Athletes often get a bad rap for being one-dimensional. There’s a misconception that they are lacking a diversity of life experiences to be able to successfully relate to the rest of us…non-athletes. In certain cases, where athletes are not able to protect their plurality, this can be true. However, in many more cases, athletes could teach us lessons in translating elements of their preparation and focus and applying to our daily lives.

One common trait in successful athletes is an ability to face and persevere through adversity. In other words, they’re resilient.

Resilience is often described as the ability to persevere and over come setbacks. However, resilience means more than simply ‘bouncing back’, because it does not take recovery and rest into account. In other words, ‘bouncing back’ too quickly, without taking time to recover and rest from each effort, can lead to burnout.

So what should we all focus on? Research on Olympic champions by Fletcher and Sarker (2012) has identified some common characteristics of high performing athletes that were deployed in achieving their goals. Here are 8 tips for developing personal resilience in your life, as practiced by these elite athletes.

It’s OK to be imperfect

8 ways to build resilience in your life

Dr. MacNeill often refers to performing at ‘80-90 percent’, not 100 percent. This doesn’t mean we don’t try as hard. What she means is not constantly striving for perfection, because it is most often very difficult or even impossible to attain. Not reaching this impossible standard can cause us setbacks and negatively affect our performance. Instead, we rely on our preparation, training, and knowledge and work to deliver between 80-90 percent of our personal ‘perfection’, which still delivers an extremely effective result.

Be positive

Not just in the “Ra Ra!” sense. It means being open to new experiences or new ways of doing things. Switching up the routine and not being afraid to try something new to achieve goals in your life.

Know what, why and how you want to achieve something

Set your targets and hit them

Athletes are goal-driven, and most importantly they enact specific, action-oriented goals. In business it’s often referred to as SMART principles. It is important to be clear about what you would like to achieve, why you want to achieve it and HOW you plan to achieve it. Build yourself a plan and process for best execution.

Ask for help

Ask for help

The best athletes have a full support team behind them that drives their success, even if it’s an individual sport. NEVER be afraid to ask for help. Anyone who has ever succeeded will tell you they leaned on others to get where they are today. Asking for help is NOT a sign of weakness, but rather is a sign of strength and confidence.

Take ownership of your choices

8 ways to build resilience in your life

We often dwell on what we have to ‘sacrifice’ to achieve our goals. While the effort required to achieve many of life’s goals are mentally and physically challenging, they are active choices YOU make. Take ownership of these choices rather than feeling victimized by the trade-offs.

Be in control and take responsibility

Taking the wheel in your life

It’s important to remember you’re in control of your feelings, thoughts and actions. We often play victim with phrases like ‘he/she made me feel….’. In reality it’s how we respond to the remarks and actions of others that’s most important. Take back that power! Have some helpful ‘self-talk’ phrases to remind yourself that you do not have to let another person make you feel a certain way, especially if they’re in the way of achieving your life goals.

Focus on what you can control: your personal development

Focus on what you can control

You do you. Too often we compare ourselves with others, and what others achieve in life may not be right for you. Focus on yourself, on your own goals and performance, as that is all that can be personally controlled.

Learn from the losses

Resilience Elite Athletes

You’ve heard the term Post Traumatic Stress. Flip that on its head and practice Post Traumatic Growth. Life’s difficult experiences are often our greatest teachers. Coping with physical and mental anguish of adverse situations can allow us to gain strength from the experience. These lessons can be applied to other challenging situations you experience and ultimately remind you that you can cope with adversity when the situation calls for it.


Stay up to date with the latest news and updates