If you watch the summer Olympics, you’ve probably heard of swimmer Jessica Hardy. In the 2012 games, Hardy earned a gold medal in the 4x100 medley relay, as well as a bronze medal in the 4x100 freestyle relay. She’s medaled in numerous other events and has set both U.S. and world records.
Hardy’s career started long before the 2012 Olympics. After barely missing a spot on the 2004 Olympic team (by half a second!) when she was just 16, Hardy went on to medal at her first World Championships the following year. She got her first world record soon after, and the accolades just kept coming.
However, Hardy’s journey wasn’t without its roadblocks: After unknowingly taking a nutritional supplement that was contaminated with a banned stimulant, Hardy had to withdraw from the 2008 Olympic team.
She was vindicated when a committee later ruled she had taken it unintentionally. And, despite the setback and one-year suspension that came with the ruling, Hardy continued to set her sights high. She returned to competition in 2009, racking up three world records in her first comeback meet and continuing to set goals and reach them. Hardy made the 2012 Olympic team, and the rest is history.
Though Hardy’s story is extraordinary, dealing with setbacks is something we can all relate to. So, next time you’re tempted to throw in the towel, read this inspiring advice from Jessica Hardy, who lets us in on how she meets her goals.
1. Set Attainable Short-Term Goals
My long-term goals are what I would consider to be my ‘dreams,’ and my short-term goals are obtainable on a daily or monthly basis. I like to make my short-term goals something that makes me feel better and sets me up to better prepare for the long-term goals.
The key to reaching your big goals? Start small. It’s OK to set a goal for the year (think: “I’d like to get a new job in 2015”), but when March hits, you may get discouraged if you’re still in your old role.
Alternatively, if you break that “dream” into tangible, smaller goals—one month you’ll update your resume, the next month you’ll reach out to some old contacts, the next month you’ll try a new job search strategy—you’ll feel much more inspired to keep going.
2. Stay Present
I am a passionate, highly motivated person who often forgets to live in the present moment. When taking the advice to slow down, I find that I do a better job at the task that I am doing and have more fun doing it.
Distractions increase the likelihood of making a mistake on the job—and they don’t only come in the form of annoying co-workers or fire drills. Multitasking or focusing too much energy on what’s going on later in the week can throw you off your game. Just as Hardy accomplishes more when she focuses “on the present moment,” Kate Northrup explains how time seems to expand when you stay in the present moment and get in the flow of what you’re doing.
3. Ask for Help
I was raised to be strong physically and emotionally, and to let my guard down to let others help me was a colossal challenge. When I finally did, I was surprised to find that there were more people than I expected who were there to help support me.
Asking for help isn’t easy; if it was, everyone would do it. Hardy makes an interesting point that, especially when you’re in an industry or role in which being strong is part of the job description (like your first management gig), it can be even more challenging to admit you could use some advice or assistance.
But remember, the most successful people know how to ask for help. So, if you’re feeling apprehensive, stop framing the situation as you “failing” and needing assistance, and instead view it as you having the confidence to consult additional resources.
4. Continually Recite Positive Affirmations
I get just as nervous behind the blocks at the Olympics as I did at my first competitions as a five-year old. I take deep breaths and give myself positive affirmations all the way until my races are over.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that positive affirmations are only things you say in the morning or right before you go to bed. For athletes, mental fitness—the ability to visualize successful outcomes—is as important as strength training and hydration.
You can take this strategy to the workplace: Affirmations can help you refocus before a major professional moment. Have a big presentation coming up? Take a moment to step into the bathroom, look yourself in the mirror, and say, “You’re going to rock this presentation and impress everyone in the room!” It might just be that little extra motivation to keep you going, even if you’re nervous or scared.
5. Don’t Worry About What Others Think
Someone once told me, ‘What other people think about you is none of your business.’
As Taylor Swift sings in one of Hardy’s favorite songs of 2014: “Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate…” Some people might not understand why certain things are important to you, but at the end of the day, these are your goals, and it’s your life. Seek out friends and co-workers who support you and your ambitions.
What happens if you overhear a colleague saying something negative? Try to distill whether she’s saying something about your project—and if it bears consideration—or about you personally. If she’s bringing you down, immediately separate yourself and find someone who understands what you want to achieve. By finding sources of positivity and not dwelling on roadblocks, you’ll be on your way to success in no time.
Whether you’re looking to compete in the Olympics or step up your game at work, you’ll want to set tangible goals and hold yourself accountable for them. Remember, everyone faces nerves and naysayers, but by staying focused and positive, you can achieve your goals.