On Sunday evening I watched an insightful interview as Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympic athlete ever, sat down with Bob Costas. I’m a fan of Costas’ interview style and the interview didn’t disappoint. They were candid, positive, and it was a joy to watch.
What surprised me was Phelps’ comment that he got exactly what he expected out of his performance in these games. He did not expect to win everything in London, hadn’t trained to do so. It was a statement that caught my attention, showing an amazing degree of self-awareness.
Phelps admitted things might have gone differently if he’d trained more consistently after the 2008 games. But he didn’t want to. He admitted to sneaking out of the weight workouts whenever he could get away with it and getting in the pool as the mood struck, rather than as the schedule demanded.
When Costas asked what changed, Phelps said he got tired of losing in competitions. He added that he knew no one could make him turn his results around, that the choice was his to make – or not.
I’m glad he made the choice to dedicate himself to continued success. Phelps is a legend – he was even before the London games started – and he’s elevated the sport of swimming. But he’s human and owns his mistakes, which makes him all the more important and inspiring, in my opinion.
His positive attitude and the way he acknowledges the team work required to reach the incredible achievement of 22 Olympic medals (18 gold) is terrific. Not just the team work of the relay events, but he expresses such gratitude for his coach and family too. No one rises to the expectations – especially expectations of Olympic proportions – in a vacuum.
Expectations are tricky things sometimes. What we expect from ourselves can impair or empower us, simply by the way we think about it.
Phelps kept his personal expectations at the forefront, though he couldn’t possibly have been ignorant of what the world expected. He made his choices accordingly and seems thoroughly content with the results.
The interview and Phelps’ success is an inspiration – an ‘aha’ kind of reminder to keep my expectations the center of my focus and to make choices, take action, and develop a support ‘team’ that will help me get to my personal equivalent of his 22 Olympic medals.
Live the adventure!
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