Usain Bolt of Jamaica celebrates with the crowd after winning the Mens 200 metres
Usain Bolt of Jamaica celebrates with the crowd after winning the Mens 200 metres on Day 13 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 9, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

This Olympics has been filled with many great stories like that of Gabby Douglas, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, and Serena Williams. While very inspiring, there is still so much more that we can learn from these great athletes. Olympians are the best in the world at their respective sports, something that did not happen by accident. Here are five traits many Olympians share that can teach us how to improve our daily lives.

1. They perform at their best in pressure-packed situations.

Imagine that you are in the center of an arena with thousands of people watching and they are all there to see you do what you do best. The margin of error between glory and defeat is small. You only have one opportunity to show everyone what you’ve got. How will you deliver?

We can learn much from how champions handle these situations.

Many people believe they can easily perform under these circumstances, because they hold illusions of how they perform under pressure. But, according to many experiments by world-renowned behavioral economist, Dan Ariely, you are likely mistaken. Most people fold under intense pressure and it takes training not to do so.

With Winning in Mind is a book by Lanny Bassham that teaches athletes to perform at their peak, especially when the pressure is at its highest. As a gold medalist in the 1976 Olympics, Bassham has improved the mindsets of many other Olympians to help them attain gold as well.

Lenny talks about reinforcement and rehearsal as core tasks that make pressure situations easier to bear. It’s best to practice your skill until it becomes second nature to you. Visualizing intense situations vividly also helps prepare you for these events in the real world.

Work hard every day to improve your skill set and visualize how you are going to feel when you land that new client or receive that promotion at work. World class athletes prepare physically and mentally. It is important for us to do the same.

2. Olympians know only a small margin separates the best from the rest.

A line of logic I strongly dislike is akin to this idea on this message board. It states that Usain Bolt is the highest paid athlete on a per hour basis as he reportedly gets paid $250,000 to run a race that takes him less than 9.80 seconds to run. What is ironic is that if Bolt ran the race only a quarter of a second second slower then he would toil in obscurity as an average Olympic runner and would not be a valuable brand.

To become a top earner in our professions, we have to focus on being the best. Just like Usain Bolt vs. the rest of the racers, for us the margin of success is also thin, but the difference in rewards is great. Observations like this can be valuable reminders when we feel like slacking off and not putting in that extra effort to achieve excellence.