webtoc_home.gif
webtoc_featured.gif
webtoc_egroups.gif (968 bytes)
webtoc_askedit.gif

webtoc_salary.gif (1208 bytes)


webtoc_backtosl.gif

How To Think Like a Winner
Becoming a winner doesn't just happen
By Ruben Gonzalez, three-time Olympian

Everyone reading this article is six inches away from experiencing huge successes and breakthroughs in their life. Six inches? Sure! Thatís the distance between your ears.

What Iím saying is weíre designed with all the resources needed to make our fondest dreams come true. We only need to learn how to program our brain properly. Ninety percent of the input we get in the world is negative. And ninety percent of the things we tell ourselves are negative. So, itís critical to learn techniques to replace the negative with positive.

In life you donít get what you want. You get what you are. The best way to improve yourself is to change what goes into your mind. What you think determines what you do. What you do determines what you accomplish.

Olympic Athletes understand this. We know that what we put in our mind will ultimately determine how well we do in our competition. Think of each thought as a computer "bit", the smallest unit of information possible. Many thoughts add up to become beliefs. What we believe determines how high we will go. The good news is there are ways to raise your belief level.

Beliefs are extremely important. For example, in April 1954, the belief in the world was that no one could run the mile in less than four minutes. Then along came Roger Bannister. Bannister did what nobody in the history of the world had ever done. He broke the four-minute mile barrier! The phenomenal thing is that later the same month, several other athletes did it too! And since then, over 20,000 people have run the mile in under four minutes. What changed? The BELIEF changed. All of a sudden athletes knew "If Roger can do it, so can I".

Most people never attempt to do something they donít believe they can do.

Ever since I was in the third grade I wanted to be an Olympic Athlete. I respected the Olympians because they were an example of what I believed inóthey are willing to commit to a goal, willing to risk adversity in the pursuit of it, willing to fail and at the same time keep trying until they succeeded. But it was not until I was in college and saw Scott Hamilton compete in the Sarajevo games that I made a decision to train for the Olympics.

How did I raise my self-belief level between third grade and college? Two waysóthrough what I read and through the people I associated with.

I read countless biographies of great people. Before long, I realized that the common denominator in the success of those great people was the fact that they had a dream they were passionate about and they never gave up. Perseverance is the best trait you can have. But how do you keep yourself going when the going gets tough? It comes back to your beliefs.

The other thing I did to raise my self-esteem was to regularly associate with people I respected. When you hang around people that think big, you start to think big. And when people you have respect for believe in you, you start to believe in yourself.

Four years after making a decision to begin training for the Olympics, I had the honor of competing in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics in the luge. I went on to compete in the 1992 Albertville Olympics and I just competed in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics at the age of 39.

How does someone who did not even take up the sport of luge until he was 22 become a three-time Olympian? As I tell thousands of people in my speeches, Iím not a big shot. Iím just a little shot that keeps on shooting. Iím proof that ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things if they will just put the right things into their minds.

Olympic Athletes consistently and persistently use specialized techniques to program their minds to achieve peak performance. The following simple techniques performed consistently over a period of time will change your outlook in life and ultimately your outcomes.

Write your Goals Down!
Magic happens when you put your goals down on paper. Your subconscious mind starts trying to figure out ways to make your goals become a reality.

In 1960, Harvard Business School did a study of their graduates 20 years after they had graduated. They found the top 3 percent moneymakers made as much money as the other 97 percent put together. The only difference between the two groups was the top 3 percent had always written and regularly read their goals. As a result, everything they did on a day-to-day basis was focused on reaching their goals.

When Tiger Woods was a young boy, he wrote down on a 3x5 card that he intended to break all of Jack Nicklausí records. Jack Nicklaus agrees that Woods can do it if he stays on the track heís on.

The most effective way to write your goals down is to take a 3x5 card and on one side write:

  • "I intend toÖ. by (date)."
  • On the other side of your card write why.
  • "I intend to accomplish this becauseÖ"

Then write at least three reasons why you will do it. The reasons increase your belief.

Read your card first thing in the morning EVERY DAY to stay focused on the objective. Then read your card EVERY NIGHT before turning out the lights so your subconscious can work all night on ways to make it happen.

Visualize the Desired Outcome
Several times a day close your eyes and for a couple of minutes vividly imagine what itís going to feel like when you achieve your goal. Really get into it. Feel it as if it were really happening. Get excited! Your subconscious doesnít know the difference between imagining it and it really happening. By doing this, you become passionate about your desire, your belief becomes unshakeable and you become unstoppable.

The luge team is taught to visualize their sled runs every day. Especially right before practice. We "run the mental tape" in our minds of each twist, turn, and body movement so when weíre hurling down the track at 80+ MPH, we instinctively know what to do in all situations.

I constantly visualized what it was going to be like when I walked into the Olympic Stadium at the Opening Ceremonies. I could see the crowds waving at me. I could see the flags and the balloons. I could hear the roar of the crowd, the fireworks, the Olympic Hymn. I could feel the cold wind blowing snow onto my cheeks. I could feel the tears of joy streaming down my face. I could feel the goose bumps running up my back and over my shoulders. I thought about it all the time, even while jogging, while lifting weights, in the shower, etc. It was my dream! And when I finally entered the Olympic arena, it was just the same only 100 times better.

Find a Mentor
The "Why?" is always more important than the "How?". Donít worry how you will make your dream come true. The dream gives you the energy. Find someone who has already been successful in doing what you want to do, not just someone who talks the talk. Ask them to be your mentor and teach you how to be successful as they are. If you are serious and committed to achieving your dream, they will see the passion in your eyes and will be honored to be asked.

As soon as I decided to take up the luge and train for the Calgary Olympics, I contacted the U.S. Luge Association in Lake Placid, NY. I asked the USLA if they would teach me how to luge and prepare me for the Olympics four years away. They said they had a plan in place and that if I would follow the plan and not quit, I would have a good chance of making it. Without knowing what the plan was, I humbled myself to my new mentors and let them know I would do whatever they said I needed to do.

That is the ideal mentor-mentee relationship. A hungry, driven, eager to learn, yet humble mentee together with a giving, knowledgeable, successful mentor.

Acquire the Mindset of Winners
If you adopt these beliefs, you will win much more often.

Failure does not exist. Just because I crashed the last five times on the luge track does not mean Iíll crash the next time. Every time I come down that track I am a better racer because I have more experience than the time before.

When Thomas Edison was trying to find the right filament to make the light bulb work, a reporter asked him how it felt to have failed thousands of times. Edison said he hadnít failed. He just discovered thousands of materials that didnít work.

There is no such thing as failure. You either get the desired outcome, or you learn. No matter what the result, you win. The past does not equal the future.

By thinking this way, discouragement canít get a foothold in your mind.

If itís to be itís up to me. Every single one of the people in the biographies I read overcame some major challenge. Struggling through those challenges is what made them great. A piece of coal has to experience a huge amount of heat and pressure in order to become a diamond. We are no different. Every time we face a challenge we have a choice to make. Will we get bitter or better? Decide to get better. Face the challenge. Itís there to make you stronger. You will need that strength further up the road when youíll be facing even bigger challenges.

Donít ever make excuses. Whenever you make an excuse you are giving up control. Rationalizing is telling yourself "rational lies".

Believe that you are in charge of your life. You are totally responsible. You create your results. You are in control of your life. You have the power to change your circumstances.

Get out of your comfort zone! When I decided to learn the luge I told everyone I was aiming for the Olympics. I wanted to put myself in a position where it would be very difficult to quit.

When I first went to Lake Placid, I honestly didnít know what I was getting into. I took a leap of faith and believed the net would appear. Iíve taken a couple of thousand luge runs in my career and Iíve faced fear before every run. What kept me going? The Olympic Dream. The desire to become an Olympian gave me the courage to face my fears.

Commit to stretching. Put yourself on the line. Commit to do things beyond your current abilities. Thatís how you grow. Thatís how you get better and stronger.

Just do it. When the luge team went to a new track we would walk the track with the coach. We would make a game plan about the best way to drive the track. I then visualized and mentally rehearsed taking the run many times, and finally I had to hop on the sled and go down the mountain. The first few runs are always pretty brutal, but as we learn the track, our times improve dramatically.

Scary? Very. But itís the price I paid to get to the Olympics.

Commit to act even if you donít know everything. You donít wait till all the lights are green before taking a road trip. If you wait until you know everything before acting, youíll never do anything. Take a chance. Act on faith.

Be true to yourself. Always act from Personal Integrity. Be true to yourself. If it does not feel right in your gut, donít do it. Donít ever go against your personal values. No victory is worth not being able to look yourself in the mirror.

There is always a way if you donít quit. Robert Schuller says, "Mental toughness is developed through consistency of effort."

On the road to the Olympics, many athletes much faster than me quit along the way. How do you think they felt when they watched the Olympics on TV? The price of getting your dream is big but the pain of regret is hundreds of times bigger.

Commitment is the glue that holds everything together. Commitment is the most powerful tool you have as a human being. Commit to practice until you are good. Even if you fear what it takes to get to your goal (as I feared the luge), do it anyways. Commitment will pull you through.

Commit to do whatever it takes (as long as it is moral, legal and ethical) to succeed.

The difference between people is there are those who are interested and there are those who are committed. The key to success in life is going from being interested to being committed. Once you are committed you will produce results. At the point of commitment, you mentally "burn all the bridges" and you do whatever it takes to make it happen. THATíS when you become unstoppable!

Make it happen! I believe in you.

Ruben Gonzalez speaks in schools and corporations on the Principles of Success he used on the road to the Olympics and on the consequences of making poor choices. His web site includes a recommended reading list: www.thelugeman.com


back2top.gif (2639 bytes)

Copyright © 2005 Oxendine Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved

Write For Student Leader
Submit your own ideas for future articles.