How do Olympic champions achieve greatness? Surely, it takes hard work, dedication, believing in their abilities, and being unstoppable in the pursuit of their sport. But what exactly tips the hand from good to great? “Mentality,” says sports psychologist Jim Afremow in his book, The Champion’s Mind. “Physical ability alone rarely translates into a superior on-field performance,” he writes. “Even naturally gifted athletes who want to perform to their total potential need outstanding physical and mental strengths because their secret to great performances is not their innate athleticism or technical skills―it’s their mind.”
Whether it’s a sport, playing music, entrepreneurship, or academics, to be exceptional requires mental toughness, a measure of confidence, resiliency, and commitment. Champions also feel a sense of purpose from their chosen endeavor. They understand that their successes come with setbacks. But with adaptability, resilience and the ability to consistently move past their comfort zone, they show us that anything is possible.
We are all born with potential. Potential combined with a “mentality” immersed in virtues can take us to the top of our pursuits.
Here are 24 quotes (under the virtue they embody) by Olympic champions to help motivate your success:
1. “I don’t run away from a challenge because I am afraid. Instead, I run toward it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your feet.” ~Nadia Comaneci, Romanian gymnast
2. “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” ~Muhammad Ali, American professional boxer
3. “What you feel doesn’t matter in the end; it’s what you do that makes you brave.” ~Erika Brown, American curler
4. “Nothing can substitute for just plain hard work. I had to put in the time to get back. And it was a grind. It meant training and sweating every day. But I was completely committed to working out to prove to myself that I still could do it.” ~Andre Agassi, American tennis player
5. “Girls playing sports is not about winning gold medals. It’s about self-esteem, learning to compete and learning how hard you have to work in order to achieve your goals.” ~Jackie Joyner-Kersee, American track and field athlete
6. “You have to believe in yourself when no one else does – that makes you a winner right there.” ~Venus Williams, American tennis player
7. “Nobody needs to prove to anybody what they’re worthy of, just the person that they look at in the mirror. That’s the only person you need to answer to.” ~Picabo Street, American alpine ski racer
8. “If you don’t have confidence, you’ll always find a way not to win.” ~Carl Lewis, American track and field athlete
9. “Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.” ~Wilma Rudolph, American sprinter
10. “The Olympics remain the most compelling search for excellence that exists in sport, and maybe in life itself.” ~Dawn Fraser, Australian freestyle swimmer
11. “I always believe I can beat the best, achieve the best. I always see myself in the top.” ~Serena Williams, American tennis player
12. “Nothing is impossible. With so many people saying it couldn’t be done, all it takes is an imagination.” ~Michael Phelps, American swimmer
13. “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career … I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” ~Michael Jordan, American basketball player
14. “Everything that I’ve ever been able to accomplish in skating and in life has come out of adversity and perseverance.” ~Scott Hamilton, American figure skater
15. “I am building a fire, and every day I train, I add more fuel. At just the right moment, I light the match.” ~Mia Hamm, American soccer player
16. “If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.” ~Mark Spitz, American swimmer
17. “Each of us has a fire in our hearts for something. It’s our goal in life to find it and keep it lit.” ~Mary Lou Retton, American gymnast
18. “We have the can-do factor, and us doing what we do I think inspires people to just try that little bit harder, whether they are able-bodied or disabled.” ~Lee Pearson, British para-equestrian
19. “The first thing is to love your sport. Never do it to please someone else. It has to be yours.” ~Peggy Fleming, American figure skater
20. “Passion is a huge prerequisite to winning. It makes you willing to jump through hoops, go through all the ups and downs and everything in between to reach your goal.” ~Kerri Walsh, American beach volleyball player
21. “Failure is a learning opportunity. That’s how you build resilience. That’s how you build strength.” ~Neville Wright, Canadian bobsledder
22. “To win, you have to risk loss.” ~Jean-Claude Killy, French ski racer
23. “If one can stick to the training throughout the many long years, then willpower is no longer a problem. It’s raining? That doesn’t matter. I am tired. That’s beside the point. It’s simply that I just have to.” ~ Emil Zatopek, Czech long-distance runner
24. “If you think you’re done, you always have at least 40 percent more.” ~Lauren Crandall, American field hockey player
Harness a “take no prisoners” attitude. Be a warrior. Relentlessly go after what you want no matter what obstacles you face. If you want it bad enough, you can and will achieve it. Let these inspiring words above from the best in the world, Olympic champions once rookies themselves, inspire you to achieve your own personal greatness.
Do you have a favorite quote? Let us know below and tell us how it inspires you.