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NIDA. (2014, February 12). Like an Olympian: What Makes a Person Successful?. Retrieved from

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Sara Bellum
February 12 2014
Ski jumper

This week, the world is watching as athletes from around the globe compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The measure of success for Olympians is very clear: They must be the best athlete in their sport. They must move the fastest, go the farthest, or score the most points.

Ready, Set, Goal

Becoming an Olympic athlete requires intense drive, determination, and talent. It also requires the ability to set and achieve goals, like practicing every day or eating healthy foods.

We can’t all be Olympians, but we can all strive to be the best version of ourselves by using our own talents and determination. You get to decide what makes you successful. And, like Olympians, you set goals that will help you succeed personally—whether it is to improve grades, learn to snowboard, or volunteer more in the community.

Research tells us that we are more driven and do better when we have clear, challenging goals. It’s also very important to have a way to measure progress; for example, you could get feedback about how you are doing from people you trust, like friends, parents, or coaches. This will tell you what you need to do to get better—and each step puts you that much closer to achieving that goal.

Sticking with your goals will also build your self-esteem. Achieving a tough goal gives you the confidence to tackle other challenges in your life.

Setting “S.M.A.R.T.” Goals

Not sure where to start? Setting “S.M.A.R.T.” goals will help you accomplish what is important to you.

  • S = Specific: Create a very clear, specific goal.
  • M = Measureable: Select a goal that is measurable so you can track progress.
  • A = Achievable: Confirm that the goal is realistic and attainable.
  • R = Relevant: Ensure that the goal means a lot to you.
  • T = Time-Targeted: Set a date that you would like to complete the goal.

Once you have a clear picture of what you consider successful and a S.M.A.R.T. goal to pursue, you can begin creating a plan of action to make it happen.  Be proud of yourself and celebrate each milestone you hit along the way.

Missing the Mark

Accomplishing goals is hard work. Sometimes we get tired and slip up. It’s frustrating when you fall short. But just because you hit a setback doesn’t mean you should give up. You can always regroup and start again.

Some Olympians under extreme stress to succeed turn to performance-enhancing drugs—like anabolic steroids, stimulants, or even methamphetamine—to help them perform better. This is cheating, and cheating does not equal real success. In fact, these kinds of drugs cause more harm than good to your body and life. Other substances like marijuana, tobacco, or alcohol also can mess up your plan and cause you to lose focus.

It’s best to keep a clear head, adjust your plan, and try again.

How do you define success for yourself? What’s your personal goal and what are you doing to achieve it? How do you think drugs could affect your ability to meet goals?