Pole vault girlThe Olympic motto is, “Faster-Higher-Stronger.” Those three words embody a spirit that all athletes understand: there is always a new personal best to be accomplished.

When I watch elite athletes play an NFL football game or a NBA basketball game or a World Cup soccer match, it’s easy to misperceive how talented and exceptional they are–the best in the world competing with and against each other. They make excellence look easier than it is.

When I hear their personal stories, I appreciate how many hours they put into their skills and conditioning to have the opportunity to compete among the elite in their sport.

The same is true of anyone pushing her or his personal limits. Actors, musicians, artists, entrepreneurs, writers, scientists, teachers, the aspiring student, any and everyone with a dream, or even a flicker of a notion, that they can be better at something they love to do.

One thing that strikes me about athletes is how obsessed they are at measuring their performance–how fast they can go, how high they can jump, how strong they can become. They never stop striving for reaching just beyond their limits.

All these achievers have several things in common. Here are four that are immediately obvious to me.

1. They specialize. Top performers devote their energy to exceling in one field. Depending on their field, they often further specialize within it.

2. They set and measure goals. Long-range goals are specific, and they break the long-range goals into intermediate goals to motivate themselves to the next level. They write the goals and post them so they can see what they are striving for. They visualize what it will be like to accomplish that goal.

3. They are disciplined. They commit to the process, the daily mundane routines that make them better. This is where pushing the limits happens, one day at a time, a little at a time. They do the work over and over again, avoiding the distractions and temptations that lure them off point.

4. They seek a coach. Top performers know they need objective feedback so they can find the areas for improvement they cannot see for themselves. This is where most of us fall short. We don’t like others telling us we can do better. That’s the difference between a coach and a critic: the coach shows you how to be better and stays around to help.

These achievers are highly INPowered. They have this internal drive to make things better and to be better. That internal drive is available to everyone–even to you and me.

But here’s the thing: most of us have never pushed ourselves hard enough or far enough to know how good we can be. We’re satisfied with fast enough–high enough–strong enough. So, let’s take it to the next level.

Pick a goal you are truly passionate about and apply the four principles mentioned above. Be your personal best at that one thing, and you’ll probably realize you are not satisfied with your best because you know you can be even better.

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