The Olympics have left behind some valuable lessons.

The determination, overcoming of adversity, and excellence have inspired and impressed millions. Many of these athletes have been graced with exceptional physical ability, but it’s these intangibles that make Olympic stories of success touching for so many.

What drives an athlete to success? What are the mental characteristics that make the decisive difference in a game?

Interestingly, the effects of an athlete’s mental preparation are not limited to making good decisions on the playing field. They can have a profound effect on his or her physical strength.

Seeing how significant mental elements are to success in sports, the story of Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox makes sense.

He’s just 5-foot-8. Because of his small size, many scouts and experts thought he’d never be able to compete at the sport’s highest level. But, he is one of the best players on the team and in the entire league. He never let his physical characteristics define him. He plays smart. Not only that, he hits with more power than many players much bigger than he is.

One of his secrets? Hours before each game, already in full uniform with his equipment at his side, Pedroia sits quietly and alone in front of an empty stadium. What is he doing? Clearing his mind? Thinking about the game ahead?

This reminds me of mindfulness meditation. Many can benefit from it, bringing more harmony into their lives, reducing stress, and improving health, according to my friend Heidi Audet, who co-owns Chill Yoga in Lewiston.

I’m sure what Pedroia does helps. Focusing thought can go a long way toward improving performance.

I can relate to this type of mental preparation. I prepared in a similar way once for a performance, not on the playing field, but on the stage.

Minutes before the curtain rose on opening night in my first high school theater production as one of the leads, I took a few moments to sit in a dark quiet corner backstage, alone with God.

It was empowering. I went on to give an inspired, high-energy, crowd-raising performance. It was far above anything I had been able to put forth in rehearsal. I also had an enhanced sense of awareness. At one point, I walked backward on stage as the scene called for and stopped at the exact point needed without having to count my steps or “cheat.”

The ancient Hebrew prophet Isaiah talked about his experience with the power of spirituality. In a modern translation of his writings by Eugene Peterson, he said: “those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, they run and don’t get tired….”

Inspiration, strength and success can be found in the moment, for an athlete performing on sport’s biggest stage or a regular fellow and for a performer on life’s stage.

Wes Davis writes about health, spirituality and the impact of faith on lives. He is also the spokesperson for Christian Science in Maine. He can be reached at [email protected]