A final word on the Olympics – the 100% mentality

As a glorious summer of athletics ends, it’s worth considering what makes a champion and how they differ from the majority of people. Countless words have been written about the winning mindset by journalists, authors and yours truly. I had no intention of adding to this today, until I overheard a conversation between two children who had come for extra tuition at a company who hire rooms in my office block.

One of the children was talking about his French homework, saying that it doesn’t really matter if you make a small spelling error like missing an accent off the letter ‘e’ because people will know what you mean when they read it, and it will be 95% correct.

Whilst this sounds plausible and reasonable at first, if you stop and consider the possible impact of this, it’s concerning. Imagine for a moment that someone is happy with doing 95%; in the short term, he (or she) will probably do well and achieve goals. I wonder though, how long before this person gets so used to his results and efforts and forgets that it’s 95%; how long before 95% becomes the norm, i.e. his 100%? And by doing 95% again, it’s 95% of 95%, i.e. 90.25%. So the compound effect of not giving 100% can add up to the person thinking they’re doing their best when they are not.

Contrast this to the Olympians and Paralympians we have seen this Summer. It’s unlikely that they settled for anything less than 100% in their training, and if by some chance they occasionally did, their coaches certainly didn’t!

Whilst I fully accept that in some situations excellence (e.g. 95%) will suffice rather than striving for perfection (if that exists), I think it is essential to do so consciously rather than having this as your default position.

Are you a 95%er or a 100%er? If you’re the former, ask yourself how much further you would be in, for example, one, three or five years if you were a 100%er, and decide whether you want to change your attitude.

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