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Still thinking of the Olympics; still marvelling at Phelps!

In the 2000 summer Olympics, he finished fifth!  In 2001, he broke the world record 200 meter butterfly and he was only 15 years old! Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time with 22 medals to his name.  So how is it possible to achieve such success?  And what can business leaders learn from his process?

In Washington Post video I’ve chosen, we hear from Phelps himself as well as his coach Bob Bowman, on the tools Phelps uses to win.

Creative visualizations: Seeing the positive outcome before it happens.  Imagining all the different scenario’s and figuring out a plan for each.  In the face of the most pressurized situations, Phelps is able to focus his brain on the task at hand with the confidence of a man who has already won.  His coach describes his brain as a computer, equipped to handle whatever comes up, because he’s not just planned for it, but visualized it ahead of time.  Brilliant preparation, both mental and physical, creates the confidence that he’s already a champion, no matter what the outcome.

Process: Phelps says “The only person you can control is yourself”. He doesn’t waste time worrying about the competition or if he’s had a bad race.  He’s already focused on the next one.  He practices the art of forgiving himself instantly.  A term I use for presenters who judge themselves too harshly when they make a mistake.  Often the judgement is far more damaging than the mistake itself.

His coach states that “Phelps sets goals for himself and puts himself in situations where psychologically he has to come through”.  Phelps says “If I can prepare myself the best way that I can, that’s all that matters.”  His coach says that he assumes that if he trains, he’s fine”.  He measures his success on his process and not his result.  The result is a by-product of his commitment to hard work and sacrifice.  When we focus not on a result but on the degree of effort and strategy we put into a goal or task, we tend to perform better because we’re focused on what we have control over.  The paradox is that when we do this, we actually end up achieving more of what we want over time.

Inspiration: Phelps states that “When he sees or hears (from his detractors), it’s a way for him to get even more fired up . ”When we are visualizing success and in flow (fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus) there are no distractions, only potential sources of inspiration!

I confess, I’m still recovering from Olympic fever! Thanks London for hosting such an amazing display of unity.

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