Dreaming of the Olympics

Sport is a passion shared across the generations of my family, as well as a family tradition. And the Olympics games are an event I have always followed with enthusiasm. This summer, while all athletes deserve praise and recognition for their hard work and achievement, Michael Phelps made history again when he won his 23rd gold medal. He entered the Rio Games as the most decorated Olympian in history, with 22 medals, including 18 golds, and added five golds and a silver during the eight days of competition.

“You just have no idea how difficult it is for anybody to win an Olympic gold medal,” said Phelps’s longtime coach, Bob Bowman. “I know Michael’s done it so frequently, it’s really hard to put it in perspective.”

While many swimmers feel indebted to Michael for making swimming a more mainstream sport, most acknowledge the broader impact he has had on the whole Olympic movement.

The keys ingredients to Phelps success story are:

1. Vision-Inspiration

Don't make small plans. Daniel Burnham (American architect) once said: “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood”.

In 2008, Phelps’s ambition was to outperformed Mark Spitz’s achievement (7 gold medals in Munich 1972) by winning 8 gold medals. After having won his 8 gold medals, and set 7 world records, Michael's next long-term goal was to have the same impact on swimming that Michael Jordan had on basketball and Tiger Woods had on golf.

2. Mind-Focus

Don Schollander (1964 Olympic gold medals-swimming) wrote in his book: “Psyching out is part of the game. You’ve got to be able to take it and you’ve got to be able to do it. In Olympic competition, a race is won in the mind.”

According to Bowman, Phelps strongest attribute is his single-mindedness, his ability to focus when he swims. Even during practice, he doesn’t let his mind wander far. The key to his superiority is what is in his mind as he races. Very little. “It’s either nothing or I have to get my hand on the wall before they do” he said.

3. Body-Discipline

“Nobody's a natural. You work hard to get good and then work to get better. It's hard to stay on top." Paul Coffey (ice hockey star). At age 12 Phelps willingly got up at 6:30 daily for 90-minute morning practices and swam 2 to 3 hours every afternoon.

While vision and focus are key to success, discipline is the glue which makes them stick. The challenge with discipline is that telling people to be disciplined doesn’t work.

As sport psychologist, H.A. Dorfman wrote in his book “The Mental ABC’s of Pitching,” “you can't just urge someone to be disciplined; you have to build a structure of behavior and attitude. Behavior shapes thought. If a player disciplines his behavior, then he will also discipline his mind”

4. Spirit-Passion

"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well." Pierre de Coubertin (founder of modern Olympic Games)

Olympics athletes have a passion for excellence: “I didn’t want to compete to make history, I wanted to compete to be the best” Nadia Comaneci 5 gold medals in gymnastic in 1976/1980.

The long-term reward of an Olympic athlete’s achievement goes beyond the Games. When one athlete achieves what was once unthinkable, it makes every barrier suddenly look vulnerable. Grant Hackett (Australian Olympic swimmer): “You set that bar a bit high and people are going to come with you”.

By setting the bar high Michael Phelps has allowed the rest of us to believe that as long as our dream is big enough and as long as we work to make it become a reality, nothing is impossible, not even the Olympics.

The Begging Bowl

Once upon a time, in a far off land a prosperous king lived in a magnificent castle. He had an abundance of wealth and was a good, proud king, who took care of his subjects. One morning, as he was leaving his palace to tour the kingdom, he encountered a man dressed in rags sitting on the stairs. The man held out a begging bowl with a shaky hand. The king was surprised; he did not know of any subjects in the land who suffered from misfortune. The king asked the beggar in a kind voice: What can I do for you poor sir?

The king was surprised again when the beggar replied with a laugh: You ask me as if it were possible to fulfill my desires.

Taken aback, the offended king said: Of course I can fulfill your desire, I rule this kingdom, I provide for everyone’s needs.

Still smiling, the beggar warned him: Be careful about what you promise.

This man was no ordinary beggar, but the king, not recognizing this, insisted: I will fulfill anything you ask for. I am a very powerful king.

OK then,said the beggar, can youplease fill my begging bowl?

Of course,replied the king, who immediately called on his treasurer to fill the man’s begging bowl with coins.

Almost as quickly as the coins tumbled into the bowl, they disappeared. The king, dismayed at being made a fool, demanded the treasurer add more and more money, which continued to disappear. To everyone’s astonishment, the begging bowl remained empty.

Keep pouring!cried the king, determined to not be defeated by a beggar. The treasurer obeyed and into the begging bowl went all the treasures of the kingdom. Money, gold, jewels, even priceless artifacts went into the bowl, only to disappear. The crowd watched in horror as the king’s entire wealth vanished.

Finally, the king dropped to his knees in front of the beggar: You won, he admitted. But before you go, please tell me the secret of your begging bowl.

Smiling, the beggar replied:There is no secret, the bowl is simply made of human desire.

We all have desires and needs. For some, it is to get a new job, for others it is to travel, or to become successful entrepreneurs.
Learning, growing and moving forward are all important aspects of life. It helps leverage our talents and abilities to build the kind of life we want and to be happy and feel fulfilled.

Some of us dream of following in the footsteps of famous people who have achieved greatness. We look to adopt the same mindset of determination and insatiable desire for more and better.

The truth is, with or without being inspired by Mark Zuckerberg, Novak Djokovic or even perhaps Donald Trump, we will always be in want of something more: be it money, time, freedom, success or business opportunities.

While such lofty aspirations can motivate us to stretch beyond our comfort zone and develop in remarkable ways, it is a continuous challenge to make sure our life’s purpose is not a bottomless pit of unachievable desires. If we spend too much time searching for the next thing that will make us happy, it is easy to forget all that we have already accomplished. In the past fifty years, humans have landed on the moon, eradicated several diseases, achieved peace in Europe and virtually connected the world through the Internet.

At the end of the day, the question I am always being reminded of is: What is the benefit of achieving greatness if we are left with an empty begging bowl?

 

Personal Values versus Self-Interests

 

Watching a recent debate between the potential American presidential candidates on the Republicain side, a question came to my mind: How has Donald Trump managed to convince some smart and educated people that he is a credible presidential candidate?

According to George Lakoff, an American cognitive linguist, people don’t vote for their self-interests – they vote for their values, “what they implicitly, automatically and unconsciously believe to be right.”

At the risk of contradicting some hard-core cerebral geeks, it turns out that, instead of being the product of our rational thinking, political differences come down to moral divisions characterized by very different brain circuits. Regardless of our political affiliation, our sense of what is right or wrong is deeply connected to the neural circuits of our brains.

While the American debates offer some fascinating performances that some of us enjoy watching, I am more concerned, on a pragmatic level, with how connections in our neural circuits affect our daily lives, and why we should care.

We should care because what goes on in our brains matters. Our neural circuits carry the thoughts which define our personal identities. They give each of us a sense of who we are as a person. Central to that identity is a system of neural circuitry which is telling us what is right and wrong, influencing and justifying our actions.

While these circuits represent how we think the world works and help us make sense of our reality, our mental images are often imperfect and incomplete. We focus on the idea of the world that fits our values, and we conveniently overlook, distort or simply ignore what doesn’t fit.

For many people, the plasticity of our minds makes it difficult to see when the world has changed, since we bend reality to fit our mental models rather than vice versa.

Going back to the original quote from George Lakoff, if people vote what they believe to be right, for Trump’s supporters to change their way of looking at him, they would need to rewire their neural circuits by hearing a different language than his forceful but simplistic vocabulary, and seeing different images than the ones the media is bombarding us all with.

The same is true in our own lives. Since our language shapes the way we think and determines what we think about, in order to change our mindsets, the best results come when we change the way we speak by adopting a vocabulary that reflects the new thinking we want to embrace and ideas that emulate our desired behaviors

Are You Ready for a Quantum Leap in Your Life?

In February it will be time to say goodbye to the Wood Goat of 2015 as he crosses over the mountain. However, 2016’s Fire Monkey will quickly swing in and take his place.

The New Year seems to have gotten off to a turbulent start with a weak global economic outlook, falling stock prices and major snowstorms to name just a few.

However, thanks to the unusual alignment of cosmic elements (February 2016 has four of each day of the week, which happens only once every 823 years), astrologers are claiming that the year of the Fire Monkey is the ideal time for a quantum leap in life.

This rare combination of the number 4 (the lucky number for the Monkey this year) will offer a wealth of opportunities to quadruple your chances of success.

According to Feng Shui consultants, the Year of the Fire Monkey is blessed with enthusiastic energy associated with ambition, intelligence, adventure, activity and mischief. This makes 2016 the perfect time to shake things up, initiate change in your life and discover new ways to achieve your goals.

Are you ready for a Fire Monkey year?

Season's Greetings

The holidays are a time for celebration and happiness; a time to be with family and friends; a time to look back on all the good things that happened in the year coming to an end; and a time to make plans for the New Year ahead.

Traditionally, one of the customs used to mark the end of the year is to make a New Year's resolution. This tradition dates back to the early Babylonians, whose most popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment.

Today, a New Year’s resolution is usually a commitment one makes to achieve a specific goal during the coming year. While many of us have big dreams and believe like Walt Disney that if we can dream it we can do it, many need some encouragement and a reminder that anything is indeed possible. With that in mind, I hope you enjoy this poem…

Dream Big

If there was ever a time to dare…

To make a difference…
To embark on something worth doing…

It is now.

Not for any grand cause, necessarily,
But for something that tugs at your heart.
Something that's your inspiration…
Something that's your dream.
You owe it to yourself to make your days here count.

Have fun, dig deep, stretch…

Dream big.

Know, though, that things worth doing seldom come easy.
There will be good days,
And there will be bad days.
There will be times when you want to turn around,
Pack it up, and call it quits.
Those times tell you that you are pushing yourself,
That you are not afraid to learn by trying.

Persist.

With an idea, determination, and the right tools,
You can do great things.
Let your instincts, your intellect, and your heart guide you.

Trust.

Believe in the incredible power of the human mind.

Of doing something that makes a difference…
Of working hard…
Of laughing and hoping…
Of lazy afternoons…
Of lasting friends…
Of all the things that will cross your path this year…

The start of something new brings the hope of something great.

Anything is possible.

-Author Unknown-

Wishing You the Very Best for aJoyous, Successful and Prosperous 2016

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