Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

I love the Olympics and try to watch at least some of it every day. I confess that gymnastics is my favorite event and am proud of the US women’s team for winning the gold medal. Watching the team finals, I learned some great lessons.

There was a lot of pressure on the US women’s gymnastics team. The US hadn’t won the team gold medal since 1996. Everyone was talking about this team. Our men’s team was also heralded as having great potential but they chocked in their first time out. Some of the greatest members made mistakes and none looked confident. So the women’s team had a lot on their shoulders when they began the team competition

Nerves were showing in some of the women. But the US team focused on their ability and training instead of letting it hurt their performance like some of the Russian women did. McKayla Maroney knew that she was on the team to do one event she excelled in—the vault. And she delivered in a huge way as she flew high above the apparatus and landed superbly. Her skill gave her the confidence to prevail over her nerves. The commentator said Kyla Ross has had some blips in per performance from nerves but she rose above them to focus on what she’s trained for over years. The lesson is that confidence in your ability can overcome nerves.

Too often we mess up because we’re so focused on being scared of doing what we know we do well. Singers forget the words to a song they’ve known since childhood at a big performance. Someone who is well prepared for a big work presentations can succumb to nerves and stammer when they speak instead of doing what they normally do so well with confidence. Nerves can really hurt us if we let them!

Jordyn Wieber missed out on being eligible for the individual all-around medal when her nerves caused some small mistakes that added up to a lower score than two of her teammates. People were concerned that it would be such a let down that it would affect her participation in the rest of the events. But she said she was going to do her best for the team, and did! Many would be so disappointed they’d give up.  Or they’d let those mistakes lower their confidence for the future. That can so easily happen. After making a mistake, your choice it to succumb and let it make you feel like you’re not good enough, or you can rise above it like Jordyn did and focus on your skills so you can succeed.

Gabby Douglas had the world watching her. Her family sacrificed a lot to get her to the Olympics, relocating far from home to train. She had a lot riding on her performance in all four events. Instead of letting that pressure push her nervous buttons like many of us do, Gabby focused on getting it done. And she did—with flying colors—she literally flew breathlessly through the air during some of the events. Gabby showed what can be done when you let your self-confidence override nerves.

The best lesson came from Aly Raisman. She was calm and collected as she approached the balance beam. But what struck me most was a discussion about her. They said people do different things with nervousness. Some people push it aside and try to ignore it. Aly changes how she perceives it. She feels the nerves as excitement, not something that can hurt you. And excitement feels good, so it motivates you in a positive way.

We all have choices just as the “Fab Five” team did. You can let nerves control you or you can CHOOSE to control your nerves. When you’re prepared for what you have to do, it’s easier. But you also have the CHOICE to feel the nerves in a positive or negative way. You can let nerves create what ifs?—potential reasons for you to mes up—or like Aly Raisman—feel it as excitement, which helped enhance her performance instead of triggering mistakes. The five young women are role models for letting confidence in yourself help them rise to the top of their game. You can too–if you CHOOSE to!

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