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8 Lessons From the Olypmics How to Overcome Fears

8 Lessons From the Olypmics How to Overcome Fears

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Published by: Rosemary Lichtman Phyllis Goldberg on Feb 22, 2010
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04/27/2010

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8 Lessons from the Olympics: How to Overcome Fears
By Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. and Phyllis Goldberg, Ph. D.Ever since the first modern Olympic games were held in 1896, athletes have worked hardto 'go for the gold.' Baron Pierre de Coubertin brought the ancient Greek Olympiad back to life to recreate the ideals of physical, mental and spiritual excellence demonstrated bythe competitors there. This year, the athletes at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver continue this tradition. They're training long hours, maintaining a positive attitude, andovercoming their fears - all in an attempt to accomplish their personal best.Although you may not be vying for any medals, you can learn about triumphing over worry from the stories of athletes around the world. Here are 8 obstacles to consider asyou map out your own personal strategy for success.
Overcome fear of failure.
For some, failure signifies humiliation and the loss of self-esteem. But when the goal is to perform to the best of your ability, you can feel goodabout yourself even when you don't come in first place. As Coubertain stated in theOlympic creed, "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. Theessential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well." Stay focused on your growth and the steps you take, not the outcome. Canadian skier Alexandre Bilodeau personified this ideal. He envisioned his courageous brother as a role model and, in the process, won the gold medal in moguls.
Overcome fear of success.
Does thinking about what might happen, after you actuallyachieve a victory, stop you in your tracks? Or do you worry that you won't meet others'high expectations of you once you win? Believing you must perform perfectly sometimesstands in the way of achieving your goal. U. S. figure skater Evan Lysacek had to dealwith this stress at the Olympics, admitting, "I did have some extra pressure coming in asthe reigning world champion." He rose to the occasion and skated with passion and skill,winning the gold medal and savoring the experience.
Overcome fear of competition
. Performance anxiety is a common and familiar phobia.Speed skater Apolo Ohno is no stranger to competition, having conquered his own fearsand come away a champion, on both the short-track and the dance floor. Entering manyraces, he has already beaten the record for the most U.S. medals in the Winter Games.Ohno doesn't always win, but he strives to perform to the best of his ability each time hecompetes. To overcome stage fright, there are many techniques you can employ: put thecompetition into perspective; do deep breathing and relaxation exercises; concentrate onyour own actions, not those around you; practice, practice, practice.
Overcome fear of sacrifice.
After 46 years of consistently taking the gold medal in pairsfigure skating, Russia/U.S.S.R. was finally was shut out from the podium. How didChina's Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo manage such a feat? They endured considerablesacrifice along the way. The oldest skaters in Vancouver, they have been together for 18
 
years, married for the past three. After victories despite numerous injuries, they retired in2007. But two years later, they put their marriage vows and personal life on hold in order to retrain, living in the athletes' dorms as they worked to fulfill their dreams of Olympicgold. As you set important goals for yourself, recognize that you too may need to give upsome pleasures along the way.
Overcome fear of risks.
In order to succeed as Olympiads, athletes need to conquer their fear of the unknown and go for the gold anyway. According to Canadian hockey greatWayne Gretzky, "You miss 100% of the shots you never take." Snowboarder ShaunWhite understands taking measured risks and won the men's halfpipe gold medal by hardwork and his readiness to take chances. Although he had already won after his first run,he chose to attempt his difficult, signature moves in a second run. Exuberant after accomplishing his 'Double McTwist 1260,' he said, "I have fun, I have dreams, I havegoals, and I'm just now trying to do them." After your own preparation, outline the risksyou're comfortable taking and then follow through with gusto.
Overcome fear of change.
With poor weather conditions in Vancouver, many eventswere postponed, throwing off schedules. Athletes had to mentally adjust to these shiftsand still be ready to compete. One athlete who initiated her own change was figure skater Yuko Kawaguchi. She gave up her Japanese citizenship and moved to Russia to betrained by legendary coach, Tamara Moskvina. Although not medaling at the Games, shelived her dedication to her sport by her move. When you are forced to modify your ownoriginal strategy, don't hesitate to put your Plan B into action. It just might be a winner.
Overcome fear of pain.
Downhill skier Lindsey Vonn severely bruised her shin duringtraining last month and feared it might prevent her from competing in the Olympics. Butshe tried anyway, saying before the race, "It's tough…I know what I have to do. I knowhow to ski. It's just fighting the pain." And fight it she did, winning the gold medal in thewomen's downhill. After, she commented on her efforts, "Nothing comes for free." Youmay have your own pain - physical or emotional - to work through as you pursue your goals. Keep in mind the determination you need to succeed as you struggle to prevail.
Overcome fear of pleasure
. Lindsey Jacobellis skid off course in the snowboard crosssemi-finals, once more loosing a chance at a medal. After her initial frustration, sheshared her thoughts with reporters, "I still can have fun in some way. I just felt like doinga nice, fun truck-driver grab, that's the spirit that it is." Other competitive snowboardersagreed with her attitude. Nate Holland commented, "It's not always about winning. It'sabout fun, style, showing your stuff." And Nick Baumbartner explained, "It's not aboutthe finish…it's all about the journey. It's all about taking the wild ride." So, even whenyou're in the midst of a competition of your own, don't forget to enjoy the process andhave fun.As you learn from the athletes of the winter Olympics and overcome your own fears,remember that 'you can't score if you don't take a shot.' Rely on your courage, enduranceand sense of fair play as you meet your challenges and achieve success. You may notreceive a gold medal but you can be a winner just the same.

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