Overcoming Worry of Olympic Proportions—An Olympian’s Story

January 28, 2015

ID-10087077A recent Fortune article highlights one Olympian’s ability to turn stress into strength—and ultimate success. Emily Hughes was able to overcome obstacles of stress by following principles that exemplify Dale Carnegie’s formula for overcoming worry which is:

  1. Live in “day-tight compartments.”

Growing up, Emily’s dad always emphasized that she was a “student-athlete” and that “student” came first. This meant that despite having to train five hours per day, she never took any breaks from studying. By living in “day-tight compartments,” she was able to maintain a serious focus on training for the Olympics while pursuing academic excellence including Emily’s insistence on taking an advanced honors chemistry course.

Later in life, when Emily was interviewing for a role at Google Fiber, she completed six hours of back-to-back interviews on site at Google with confidence and ease. Instead of spending time worrying about how she would perform, she focused on doing well in each interview and succeeded by being selected as the best candidate.

  1. How to face trouble:
  • Ask yourself, “What is the worst that can possibly happen?” – In 2001, at just 12 years old, Emily competed in the U.S. Figure Skating Championship, but failed to make the 2006 U.S. team. She could have easily given up hope, but rose to the challenge in 2006 after Michelle Kwan’s groin injury created the opportunity for Emily to compete. Had she worried and thought, “I didn’t make the initial team; there is no way I’ll place well,” she would have lost the opportunity to compete in the 2006 Olympics. Instead, she pondered, “What is the worst that could possibly happen?” and overcame worry.
  • Prepare to accept the worse. – As a professional skater, Emily not only anticipated constant correction, but mentally prepared for it. She stated, “With skating, constantly being corrected and told how to do something differently has helped me take constructive feedback better.”
  • Try to improve on the worst – Emily recognized that it was normal to make mistakes and critical to learn from them. She said, “In skating, every day, you fall and you have to get up. And falling is a pretty obvious failure. I’ve definitely learned from everything I’ve failed at.” Emily forced herself to consider the bigger picture with every setback. When she failed to qualify for the 2010 Olympics after taking a semester off from Harvard, she resumed her focus on academic achievement and found time to participate in organizations such as Harvard’s “Women in Business” club.
  1. Remind yourself of the exorbitant price you can pay for worry in terms of your health.

Instead of allowing worry to compromise Emily’s health and usurp her opportunities, she focused on her future. She landed a business analyst role at Google last November and attributes her love of competition and ‘an extraordinary tolerance for risk-taking and failure,’ for getting the job.

The next time you’re faced with worry of Olympic proportions, follow Dale Carnegie’s formula for overcoming worry and you too shall conquer.

This post is brought to you by the good folks at Dale Carnegie Training of Central Indiana, providers of professional development and management development courses and information in Indiana. We would love to connect with you on Facebook.

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