping the bar at the same level.  Set your goals to a task that you can achieve and then raise the bar.  You're capable of tremendous growth if you challenge yourself.

3.  Find a coach

There isn't any reason why you need to do this alone.  Find a mentor to help you work towards your goals.  The best coaches provide support and motivation with a critical eye on performance.  Their experience can help you avoid mistakes and setbacks so listen to their advice.

4.  Dedication

This is probably the hardest part but it is also the most admirable.  The vast majority of Olympians got to where they are by years of dedication to their sport.  Stay on top of your goals and don't allow any slips.  Even the smallest lapse in dedication can have an exponential effect and so this is a mental challenge more than anything.  A close partner to dedication is sacrifice.  If you have trouble making your goals, prioritize your time for maximum effectiveness.  More than anything, your dedication will determine whether or not you achieve your goals.

5.  Be patient

Patience goes well with dedication but it's a mixture of optimism and pessimism.  For any large challenge, you need to be realistic about the difficulties you will face, and the time it will take to overcome them.  What you thought would take one quarter may take three.  Believe in yourself and what you are trying to accomplish.  Your confidence will carry you through troubled waters.

6.  Overcome adversity

As I write this, Spain is giving the current Dream Team a hard time in the gold medal game.  Guor Marial, Caster Semenya, and Oscar Pistorius were just some of the other incredible stories of Olympic athletes overcoming adversity.  While your challenges may not be as dramatic, you can be sure to face times of difficulty.  Don't get discouraged by the problems you face; they'll be part of learning process and add to the satisfaction in the end.  Use your hardships as motivation to strive harder.

7.  Work with a team

Just as a coach can lend you guidance and support, you'll find it amplified when you work with a team.  Your team might consist of grade-level colleagues or correspondences from your social networks on your venture.  Each member will have strengths to contribute so adjust the scope of your project accordingly.  Encourage and learn from another.  As a team member you're not working only for yourself, so be someone they can rely on.

8.  Represent something bigger

Olympic athletes often remark on how they persevere for their country.  You may not be working at quite the same scale but it doesn't mean you can't represent something bigger.  Perhaps you are trying to contribute to your field or your profession in some way.  With the Internet it is easier to reach a greater audience and magnify the significance of your efforts.  Make your mark in a profound way by contributing to the global knowledge base.

Hopefully these are some points you can incorporate into your aspirations.  To live the Olympic dream is to push towards goals, persevere through hardships, and to strive for excellence. You don't have to be a gymnast to adopt these traits.  Good luck with your endeavors this year and let the games begin.

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