Our children may or may not be demonstrating the talent or even the desire that could put them on track for a future Olympic medal (or they might!) – but wouldn’t it be fantastic if they were able to develop the skills, qualities and determination to be successful in whatever it is they choose to do or be in the future?

With the challenges of last year, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics were postponed, and the opening ceremony is now set to take place on 23 July 2021. The Olympian athletes would have been focused on their goal of competing in 2020 and not only did they not get to compete as planned but their training for the postponed 2021 games will have been greatly disrupted.

So how did these athletes stay focused, ensure that they coped well with this uncertainty and keep their eyes fixed on their goals?

Olympic athletes are described as being passionate, focused and resilient and it is resilience which is cited as been the most important in their success.

Resilience – the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.

It is fair to say that we have all had to dig deep this year and summon up extraordinary amounts of resilience and not least our children as they were faced with uncertainties at home and school.

In The Youth Fairy homes (and so many others across the world) this included juggling home-schooling with working from home, isolation from family and friends, Zoom birthdays, redundancies and concern for loved ones hospitalized by Covid.

Now, resilience doesn’t mean that we don’t encounter difficulties – it doesn’t mean that we ‘put a face on’ and pretend that all is well.  We will still have times of frustration, times when we need to grieve or times where we are angry or sad.

Resilience is developing both the belief, and the ability, to recover quickly from difficulties and to recognise what we can take from these experiences to help us in the future.

We hear and see resilience being taught in our schools even from Early Years and Reception – the term Growth Mindset underpins many schools’ ethos where children are encouraged to embrace a challenge and see failure as a necessary part of growth and success.

The Youth Fairy programmes, SMILE and SPARKLE support this also as a key focus is often developing resilience and identifying unique strengths and capabilities.

And in doing so we are encouraging the same behaviour being exhibited by our Olympians.

What can we learn from our Olympians?

Develop an optimistic attitude

It’s so easy to focus on the things that are going wrong and as adults we quite often justify the need to rant. However, we know that when we encourage our children (and ourselves) to focus on what’s been good, we create a more positive outlook, and we retrain our brains to notice and look for the positives.  When we model this behaviour for our children, we positively affect their lives as well as our own.

“Worrying gets you nowhere.
If you turn up worrying about how you’re going to perform, you’ve already lost.
Train hard, turn up, run your best and the rest will take care of itself.”
Usain Bolt (Track and Field)

Take Action

Encourage your children to change the way they view their decisions.  It can change how we feel and behave if we choose to see things in a more optimistic light. Thinking about the active choices that the athletes make in their training.

The GB underachieving rowing team of 1998 set the goal of winning Olympic Gold Medal in 2000 Olympics.  They developed a strategy to challenge every choice they made – they asked themselves one question:

“Will it make the boat go faster?” 

If it did, they would keep going.  If it didn’t, they would try something different.

The answer to that question wasn’t always the one they wanted:

  • Would 90 minutes on the rowing machine make the boat go faster? Yes, they did it.
  • Would a night out at the pub drinking with their mates make the boat go faster?  No – so they didn’t!

As much as they wanted a yes, they didn’t do it.  They didn’t focus on the sacrifice they focused on their goal.  What is the goal?  Take the positive action which moves you towards your desired outcome.

One step at a time

Sometimes it can seem that goals are unreachable but if we encourage our children to take small achievable steps, one at a time, they will move closer towards their goal and get little, more regular hits of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that is important for feelings of motivation and self-achievement. Breaking bigger goals down into smaller chunks and identifying what one thing they can, learn, change or do differently to reach their goal can really make a difference to their motivation – and don’t forget to celebrate the small wins as well as the big ones!

“The things you learn from sports – setting goals, being part of a team,
confidence – that’s invaluable.
It’s not about trophies and ribbons. It’s about being on time for practice, accepting challenges and being fearful of the elements.”
Summer Sanders (Swimming)

Believe you can and seek out those that support your dreams

Our confidence grows when we interact with others in a positive way.  We can increase our confidence by spending time with people that inspire us and challenge us but also by being the inspiration for others too.  If we have a gift or a talent, we can increase our confidence and self-esteem by helping and supporting others.

“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, gold-medal para-equestrian

Concentrate on what you can control

If you or your children have worked with The Youth Fairy you will know that we work in a solution focused way – we work with you to change the things you can control. We acknowledge that we can’t change the past but we can decide what you are going to do today, right now, in this very moment.

“I didn’t lose the gold. I won the silver.”

Michelle Kwan

One Small Change Challenge

When we work with children, we help them identify the small steps they can take towards their goals and the changes they would like to make in mindset.  The children we work with consistently develop a more optimistic, solution focused mindset and one of the ways we encourage families to support he process is to use strategies that develop more positive thinking habits together.

How much would your day, week, year or even life improve if your brain started focusing on the good things that happened in your day rather than negatively ruminating about all the things that hadn’t gone to plan and the things that had annoyed you?

In our Fairy homes our children tend to be the ones setting the tone at dinner time asking us “What’s been good about your day?”

We’d love to challenge you to change just one thing this week – each night at dinner or before bed ask your family to share what’s been good in their day and notice the impact this has on mood, connection and, over time, your child’s general mindset.