How to Excel at the Olympic Games

By: Jim Murphy


There’s a certain type of person throughout human history who blazed trails that others followed. They learned to struggle and fall and take risks and fall again. Often they were forgotten… until one day they changed the world.

They know what it’s like to have dirt on their face, to give their heart and soul to a worthy cause, even if that cause is only to have more courage, because courage is what changes the world.

They weren’t the strongest or smartest or best looking–often far from it–but they used what they had, and what they had was the willingness to take that first step, to step into the unknown, the darkness where dangers abound.

They took that step because they knew they could never do anything worthwhile without taking a risk. They also knew that in that risk was the opportunity to find that place in their heart where, even if the world relegated them, or perhaps worse, forgot them, that they could live with peace knowing they did what they could to become who they might become.


“It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”

― Viktor E. Frankl, ​Man’s Search for Meaning​

To perform your best at the Olympic Games (in Paris, 2024, or any big event), with the entire world watching, you need to have a certain belief (comfort level) about being the type of person who achieves the things you want to achieve.

It’s also helpful to get a few things in order. You’re going to want a heart that’s prepared for discomfort, a mind that’s ready for doubt and negative thoughts, and a body that’s equipped to face any feeling.

In other words, you’re going to want to become wholehearted, to have an undivided heart, one that’s fully engaged, in the moment but not attached to it. This will enable you to be selfless, and therefore fearless, because when there’s no concern for self there’s also no fear of outcomes or comparisons or letdowns.

Even if there’s fear, there’s also a certain comfortability (yeah, I know, not a word) in being uncomfortable, because you know that what you want most is to learn and grow and be your true self, and like the great Victor Frankl, you want to be worthy of your sufferings.

In the biggest moments of your life, you want a clear mind and unburdened heart. To get those two crucial things, it’s super helpful to have an understanding of who you are, how you want to live and feel and the type of person you want to become.

Consider this: Inner strength and mental toughness are both closely connected to inner peace, gratitude, and beauty.

All five resources are related to joy, because joy is foundational for self-control.

When you perform out of gratitude, then you can use your craft to learn and grow to become who you’re meant to become. Gratitude is a form of love, and from love comes joy. With joy we can see more beauty, and when beauty is more apparent, so are opportunities.

If you’re the type that prays, pray for a heart that loves most what’s most empowering. Pray for love itself, to love others, love the opportunity, and love all the gifts you’ve been given to get where you are.

Then you can have joy in the moment and love the experience and competition itself, not what you get from it (social proof that you’re enough, that you’re ok)–even more than the medal or trophy. Then you have inner strength.

When you perform out of gratitude, to share your pursuit of excellence with others, to raise the level of excellence in your life in order to raise it in your rival, then you have inner peace.

When you realize that you don’t know what’s best for you, for you to win or your opponent, you can relax and launch yourself into whatever the moment calls for. You can pray for your A game as well as your opponent’s A game, so that you can both raise the level of excellence in each other’s lives. Now that’s beautiful.

Things to remember as you prepare for the big day

“Find a place within yourself where success and failure don’t matter, a place where you can engage in battle without compromise.” —Jim Steen, Kenyon College swim coach, winner of 31 consecutive national championships

If you want to be mentally tough, forget about perfection and focus on sharing your love of your sport with the audience. (Visualize your goals and dreams unfolding perfectly, overcoming every adversity, but pursue sharing your love over not making mistakes).

On the big day, there’s so many things out of your control, but one thing you need to remember: your calling in this world is not to capture a trophy or win a disc to put on your neck, it’s to become a certain type of person, the type who loves others enough to share your fears and failures and get up again and again.

There’s a certain selflessness to these qualities, a sense of self that is not performing for status or recognition or acceptance, but rather performing to fully experience the moment, grateful just to be there and to be given the heart, mind and body that allowed all this to happen.

4 Daily Goals

  1. Give the best of what you’ve got today.
  2. Be grateful.
  3. Be present.
  4. Focus on your routines and only what you can control.

Prepare and imagine overcoming every obstacle.

Have no preference for how things should be. Since you can handle anything that comes up, and you don’t know what circumstance or result is best for you, you also don’t know if more adversity right before or during the big event is the best thing for you. Thus, no preference is preferable.

Let me know how it’s going for you.

Love Jim

Inner peace: deep contentment, awe and wonder; profound rest and harmony that comes from having relationships in their proper place; offspring of joy.

Joy: deep sense of well-being, freedom and gratitude, independent of circumstance (deeper and broader than any pleasure); sense of delight that comes from awareness and anticipation of the beauty, grace and glory you were created for.

Remember this:

What you really want is to live a meaningful fulfilling life with amazing experiences and deep, enriching relationships, a life where you’re learning and growing and making a difference in the world. An olympic medal or world championship isn’t going to do it. The person you become by having the courage to train and be vulnerable during the training is going to do that.

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