10 Life Lessons We Can All Learn from Olympians

What can a 16-year-old girl teach my family about life, work, triumph, tenacity, and loss? Apparently, a whole lot.

Recently I spent 9+ hours sitting in the stands of a stadium with my usually squirrely 6-year-old. Nine hours of butts on plastic seats, which is a shocking feat coming from a kindergartener who is all action, a girl who likes to jump, run, and play. But she and I were both completely entranced as we watched the United States Men’s and Women’s Gymnastics Finals at the sold-out HP Pavilion in the heart of San Jose, California — a place where the Sharks do their hockey thing and Bruce Springsteen plays when in town.

As my daughter and I were camped out on our butts, we were in awe  of the physical specimens of muscle, bones, and blood that were performing amazing feats in front of our eyes. While we watched these teenagers and young adults — some as young as 16! — put on a display of talent and determination, all I could think about was how this was an unforgettable and teachable moment not just for my little girl, but for me.

We may not be able to do a back-layout, run 100 meters in 10.8 seconds, or jump a 5.96 meter pole vault but we can still learn from all Olympic level athletes.

Here are 10 important life lessons we can all learn from our Olympians.


  • Be Goal-oriented 1 of 10
    Be Goal-oriented
    Olympians are — as many a job hunter looks for — "goal-oriented," but to an extreme. Although their goal may be winning a medal, their dedication over years and years to a single objective is admirable. Many of us often lose sight of our goals and get bogged down in the day-to-day. To have a dream and do everything you can to work toward it is something we can all put in our pocket and carry with us.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice 2 of 10
    Practice, Practice, Practice
    Practice may not make perfect, but it can get you pretty damn close. Olympians don't just have a natural born gift for javelin throwing or the back stroke; they have to practice for hours, days, weeks, months, and years to get as close to perfect that they can. These athletes may make pole vaulting look easy, but it is anything but. Teaching our kids that the way to become the best they can — no matter how complex the task — by pure perseverance, patience, and practice will take them far.
  • There Is No Such Thing as Perfect 3 of 10
    There Is No Such Thing as Perfect
    As we all strive to be the best we can be, we also need to be reminded that here is no such thing as perfect. Even the Olympics Gymnastics Committee recognized this fact when they did away with the perfect 10 back in 2006. And seeing Olympians stumble or fall just gives us all a reminder that everyone has a bad day or a case of crummy luck. But there is always another day to try, try again.
  • The Human Body is a Miraculous Thing 4 of 10
    The Human Body is a Miraculous Thing
    My daughter, 6, is just now learning to properly to use her body and control all her motions. Olympians, with their mind/body connection and mindfulness of their every movement, are inspiring to witness at any age. Watching a human body fly from beam to beam in gymnastics or plow through water in swimming is a marvel. It's hard not to become inspired by the athleticism at hand. Me? I'll be hitting the gym more often.
  • It Doesn’t Matter Whether You Win or Lose, Its How You Play the Game 5 of 10
    It Doesn't Matter Whether You Win or Lose, Its How You Play the Game
    During those nine hours we spent watching the Olympic gymnastics trials, one thing really impressed me: the camaraderie among the participants. They were all competing with each other but were on the sidelines cheering each other on and hugging each other in acts of congratulations or condolences. This is a lesson that can translate to everything we do, from a round of Wii golf to your next PTA meeting to that game of Candyland.
  • Cheering on the Team and Giving Support 6 of 10
    Cheering on the Team and Giving Support
    One thing we all need? Support. Be it from friends, family or in the case of Olympians the fans. I don't know about you, but when I cheer someone on, be it my daughter during her soccer game, my beloved San Francisco Giants, or gymnast Gaby Douglas, it feels like my soul is being lifted. Learning to cheer loud, lovingly, and often is a great lesson in giving support to those who can use it.
  • Learning How to Lose 7 of 10
    Learning How to Lose
    Everyone likes to win. But where there are winners, there are losers. One of the hardest things to learn in life is how to handle losing — graciously. At the recent Olympic gymnastics finals, Nastia Liukin had an epic belly flop, in addition to other missteps, which sealed her fate against going to London. After the end of her Olympic career, which played out in front of thousands (and millions on TV), Nastia received a standing ovation and hugs from the other competitors. She was so thankful, gracious, and grateful that I wrote a whole piece on how we can learn from her losing ( which you can check out here, if you too would like tips on how to lose).
  • Pride for Our Country 8 of 10
    Pride for Our Country
    I'm not one to put a flag outside my home, I can't remember all the words to the Pledge of Allegiance, and there are things that are happening in our country that upset us all no matter how we vote, but when the Olympics are on, it's hard not to be proud for our people, our country, our flag, and our Olympians.
  • Sacrifice 9 of 10
    One thing Olympians know far too well is sacrifice. They put their lives on hold, leave their families and their friends to spend all their time fine-tuning their sport. Gabby Douglas, for example — one of the women's gymnastics Olympic team members — left her Virginia home at the age of fourteen to train in Iowa. Families go into debt, bodies are broken, and any semblance of a "normal" life is put on hold as they train. Being ready and willing to sacrifice everything for something you love is a trip not many of us would take. We may dream about it or toy with the idea, but these Olympians went there.
  • Focus 10 of 10
    If you are anything like me, you are doing two, three, or more things at a given time. Olympians can teach us about something that I, for one, would love to embrace more often: focus. When you see an Olympian about to take on their given challenge, it's like nothing else exists. They're all about that moment, are in the here and now, and their sole purpose is to accomplish their goal, to get as close to perfection as they can, to prove that the sacrifice was all worthwhile, and to make us all proud of them and our country, win or lose.

Photos By Sunny Chanel
Gold Medal Image via IStockPhoto

Full Disclosure: The author participated in a press junket for the above coverage and was the guest of the Universal Pictures for their film McKenna Shoots for the Stars while attending. Any opinions presented here are purely held by its author and do not reflect those held by the American Girl Doll company or Universal.
Read more Sunny Chanel on Famecrawler right here.
Read more Sunny Chanel on Strollerderby right here.


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