Portions of this story were published in my weekly Forbes column: Why You Should Fill Your Company With ‘Athletes.’
You don’t have to be the best athlete in the world to prosper. You can emulate the qualities of great athletes. The world is full of champion “athletes,” whether or not they are involved in competitive sports. While the desire to win is a powerful motivator, it is important to note that it is usually not when we are standing in the championship circle that we discover our greatness. It is often during our most trying and darkest hours that we find out what we are truly made of.
Michelangelo said, “In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”
Greatness exists within us all. If life’s circumstances have left you in a place where you don’t feel great at the moment, those traits may just be hiding right now.
Research shows that highly competitive athletes possess personality traits that make them superior to non-athletes in other areas of life, including business. Whether it’s wrestling, running, football or virtually any other competitive sport, if you have a passion for athletics, you’re more likely to succeed professionally.
Knowing that, what are the traits that champion athletes invariably possess? I’ve narrowed my list to seven. I’m betting you have these traits, even if they’re hiding, and if you don’t recognize them, they may simply need to be honed.
Here are seven traits of champion athletes that my team at Fishbowl strives to emulate:
1. Athletes are tenacious and seldom give up. They have the drive to practice a task rigorously, relentlessly and even in the midst of failure until they succeed. They also have a strong work ethic and respect for others. Successful people never stop trying and they eventually win for themselves and others.
2. Athletes set and achieve goals. What is not measured cannot be effectively improved. Athletes understand that in order to reach new heights of efficiency, they must constantly compete against themselves. They don’t compare themselves to others, but they always strive for new personal bests. That is how they achieve real growth and reach ambitious goals.
3. Athletes continually develop new skills. Even though athletes are highly specialized in the skills they need to do their jobs well, they are also good at adapting to scenarios that call for flexibility and quick thinking. They recognize that challenges present tremendous opportunity for development and growth.
4. Athletes strive for optimal health. Too much junk food and too little sleep will not contribute to a healthy worker or a winning performance. Athletes’ bodies must be strong and in good condition to achieve positive results. A true athlete will find balance in his energy, health, sleep, and nutrition that will allow him to succeed right now and in the future.
5. Athletes work well in teams. Athletes know how to leverage the unique and complementary strengths of each member of their team. They don’t cut down a teammate or disrespect a partner because they know that will only weaken their team. Athletes will typically put others’ needs ahead of their own when necessary.
6. Athletes look for the good in themselves and others. People who have embraced their inner champion athlete work to bring out the best in everyone around them. They inspire others to transcend comparison and jealousy. These people focus on possibilities and lift others up when they need a boost. Rather than looking for problems to fix in others, they encourage others to be better by using positive examples.
7. Athletes are scrappy. They have a contagious work ethic, “you betcha” attitude, and commitment to a greater cause than their own gratification. They push through the pain until they find their stride, and they often leave their comfort zone.
Do you recognize these traits in yourself, or do you see their potential to grow in you? Just like how Michelangelo saw potential in each stone he carved, I’m betting you do. With a little practice and honing, you and everyone around you can bring those traits into view. I encourage you to try.
Additional reporting for this article was provided by Mary Michelle Scott, Fishbowl president.