Usain Bolt has revolutionized athletics. He is personable, entertaining, and he gets the job done with record-breaking performances. Track fans love him. Promoters bank on him.
Usain’s 9.58-second record at the 2009 Olympics in Berlin was no fluke. It was the result of hard work and disciplined training. It was also the outcome of a winning frame of mind.
Bolt’s stated goal is to become a legend. Obviously, this is not achieved by winning one race. Nor does it happen by breaking one world record. A legend is made by winning consistently over a lifetime.
Ironically, Usain’s life-spanning goal can only be accomplished one race at a time. Achieving our best in our profession and in our family is accomplished by giving our best one day at a time.
Lesson 1: Our greatness emerges as we focus on today.
We have two kinds of days, ‘race days’ and ‘training days’.
On a ‘race day’ we may have a goal, assignment or project that needs to be completed, or we have an important meeting or a crucial presentation. Perhaps we have a special family event—a birthday, dinner or much-anticipated family outing. A ‘race day’ requires a winning performance. Successful ‘race days’ move us forward in our career and family relationships.
A ‘training day’ is one of those ‘just-another-day-at-the-office’ days filled with tedious routine and work. It’s one of those days when you’re behind in your housework, the kids need your help with their homework, and where’s your spouse when you need them.
The temptation on ‘training days’ is to slip into a ‘let’s-get-this-over-as quickly-and-painlessly-as-possible’ frame of mind along with miserable ‘woe-is-me’ feelings that go with it.
Don’t give into that temptation.
Lesson 2: Habits and attitudes forged on ‘training days’ set us up for success on ‘race days’.
A reporter once asked Usain, “What goes through your mind when you settle into the blocks at the start of the race?”
At the time, Bolt was struggling with bad starts.
“Nothing,” was Usain’s reply. “I just keep my eyes on the finish line.”
“What about getting your start right?” the reporter pressed.
“We work on that in training,” Bolt answered. “On race day, I just stay relaxed and let my body do what it’s trained to do.”
That’s the secret. Skill and greatness are developed on ‘training days’.
Bolt doesn’t worry about the many races ahead on his journey to legendary status. He doesn’t even fret over the many winning but mediocre races of the past. Usain focuses all his attention and effort on the one next race ahead.
Likewise, we need not concern ourselves about how we will endure the many trying days ahead, nor need we beat up ourselves over the less than satisfactory days behind. Our singular focus is this present day, this present moment—on being fully present and fully engaged.
Lesson 3: Success demands that we be mindful of yesterday and aspire to tomorrow but our focus is today. Everything else distracts and keeps us from our best.
Reflection inevitably recalls mistakes—things we wish we hadn’t done or said. Mistakes may be regrettable but they are redeemable if we learn from them and move on.
Learning to surrender our mistakes and our regret to our Father through prayer is an empowering spiritual exercise. Rather than harbor regret, guilt and shame within where they fester like cancer cells eating away at our courage and confidence, we embrace mercy, compassion and renewal.
Lesson 4: Mistakes cannot hold us back unless we chain ourselves to them.
Feel regret but don’t wallow in self-pity. Facing our mistakes to deal with them is liberating; dwelling on them at the expense of celebrating our success is debilitating.
All things do work toward our benefit. We survive. We recover. We can finish strong. The race is not over until it’s over.
Lesson 5: The power of reflection is in recognizing that yesterday was actually filled with success. Take note and celebrate accomplishment—no matter how small and seemingly insignificant.
When recalling successes too often we only take notice of ‘great’ successes or ‘big’ accomplishments. This can lead to disappointment and discouragement. Most of our days are defined by ‘small’, seemingly insignificant achievements.
Begin to take notice of small but measurable success—small steps of improvement in personal and professional development, relationships, emotional awareness and control. Build on your strengths. Winning days are forged one small step at a time.
Winning days begin with winning mindsets. A winning mindset is made up of…
- passionate desire — you have to want it, and want it badly
- diligent training — little habits determine winning results
- redeeming the past — mistakes are okay, we learn from them
- celebrating achievement — success often comes in small packages
- focusing on the present — fully present and fully engaged in the moment
With a winning mindset, we run our race with patience— small, steady steps, one day at a time.
Question: What life-changing lessons have you learned from mistakes? What strengths have you overlooked?
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Photo taken by J. Brichto – Usain Bolt, Anniversary Games, London 2013