Posted by: Cathy | July 27, 2012

Idols: Olympians

I’ve been doing a series on “coaching idols” – people who inspire and motivate you to meet your goals. There are probably few people who are as dedicated and committed to their goals as Olympic athletes.

I’m not an athletic person. I enjoy swimming, but a serious swimmer would find a lot of faults with my form. I don’t care; I just love moving through the water.

Still, I can be inspired by these athletes. They devote their lives to being the strongest, the fastest, the most powerful. You don’t have to be the best, you just have to do your personal best with what you have. You probably don’t have corporate sponsorship, a team of coaches, and high-end equipment, so you work with what you have, including work and family obligations. Be realistic, but try to stretch yourself too.

Consider your most important personal goal. Mine is to get back into a daily writing habit and make progress on my novels. Getting published one day isn’t the issue yet, it’s just about making time for writing each day and doing it. Have I given this goal my personal best? Most days, I would have to admit that I haven’t. Some days, sure, maybe you catch a cold or have family visiting from out of town, and those days your best might be small, like thinking about a character’s motivation as you drive to the airport. (Thinking about your goal counts as working on it if you make it intentional; as long as you’re not thinking “gee, I’m a terrible person for not making time for my goal today.”)

Olympians don’t get a gold medal every day – they build up to it. They train, they practice. Tweak their stroke a little. Do an extra repetition of weights in their workout. Try to swim the event 0.05 seconds faster. It’s still baby steps that get you to a gold medal. Figure out what the next step is and focus on one step at a time.

When you’re working toward your own goal, don’t underestimate baby steps. Break your project into smaller actions and then smaller smaller actions. If your goal is to have a daily writing practice, your smaller goal can be to write for an hour per day, and you can break that down smaller: 1. clear space on desk, 2. sit in chair, 3. turn on computer or get notebook, 4. open computer file or notebook, 5. check notes/outline, 6. write a sentence, 7. write another sentence, etc. Then you can get your desk cleared while your tea is brewing. You can open your file while your tea cools down. You can check your notes while you eat a bagel. Then, before you know it, you’re ready to go, you’ve eased into it, it’s not a big ONE HOUR OF WRITING any more, it’s manageable. Also, if you start to lag before the hour is up, you can break an hour into smaller segments – write for 15 minutes four times per day. Then, after a few weeks, try 20 minutes three times per day. Build up to it until it becomes easier. And it will become easier as you make it a habit.

Make it a habit to work on your goals. If it’s something you really want, make a commitment to yourself and make it real. Dedicate time for yourself. Make your goal real one step at a time. Just like Olympians.



  1. You make an excellent point about how as amazing as Olympians are, they reach their goals by pushing themselves towards small goals. They go by 1/10 of a second rather than a full minute even. I need to remember that.

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