What Simone Biles can teach us about mindset


Did you see Simone Biles stumble during her balance beam routine in Rio? If you didn’t catch it live, it was still hard to miss. The media replayed her stumble again and again, accompanied by their gloomy commentary:

“Simone Biles stumbles on balance beam, settles for bronze”

“Simone Biles’ quest for five golds in Rio halted by bronze in balance beam.”

As a mother and as a life coach who helps women move away from the trap of perfectionism, the negative spin made me cringe.

“Good grief,” I grumbled to myself. “Is this how the media is going to shape Simone’s story, with an emphasis on “falling short”? At this point, she had already won three golds and had just medaled again, this time earning a bronze. Those are epic accomplishments!

Fortunately, I didn’t need to stew for long. What unfolded in the follow-up interviews with Simone blew me away – with delight. Although the media tried to make the story about disappointment, she would have nothing of it.

SHE would write her story.

In interview after interview, Simone pushed back on the negative spin and directed the emphasis where it belonged – on a story of accomplishment, right-sized reflection, and intention fulfilled. I loved witnessing her strong sense of self and sparkling growth mindset.

Here are highlights of Simone’s take on her performance:

1. “I’m not disappointed in the medal that I received, because anyone would love to have a bronze at an Olympic Games.”

Love it. She is choosing to celebrate what she’s accomplished. An Olympic bronze? Hardly “settling.” It’s a BIG deal.

2. “But I’m disappointed in the routine that I did – not so much the whole routine – just the front tuck, because the rest of the routine was pretty good.”

So spot on. Here she helps educate and broaden our understanding: Every routine is made up of many, many moves. To let one move define an entire routine is oversimplified and unfair. Yes, she acknowledges disappointment in one move – the front tuck. But, she appropriately puts the stumble in context and chooses to pay attention to the many, many moves that went well.

3. “I think you guys want it [five golds] more than I do. I just want to perform the routines that I practice.”

Beautiful. I love how strong and clear she is in her stance. She had no interest in carrying the burden of others’ expectations of her. That’s not her job. Her job was to focus on her intention – to perform the routines she’s practiced. Her priority was process, not outcome.

4. And, last, Simone showed her confident good humor when she tweeted this:

Simone tweet

So, what can Simone teach us about mindset?
1. Success is how you define it.
2. Acknowledge what didn’t work, but don’t let it overshadow what DID work.
3. Stay grounded in your intent. It will guide you.
4. Keep your sense of humor.

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