At age 15, I found myself standing on the Olympic platform being handed a gold medal while millions watched. I’m not sure anyone at any age is really prepared for the fame that comes with winning a gold medal. Thankfully, I had wise people around me who kept my feet on the ground. Here are some lessons I learned:
Choose to Be Hopeful: Rather than focusing on the obstacle in your path, focus on the bridge over the obstacle. When you start seeing the bridges rather than the obstacles, everyone around you will start to see the bridges too.
Draw Close to Your Family for Support: Not only was my family my own personal cheering squad, they were also my source of counsel and rest during a very turbulent time. As you embark on a new endeavor, keep your family near you so they can support you and be a voice of reason along the way.
Follow What God Wants You to Do: Faith in God is not just a very important part of my life—it is my life. Here’s how this impacts me on a practical level. When I’m anxious, nothing calms me more than prayer. It’s through prayer (and for me, also reading the Bible) that I feel like God shows me what I should do—personally and professionally. During that time of reflection, I ask myself, “Am I doing what God wants me to do or am I just blazing my own path?”
Be Disciplined: From the time I was 7 years old, I practices almost every day, often for many hours a day. There was a trade-off in that. I missed out on some childhood activities. For me, it was worth it. I realized that the end result would outweigh any sacrifices—and it did.
Nurture Your Friendships: Good friends help us stay sane by letting us vent and helping us laugh. Block out time in your schedule to spend time with your friends. And if you have any damages relationships, take a moment to reach out to the other person and start letting the wound heal.
Take Calculated Risks: There’s no arguing that it’s easier to keep on with the status quo. But how often does “easy: really result in “boring”? It’s only by breaking out of your personal comfort zone to take wise risks that you’ll move forward in life versus treading water.
Encourage Others Along the Way: It’s one thing to want to be the very best at any cost. It’s another thing to do your best and help other along the way. When I practices with other girls, we pushed each other to reach our full potential and all ended up better off.
Persevere through Adversity: Shortly before the 1984 Olympics, I was injured. No one thought I could compete, but I was determined to prove the naysayers wrong. The rest is in the record books. Adversity is only a means of testing our resolve.
Learn from Every Situation: We all hope that life will be smooth sailing, but mistakes and rejection are inevitable. Instead of dwelling on the pain, think through what you’ve learned. If you look for the lesson, even failure can become a stepping stone toward victory.
Be a “Big Picture” Person: Put every situation into perspective. I like to ask myself, “What difference does this really make in the big picture?” If it’s not a big deal, I try not to make it one.