Photo courtesy of flickr


Out of all of the Track and Field events in the Olympic Games, one that I am always intrigued by is the high jump.  

There can be great drama in watching amazing athletes attempt to jump over an increasingly high bar.  

Will they make it?  If they flick the bar on the way over will it fall off?  Will someone one day miss the mat completely, giving us one of the greatest sporting bloopers of all time?  

The current men’s world record for the high jump is an astonishing 2.45 meters and was set in 1993 by Javier Sotomayor from Cuba and the women’s record is an amazing 2.09 metres, set by Stefka Kostadinova of Bulgaria in 1987.  These are genuinely incredible results!  

I think that there are some important principles to learn from this great event.  So what can we learn from high jumpers?  

You need to have a bar: It seems obvious, but without the bar in the high jump, you just have a bunch of tall, skinny people jumping on a mat for no apparent reason.  

Similarly, we need to have goals ourselves. Without them, we are just going through the motions without any particular reason for doing anything.  

Set specific and measurable targets for yourself.  Without them you have no real idea as to how you are going, could not be sure if you are improving and struggle to celebrate genuinely phenomenal achievements.  

You need to set the bar high: There is no event called the low jump or the medium jump. No one claps when someone sets the bar at a height they can step over. It’s called the high jump, so the bar needs to be high.  

In our context, if we were to set challenges for ourselves that were low or mediocre, it would be unimpressive and uninspiring.  Jim Collins uses the phrase “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals” to describe the sorts of aims that we should be setting for ourselves. If everyone can do it, then it’s not really that impressive. If you have a goal that you can achieve on the first day at the first attempt, then it’s not ambitious enough. Go back and reassess your aims.  

You need to set the bar yourself:  Once you’ve passed the qualifying height and made it to the Olympic Games, the height that you aim for is up to you, it’s not dictated by others.  

For us, there is a base-line of performance that enables us to be competent. Greatness comes when we set our sights higher and have our own aims that are higher than the expectations that are placed upon us.   

This is also extremely empowering.  Freeing yourself from the restraints of mediocrity enables us to feel better about your achievements and look back on your performance with pride.  

You need to aim over it: In the high jump, the aim isn’t to hit the target. If you do, the bar will fall off. You need to aim to jump over it, exceeding the height that was set.  

Sometimes we can be tempted to just hit a specific number that we set for ourselves. The danger in doing this is that if you have a bad day, week or month or something happens beyond your control, you end up not being able to achieve your goal.  

When you set a target, plan to execute above what is required, giving yourself breathing space and ensuring your success.  

You need to train for it:  Athletes don’t just turn up and start jumping over two metres without a lot of practice, weights, stretching, sports psychology and diet management.  The reality is that it takes a lot of hard work and persistence to become a great high jumper.  

Nothing worth doing is easy. Nothing! If you aspire to excellence, then you need to be ready to work hard and prepare yourself well to execute your plan and achieve your goal.  Setting ambitious goals means that you will need to work hard and get better. It also means that you may not achieve it on the first attempt.  That’s OK.  Keep your aspirations high and keep trying.  

You need to celebrate when you achieve your goal: When a high jumper lands a successful jump, they invariably leap to their feet, acknowledge the crowd and celebrate their achievement.  

Working hard and achieving great results will wear off after a while if we don’t take the time to acknowledge excellence and celebrate our achievements. If you achieve something great, make sure that you take the time to feel good about your performance build momentum towards your next goal.  

There you have it.  A few key principles to assist you in leaping to the next level in life.  

Is there anything else that we can learn from high jumpers?

Previous post – 5 Tips for Your First Day at Work

Next post – How to Bounce Back From Disappointments