This is the secret ingredient to your winning performance
I was recently inspired by the story of Katelyn Ohashi, dubbed in one publication as “the most famous gymnast never to have made it to the olympics.” Katelyn shot to fame in January 2019 when her perfect 10 at the US College Championships went viral. The secret ingredient to her winning performance is also the secret to yours and mine. You see, what captivated millions of people who watched that floor routine was not just her technical mastery, but her contagious passion and joy.
The story of Katelyn’s perfect 10 is a story of passion rekindled. Gymnastics has always been part of Katelyn’s life. As a young child she would spring over the sofa when she couldn’t be in the gym. And yet, by the time she was 16 years old she decided to retire from the US national team. She had suffered a couple of serious injuries, but she was also exhausted from other people’s ambitions for her, an unhealthy training culture and a feeling of being defined by the sport. It took her a year to even want to come back to gymnastics. Then in 2015 she enrolled in the college team at UCLA and started working with coach Valorie Kondos Field. College life enabled her to discover passions outside gymnastics. She started writing a blog, including a series on body shaming which she had herself experienced. She trained on her terms, and she found her voice. Katelyn’s perfect 10 is a wonderful expression of the fullness of who she is as a person, as well as her amazing technique which she has worked on over nearly 20 years and 1000s of hours of hard work. We see her personality, her passion and purpose shine through, and they inspire us in a way that a technically perfect routine alone could not.
Many of us, particularly those of us who are high achievers or people pleasers, spend our lives performing to someone else’s definition of success. We may hold ourselves to impossible standards, or compare ourselves unfavourably to others and then beat ourselves up for not “reaching our potential.” This is certainly what Katelyn did. What I find remarkable is that rather than giving up on something that had brought her so much joy as a child and that she had trained hard at for so many years, she chose to find an environment where she could thrive as a whole person. She played by her rules, reclaimed her joy, and redefined success for herself. She decided she wanted to bring joy back to gymnastics, and in doing so her joy overflowed way beyond the sporting arena.
We can all learn from Katelyn’s story. I believe that success is about living your best life: a life full of passion and purpose, where you have a blast, show up to your full potential and leave your unique signature behind in this world. Working hard is a part of it, it always is, but without passion hard work has no soul, and it wears us out. The real secret to your perfect 10 lies in who you are, at your core with your unique values, strengths, passions and purpose. Let Katelyn’s story encourage and inspire you to reclaim your passion, find an environment where you can thrive and let your purpose shine.
Try this exercise to reconnect to your passion and purpose:
Write a list of at least 10 peak experiences from your life: experiences when you felt truly alive and in your element, experiences where you may have wondered “When can I do that again?” or “How did I do that?” They can be from any time in your life and any part of your life: from last week when you were giving a presentation on your favourite topic to when you were 4 years old trampolining over the sofa.
What patterns do you notice? What overflows from you naturally when you are truly in your element? In which environments do you thrive? How can you nurture passion and purpose in your daily life?
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