Athletes have admirable physiques, but definitely more impressive are their mindsets. They set their goals, command their physical body to train rigorously, evaluate their performance, set higher goals, and continually level up. Entrepreneurs will greatly benefit from this elite group of highly-disciplined performers. Marc Winn of LinkedIn writes about how entrepreneurs can begin thinking like formidable athletes.

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Set High Goals

Set a goal high enough to drive you to work every day toward excellence. A goal that appears to be nearly impossible provides an extra kick; it fuels an athlete to increase momentum. The same mechanics should motivate an entrepreneur. Dave Brailsford, head coach of the British Cycling Team and Team Sky, says that while mission statements are important, you prefer to work with people who are on a mission.

Don’t Work Alone

Great athletes have equally great coaches and trainers. A training regimen must be customized according to the athlete’s specific requirements and potentials. The same is true for meal plans, daily fitness programs, sleep and rest management, and personal development. Coaches and trainers are professionals who ensure that athletes attain their goals and have an advantage over competitors.

Entrepreneurs often have goals clearly defined. Most of them, however, don’t have coaches or advisors who look beyond the obvious and have clearer perspectives of what the entrepreneurs are missing. As entrepreneurs, learn from the ambitious athletes who never miss on highly-valuable coaching. You’ll need personal development coaching, at the very least. With proper training, you’ll work on building strength, improving productivity, and conquering fears and weaknesses.

Goals Must Be Measurable

Accomplishments must be measured and recorded. What good are accomplishments if they’re not measured against goals that are immeasurable? Aside from measurable goals, elite athletes determine their benchmarks, or points of reference. The slightest dent toward the goal, or the most minute increase or decrease from the benchmark, is measured and recorded. For an athlete and the coach, performance evaluation is vital because it measures the gap between the current status and the goal. It therefore defines what and how much more must be done. Brailsford describes the success of his Olympic cycling team as the accumulation of all their small gains. Singularly, a minor gain may not bring in the medal, but the accumulation of all these minor gains may.

An entrepreneur must do the same thing. Set the goal, determine the benchmark, work on it, and document progress. Do a gap analysis from time to time. If performance is not improving, the method is obviously not working. Gap analysis allows for timely change of strategies. What areas can possibly bring minor gains? Follow up on those areas; you might be amazed at what they add up to. Without proper measurement and recording, getting ahead by accumulating small gains is impossible.

Succeed on Mini-Goals

Simutaneously, never be side-tracked from your ultimate goal. Athletes heading towards the Olympic gold medal may find success along the way. While training for the Olympics takes several years, they gain on milestones, such as winning at the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships. They get to taste success by winning medals prior to the Olympics. They have their hearts set on the ultimate prize ahead, though, and never slack their drive and determination.

As an entrepreneur, never lose sight of the ultimate goal. It’s practical to set up mini-goals to determine milestones and to evaluate. However, don’t take a very long breather; initial successes can create euphoria and mislead you into thinking that you’ve reached the summit. Instead, keep your feet on the ground and your eyes on the ultimate goal. Capitalize on the minor prizes to create the momentum that will buoy you higher toward your goal.

Many athletes are naturally gifted. However, the cream of the crop are a select few athletes who are products of hard work, unbelievable motivation, an amazing dose of discipline, and a differently driven mind-set. As an entrepreneur, ask the same questions that a world-class Olympian would ask:

  • Can you halve your usual time for completing a particular task?
  • Can your startup run with half the people?
  • Can you close twice the number of contracts in a week?
  • Can you double the sales in a quarter’s time?
  • Do you have a vision?
  • Is it compelling enough to cause your adrenalin to rush?
  • Are you prepared to take on the hurdle?
  • If not, what training and coaching are you doing to prepare yourself?
  • What areas are you weak in?
  • What areas are you strong in?
  • Are you ahead or behind competitors?

Make it a continual challenge. Every stage of the game must be a learning curve that will propel you to the next level.