With the Olympics getting ever closer there seems to be more and more attention placed onto ‘what creates a great champion?’  I know little of professional sport; however I am utterly stunned at the commitment shown by athletes at the top of their game. The incredibly long growling hours of what is often boring repetition. After winning the Beijing Olympics, Rebecca Adlington told the Guardian that she got up at 5am and was training for four hours a day, six days a week, doing 10 pool sessions in total! On top of that she had physiotherapy, massage and strength training. During the week she would get home at 7.20pm, grab something to eat, watch a bit of TV and then crash. Her life was all sleeping, training, driving and occasionally finding time to eat.

It’s all very impressive, but for me the section of her story that really stood out and made me sit up and take notice, was before her public success while she was at school. Rising at 5am to swim and doing homework in the back of the car! I guess it’s easier to maintain that level of commitment once you have lifted an Olympic gold medal, but to continually get up at 5am, throw yourself in a cold pool of water, when you don’t when (or if) it will pay off and your peers around you are living a very different ‘easier’ life, is, to me amazing.  To exchange instant pleasures for delayed gratification is surely one of the main ingredients of a champion.

I suspect that many people (and I include myself in this often) are fully engaged in microwave thinking – a deep belief that compensation should immediately follow any effort. Champions, leaders and those that are highly successful are different. They earn these labels by perfecting their competencies. If you look at champions, that label took years of hard work and sacrifice to achieve, with little or no apparent compensation along the way.  So with ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ or ‘Goals’ prominent in many people’s thinking at the moment, good questions to ask ourselves might be “Am I more interested in pleasure, or gratification?” “Am I more focussed on pleasure-based activities that deliver short and sweet payoffs or on gratification-based activities that take longer to achieve but deliver long and meaningful payoffs?” The choice is ultimately our own.

Wishing you huge success for the year ahead,

P.s. If you really want a shock, the Guardian published Rebecca Adlington’s full hour-by-hour training schedule online. Just scroll to the bottom of this link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/jan/10/rebecca-adlington-swimming