Seven Olympic Lessons to Enhance Your Creative Projects

by Liisa Kyle, Ph.D. on 08/03/2016

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When you think of the Olympic Games, what features of the event come to mind?  What about Olympic athletes — how would you describe them?  There are aspects about the Olympics that you can apply to improve whatever creative projects you have on the go.  As a DaVinci — someone juggling multiple ideas, projects and talents — it’s worth it to take a moment to ‘think Olympic’.

Here are some ways to use the Olympics to enhance your creative projects:

1.  Opening Ceremonies

Whether it’s jawdropping Chinese synchronicity or a bizarre montage involving a ginormous Voldemort  and a parachuting monarch, the Olympics start BIG.  They get participants excited to be involved.  They generate buzz.  There’s nothing like a little fanfare to get folks motivated.

You can do the same thing:  whether it’s an official launch of a project… or a daily ritual to spark your creative juices…the attention you give to getting started makes a huge impact on your creative projects.

As you commence a new project, give some attention to how you begin.  Launching a project effectively by definition means you’re increasing your chance of success.  This is your opportunity to set the tone, involve key others and establish expectations.  It might be a public event.  It might be a private strategizing session. It’s up to you to decide what makes sense to launch a given project.

Similarly, how you begin any work session plays a significant role in your productivity.  Author Stephen King, for example, begins each writing session at the same time, in the same physical location with the same items on his desk.  He’s trained himself to get cracking as soon as he sits down to write…and to keep going for hours.  Contrast this with a working session in which you fuss around, check your email, surf the ‘net, etc. before actually starting the task at hand.  The latter approach can be frustrating, stressful and guilt-inducing.  If you (a) know what it is you’re aiming to accomplish in a particular session and (b) set things up so you begin straight away, you’ll get more done, more easily with less stress and less frustration.

2.  Think beyond your own borders.

The Olympics is one of the truly international events.  It gathers together diverse participants from hundreds of countries.  It fosters attention and interest across borders and in unforeseen directions.

Your creativity is tethered to your imagination and your experiences.  This can take you far — and yet you can go so much farther when you step beyond your own limitations.  To the extent you can involve others’ perspectives, you are enriching your creative project.  Even if you’re working solo, take a moment to consider other perspectives:  How would a child tackle this project?  Someone of the opposite sex?  A scientist?

Even better if you can think beyond your own neighborhood — or culture — or nation.  There’s a whole world from which to draw diverse insights and inspiration.

3.  Eyes on the Prize

Olympic athletes have clear goals in mind:  whether it’s to set a personal best or bring home the gold.

Whatever your creative project, it behooves you to clarify your purpose and desired outcomes.  What, exactly, are you trying to accomplish?  Why?  What can you do to keep these things in mind consistently as you proceed?

For more ideas on setting goals, check out my book on the topic.

4.  Practice Practice Practice

Most Olympians have been working, consistently, for years to prepare for their Olympic participation. It’s not like they wake up one day, don a jaunty beret and suddenly find themselves to be tops in the world in their sport.

What effort and investment are you giving your creative projects?  What practices or habits have you established to make consistent progress on your projects?  What baby steps can you take every day or every week?

5.  Take Good Care of Yourself

It’s not enough for Olympians to take good care of their bodies…to be effective participants they must also cultivate mental discipline, emotional well-being and general life balance.

How about you?  As you work on your creative projects, to what extent are you taking good care of yourself — physically, psychologically and emotionally?  What can you do to foster a healthy life balance?  If that’s a challenge for you, here are some ideas.

6.  Be a Good Sport

It’s inspiring to see Olympians cheering on other athletes — especially those of other countries.  It’s that aspect of ‘Olympic Spirit’ that encourages us to make friends with other DaVincis.  To support their creative efforts as you would have them support yours.  To cheer them on.  To see them as fellow creatives, rather than competitors.

By the same token, the Olympic athletes we admire enjoy the opportunity just to be there.  To what extent are you enjoying your talents and creative projects?

True Olympians do their best, then deal gracefully with the consequences.  When things work out well for you in your creative endeavors, be gracious.  When things don’t go your way, avoid being a jerk.

7.  Closing Ceremonies

The Olympics conclude with a spectacle designed to acknowledge the accomplishments of all assembled…as well as to turn attention towards the next Olympics.

When you conclude a creative project, finish it well. When you acknowledge and celebrate what you finish, you reward yourself for your accomplishments…and you boost your motivation, creativity and productivity in future projects.    Here’s how to finish a creative project well.


Activity:  Think of the Olympic Games. What are some features of the event that you admire?  Of the participants?  How could you apply any of these features to your creative project(s)?


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