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What an Olympic Gold Medalist Taught Me About Achieving Success

Last month, as I watched American Olympian Ashton Eaton won gold in the Decathlon, and fellow American Trey Hardee take home the silver, I was reminded of a life lesson that Olympic athlete Jim Thorpe taught me about achieving success through visualization.

By the way, this year is the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the Decathlon in the Olympic Games and Jim Thorpe’s gold medal in that first Decathlon.

Jim Thorpe, a Native American, is known as one of the greatest athletes of all time.  He was an All-American, Olympic gold medalist in the Decathlon and Pentathlon, star NFL running back and Major League Baseball player.

On his way to the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Thorpe and his fellow American Olympians sailed aboard the ocean liner Finland.

One day on the ship, while all the athletes trained on a cork track laid on the ship’s deck, Thorpe sat nearby in silence.

A sportswriter named Francis Albertani saw him sitting there and asked “What are you doing, Jim? Thinking of your Uncle Sitting Bull?”

“No,” Thorpe said, “I’m practicing the broad jump. I’ve just jumped 23 feet eight inches. I think that I can win it.”

Thorpe did in fact go on to win the broad jump event in the Olympic Decathlon with his jump of 22 feet 7 inches!  He also won three more of the 10 Decathlon events en route to the gold medal, and four of five Pentathlon events to earn a second gold.

What was the secret to Jim Thorpe’s Olympic success?  

It was the power of visualization.  

Thorpe knew that if he wanted to be an Olympic champion, it wasn’t enough for him to be in peak physical condition. He needed to be in peak mental condition too. So he used the power of visualization to help train his mind for success.

What is visualization?  Click to read more at my personal growth blog.

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Comment by Jen McDonough "The Iron Jen" on September 20, 2012 at 4:13am

I agree! Some people can understand better from a visual standpoint. For me personally, it has helped achieve my goals with that put in mind. I was blessed enough to compete in a few Olympic Festivals in my earlier BC (Before Children) years for Olympic Style Weightlifting. I remembered getting to meet with one of the USOC sports physiologists and that is what we worked on, gaining skills to vision my successful outcomes. Powerful stuff. Thanks for sharing!!

Live Beyond Awesome
Jen McDonough
Twitter: @TheIronJen

Comment by Ann Musico on September 18, 2012 at 6:23am

Great post!  I use visualization myself and help clients do this in improving their health.  When my son played baseball, I shared this with him and he used to do this before each game.  It's much more powerful than people realize.

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