While the idolization of professional athletes often raises eyebrows, to me there’s no denying they deserve each accolade they receive. No one becomes an elite sportsperson on talent alone. It takes passion, commitment and attitude to make it to the top.

Whether you’re an aspiring athlete or entrepreneur, there’s a lot you can learn from the world’s elite athletes. By emulating the techniques they use to push ahead, win gold and shatter records, it’s possible for anyone to be on their way to accomplishing the remarkable.

Bernie Michalik has been running long-distance for over 20 years. He is a senior architect at IBM and recently shared four tips that creatives can learn from elite marathoners when it comes to successful goal-setting.

  • Adopt concrete goals that aim toward excellence: Elite athletes are very specific about what they want to achieve, right down to the split-second. By developing your own set of specific, long-term goals you can achieve success in any aspect of your life – whether you want to a promotion or to complete a specific project.
  • Design a training regime, engage coaches and expand your expertise: Athletes are continuously training and expanding their program to include new challenges – but they never do it alone. Find a mentor you admire, listen to their advice and incorporate it into achieving your goals.
  • Keep a log of your efforts and outcomes: The best runners don’t simply create goals; they also rigorously measure how they are tracking to achieve them. Make note of all the actions you take to achieve your personal goals and measure the pay-off received from each one. 
  • Take the long view: Each race an elite runner participates in helps them reach their long-term goals. By being tactical about what projects, jobs and roles you take on you can help ensure each one is a step towards achieving your long-term goals.

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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