What I Asked Michael Phelps

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A group gathered into a small hotel conference room. It was a room that sat and stood about 100 people.

At the front of that room sat the greatest Olympic champion in history Michael Phelps.

Chris Suarez & Ben Kinney led a great 1,200 person conference where Michael Phelps spoke. After speaking at the event, he graciously fielded questions in this semi-private session.

Only a handful of the people in the room got to ask him a question. I was among them.

I asked Michael Phelps this: What was his process to create joy during his daily swimming workouts?

In the large conference event, Phelps talked about his process to prepare for meets and the Olympics. He said it was the daily process of making minor adjustments & committing those adjustments to habit that gave him the edge to win 28 gold medals as an USA Olympic swimmer from 2000-2016.

He spoke about that process, his pre & post race prep process, his current process promoting mental health and even his process for raising 3 young boys. Micheal Phelps is all about the process.

He said focusing on the process and not the next Olympic games was and is key for him. His intense focus was evident – even now – years after his competitive swimming days.

So, I surmised that he must have been able to find some level of joy to get up, get in the pool and train all those days for more than 20 year.

Indeed he did have an answer to my question about finding joy. Micheal Phelps told our small group and me that his process to find joy in the training process was through goal setting and achievement.

Each practice his coach Bob Bowen would put the workout on a sheet of paper (somehow waterproof I guess??) and hand it out before practice. Phelps had his goal for that day. Additionally, he had time goals to accomplish as he prepared for races. He also had mechanical swimming stroke change goals to accomplish.

He found joy in the accomplishment of goals. That’s the process he used to find joy in thousands of grueling practices during his swimming career. He set and accomplished goals small & large.

Where do you find joy in your pursuits? Is it the achievement of goals? Is it something else? Find out for yourself what brings you joy in your journey such that you’re able to be a champion in all of your life’s pursuits.