Seven Attributes of Elite Athletes

Published on May 30th, 2018

Founded in 1966, the Singapore Sailing Federation (SSF) is committed to elevating its sailors on the international stage. The nation has become a dominant force at the youth level, with some of these sailors now having embarked on the nation’s next goal – an Olympic medal.

In sailing, there are many uncontrollable factors that are constantly changing, and the SSF works with its athletes to teach them to deal with these elements with confidence and trust in themselves.

This article by SSF outlines seven factors that elite level sailors take into account to reach excellence, with tips on how to apply these elite level processes to our own life.

1. Have Clear Purpose and Vision
Developing a clear vision and purpose helps superior sailors reach their goals with intention.

Superior athletes have an internal drive to push themselves to achieve greatness, and their purpose and vision is geared toward achieving success.

They understand that setting this in the beginning is important for maintaining focus throughout their journey to elite status.

Translation Tip for Life: Define your purpose or goals each morning. Take a few moments to set a 5 year, 1 year, 1 month, week and finally today. Writing it down also provides accountability, enhancing your chances of success.

2. See Adversity as Only An Obstacle
Everyone faces obstacles in life, and the same is true in sailing. However, obstacles can be seen as a different “O” word, opportunity. In a setback, superior sailors develop an attitude and drive to win at all costs.

Translation Tip for Life: Each time you feel that you are in a setback, take time to appreciate the obstacle for what it is, and think about what you can learn from it. Make a contingency plan in case it happens again.

3. Accept Failure as a Learning Tool
Without failure, we never know what success looks like. Every sailor that has learned to sail has capsized multiple times.

Accepting these shortcomings and learning how not to repeat the same mistakes is what makes a champion. Champions stay present, accept the mistake, and move forward with confidence in the process.

Translation Tip for Life: How you approach failure dictates your progress toward success. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Take failure as a chance to push yourself to the next level.

4. Know what you can or cannot control
The idea of controlling the wind, other sailors, the waves, or torn sails is futile. These events can create frustration, anxiety, anger, anticipation, and fear.

When superior sailors experience these events, they understand that their thoughts become their feelings, and in turn become their actions. They do not let the things they cannot control define their attitude, but rather they decide to do their best to overcome these setbacks.

Translation Tip for Life: Have you ever gotten upset about something that really didn’t matter? Deal with what is in your control, and prevent others from dictating your emotions.

5. Develop Thoughts and Beliefs That Match your Values and Goals
The thoughts of superior sailors align with their purpose, vision, and goals. Once they define their values, they develop a mindset around achieving those goals.

Their mindset is constantly focused on achieving greatness in every aspect of their training, believing in themselves, and the process.

Translation Tip for Life: Step 1 was defining your goals. Do you believe you can achieve them? I mean, truly believe it? If not, why? They may seem too difficult. If so, reevaluate them, and set more realistic goals.

6. Remain Coachable
Superior sailors are always willing to learn. They understand their shortcomings, and constantly ask questions and seek ways to advance themselves in the sport.

Learn not only from your coach, learn from your peers’ successes and mistakes. If someone is beating you every time, be courageous and ask what they are doing differently.

Translation Tip for Life: Coaching is not only for sports. Each day you have a chance to learn something from someone. Always be coachable, and your inner champion has no choice but to show itself.

7. Focus on the Process
Each time sailors enter the water they are faced with new challenges. At a moments notice, the wind and water can change. Each of those challenges must be met with confidence in the process.

They must trust their training, and know that they have done everything they can to prepare themselves for what may come, and trust the process.

Translation Tip for Life: In everything you do in life involves a process. If you are not proficient in a task, take a moment to understand why. You have the keys to success, open the lock of your mind.

About the author:
Johnathan Loper is the Singapore Sailing Federation’s in-house psychologist. When he isn’t doing research on how to enhance sailing performance, he is working alongside sailors, both on and off the water, to ensure they are mentally fit for every aspect of their lives. His passion is enriching the lives of others, by helping them find and achieve their greatest potential. Motivate, Overcome, Inspire.

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