The Olympic Sized Power Of Routines

At the 2004 Olympics in Athens, USA rifle shooter Matt Emmons was poised to win his second gold medal. He had one shot left, and only needed a score of 7.3. The lowest score on his last nine shots was 9.3, so the gold was certainly to be in his hands soon. Sure enough, Emmons took the shot, and hit a bullseye... on the wrong target. He was awarded 0 points and finished fourth in this particular competition.

When discussing what happened, Emmons explained that he normally looks at the number of the target through his viewfinder on his rifle, and then lowers his gun. Notice what he said next: "On that shot, I was just worrying about calming myself down and just breaking a good shot, so I didn't even look at the number. I probably should have."

First, let me say I can not imagine the pressure faced by any Olympic athlete. As a novice rifle shooter, I struggle to hit the center of the target in my own backyard. And to Emmons' credit, he did recover from the mistake and win a gold medal in a different competition the next day.

What this story affirms for me each time I see it is the incredible power of routines to help me "hit the right target" in respect to my daily goals. I know that if I get the right amount of sleep, exercise first thing in the morning, and eat a healthy breakfast, I can have a productive day. I've followed the routine countless times, but when I stray from it, I am setting myself up for failure. And it is sometimes just the day it was imperative for me to be at my best.

Notice that Emmons said his emotions were what got him out of his routine. Ironically, it's a routine that helps us perform well under heavy stress. It's why athletes, military personnel, and anyone else who has to perform well is engaged in continuous training. Deviate from the proven routine... and who knows how things might turn out. It could be the difference from being on the top of an Olympic platform, or watching from the crowd.

As you work through your day, reflect on the routines that you know help you to be productive and hit your mark. Look at developing new ones that could take your work to the next level. Most importantly, recognize that straying from a routine that works can have disastrous consequences... in the Olympics and in the game of life.