Going for Gold

Fill your life with vitality in the face of success as well as failure-like a true Olympian.

I hope you’re enjoying watching the Tokyo Olympics. The events might all be happening a year late and in near-empty stadia and arenas thanks to you know what. But on show are the finest athletes and sports people. These are individuals we often think of as brimming with vitality, that life force that gives them extra energy and determination to excel. As I mention in my book , Move Into Life: NeuroMovement for Lifelong Vitality:

We are often fascinated by people who engage in sports or other forms of heroic activities, which is why they are so often the subjects of movies and literature. They are charismatic, tremendously alive- vital! They are able to respond and act creatively and effectively at any moment.

As sportspeople from all over the world compete fiercely in Japan to gain top spot on the podium and glittering gold medals around their necks this month, it’s worth remembering that success as well as failure is likely to impact their vitality, just as it does people in other professions.

Naturally, it’s easier to see how failure can dull our enthusiasm for life. An athlete trains for months and months but fails to win a medal. A manager works on a project for just as long but falls short. Neither has anything to show for their labors, and their vitality suffers.
However, failure can be a source of great energy and vitality moving forward. But what many people don’t realize is that succeeding can, and often does, have a similar effect of dulling our vitality and enthusiasm for life:

Olympic gold medallists, for example, often tell how, after winning their gold, they go home and when the excitement and congratulations of friends, family members and the media subside, they suddenly experience a terrible let-down, sometimes followed by depression and a lack of interest in life. After the successful completion of a goal that has demanded so much of their lives, many winners have described their victories as ultimately feeling like a door had been slammed in their face.

Successful Olympians have a gold medal to show for their efforts. A successful manager might get a pay rise or a promotion. But just like those who don’t quite hit their target, their brains can become preoccupied with thoughts of ‘this is the end of something, what do I do next?’

Answering the question of what can be done to rekindle vitality at that point in life is important for people in all walks of life, whether you’ve struck gold and fulfilled your dream, or fallen short of your dream. Whether you had ‘big’ dreams, like Olympian-size dreams, or ‘smaller’ dreams. And it’s something my Nine Essentials for vitality directly address.

Two of the essentials are particularly relevant: FLEXIBLE GOALS and IMAGINATION AND DREAMS.

Having flexible goals entails taking time to enjoy the journey that’s part and parcel of achieving goals. It’s also about keeping the process open-ended, not making one specific set of circumstances the be-all and end-all. By doing this, we give our brains exponentially more options for growth and success.

The key is this: Do not try to close the deal too soon. Do not make crossing the finish line your primary goal.

Naturally, Olympians do not have the luxury of taking their time during the heat of competition, and, of course, crossing the finishing line is an important part of their purpose. They also have a specific date they must work towards. A day on which they must be at their best if they want to achieve their goal. But they can still take time to enjoy the process of getting there, of beating their personal bests during training, feeling themselves reaching peak fitness step-by-step and enjoying focusing on getting in prime condition for their day in the sporting spotlight at the Olympics. But after their performance, win or lose, what next?

That’s where another of the Nine Essentials of NeuroMovement® comes in – Imagination and Dreams. Put simply, we all need to have a dream, be it an Olympian-size dream, or a smaller one. We can have no vitality, no joie de vivre without a dream. So, after the Olympics in Tokyo, what do athletes need to do? And what do you need to do if you’ve reached your goal and are experiencing that sinking feeling and repetitive thinking of what now?

The only way from the top is not down. It’s to give yourself another dream.

To use the Olympian example again, an athlete can set their sights on the next major event on the sporting calendar – perhaps there’s a World Championships on the horizon they need to start training for. A manager may find another goal to focus on, perhaps another promotion to aim for. And if such dreams are not possible, then a change of direction is needed. As I point out in Move Into Life:

If our dream is no longer appropriate and meaningful to us, we need to be aware of this and create a new dream.

I feature a lot more information as well as practical exercises regarding Flexible Goals, Imagination and Dreams and the rest of the Nine Essentials in my book Move Into Life from which I’ve been quoting in this article.

Suffice to say here that the next time you see an Olympian ascend to the top of the podium to celebrate a victory, remember that person is likely to soon be just as full of doubt and worry about their future as all the other athletes who didn’t win a medal.

Win or lose, succeed or fail, whatever your walk of life, the Nine Essentials for NeuroMovement® offer a way forward into a future full of vitality, long after the cheers and adulation have faded.

Crucially, the way you go about trying to achieve your goal will determine whether the process will be effective in moving you towards that goal, and at the same time enhance your well-being, help you grow, and leave you feeling vital.