Lesson 1. Listen to your heart.

I first wrote this as one gargantuan blog post. When it started to push 2000 words, I decided to break it up into several posts. Please check out my other life lessons from Olympians posts.

I have always loved sports. My mother once described me as a child by saying I was “remarkably physical.” I knew what she meant. I loved to dance. I loved to swim. I found gymnastics at roughly age 11, and that was a revelation. How I loved to tumble! I would spend hours in the gymnasium after school or outside the suburban home where I grew up practicing sloppy back handsprings on an old mattress in the grass. I simply loved to move.

Some of my earliest heroes were athletes. The pristine perfection of Peggy Fleming’s skating performance in the 1968 Winter Olympics was awe inspiring to me. Her ease and grace are the stuff of legend.  And before Michael Phelps, there was Mark Spitz, winner of 7 gold medals in the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. What little girl from that era didn’t swoon for the swimmer? Probably some grown women, and men too, for that matter. 😉

Of course, no one who follows Olympic sport can forget the peerless Nadia Comăneci, the gymnast who, at the Games in Montreal in 1976, was awarded the very first 10.0 score in the history of the games.

I had a talent for sports. Like so many other endeavors, I realize now that it takes much more than talent to make a champion. I muddled my way to second place in a few local competitions in various sports, notably swimming and gymnastics. I even made an occasional first if the field wasn’t too tough. In school, I played soccer and tennis, too. I drove my coaches crazy because I just wasn’t focused on winning. I was having fun.

I don’t really know why competition didn’t captivate me. Maybe I was afraid of the pain and disappointment of losing. Both physically and psychologically, I always felt I came up a bit short. Winning wasn’t easy. Understatement, much? That’s why they’re called Champions.

Me and Eli Bremer!

I was able to learn more about what it takes to become a world-class athlete when I was privileged to host Olympic pentathlete Eli Bremer for a talk held in a fitness studio with whom I’m partnered in my wellness business.

He has a very interesting story to tell.

As a kid, Eli was discouraged from pursuing an Olympic track by his no doubt well-meaning parents. They didn’t see it. They were driving him all over to practices and meets and he just wasn’t all that good. Maybe you should stop swimming and put your focus on the piano instead, they told him.

Bless their hearts! They encouraged him to be a musician instead of an athlete. That just tickles me no end.

Whatever the reason, in his heart, Eli was determined to continue and become a competitive athlete. It took some failures, notably being turned down on his first two attempts to try out for the local swim team. To hear him describe it, they were the worst team in the area, and even they didn’t want him. When he finally made it onto the team, he was the slowest swimmer on the slowest team in the region. Not the best groundwork for the making of an Olympic champion.

Nevertheless, he persisted.

So, the first lesson I have learned from the Olympians I have met is to listen to your heart.

When you make a decision to do something that you’ve always wanted to do, the Universe (God, whatever you prefer to call it) will begin to remove obstacles from your path. You will see hints and signs that what you’re doing is right.

That isn’t to say that there will never be any roadblocks! Quite the opposite, in fact. (Most of the time, those will come from you. That’s a whole other blog post!) Be open and move in the direction of your dreams with confidence. Good things will happen for you.

If you enjoyed the first lesson, there are six more where that came from! Please search my blog posts for more life lessons from Olympians.

Thanks for taking the time to read my post.


p.s. You’ll find more articles and videos on wellness topics in my wellness center a.k.a. Your Wellness Project. I’d like to invite you to create an account for access and I’ll send you a weekly email with more great info plus my e-newsletter. You can sign up at bit.ly/maura-wellness or click the signup widget at the right.

Featured image photo credit: Tim Hipps

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