Monday, 5 October 2009

Goal Achievement Lessons from Olympian Michael Phelps

Video: Michael Phelps - 100m Butterfly Final - Beijing Olympics 2008

Michael Phelps is regarded as the greatest Olympian in history winning 8 Olympic Gold medals in the Beijing Olympics eclipsing the record set by Mark Spitz at the Munich Olympics of seven gold medals. So he's a great model to learn about goal achievement.

The goals you wish to achieve may or may not be as monumental as those set by Phelps, still, whatever your goals following these five tips will help to assure your success.

1. Write down your goals
You probably heard this countless times but do you do this? Do you write your goals down and review them on a regular basis. All great goal achievers write their goals down. They write them down in detail and they write down a synopsis of their goals as well - perhaps on a 3x5 index card or a special card created specifically for this purpose that they can regularly review.

For the Beijing Olympics, Michael Phelps wrote down his goals and then he worked backwards to set targets within those goals that he knew would give him the best chance of achieving his desired outcome. So he wrote down his target times as well as split times. Writing down his goals is a success habit that Michael Phelps cultivated from an early age. As a child he would write down his goals and stick them on the refrigerator and you're probably very familiar with just how often children like to visit the refrigerator.

Michael Phelps has typed his 2012 goals on his laptop. You can do this too and there are even special programs and or online communities that will help facilitate this. However, something almost magical happens when you physically write down your goals. Some individuals make it a habit of writing down their goals every day.

2. Be selective with who you share your goals
There are people who will support you and there will be people who, if they had their way, would dash your hopes and dreams to pieces. And it may simply be a matter of their insecurities or them not wanting to see you experience disappointment should your goal not materialize as you plan.

So share your goals with those who you know will support you and those who you know can help you to achieve your goals.

With respect to his goals for 2012 Michael Phelps said:

"There is only one person who can help me get there and that is my coach, Bob. Bob and I work together to achieve my goals and that is why him and I are the only two people who know what my goals are."

3. Visualise your goals
Visualisation is critical to the goal achievement process. You not only have to be able to visualise yourself completing your goal, you have to see beyond that point and multiple stages in between. For instance, when NASA wanted to send a man to the moon they realised that the successful completion of this particular goal was not simply getting a man a man to the moon but returning him safely back to Earth. And so, this is what they had to prepare for. If you don't project beyond the goal you're trying to achieve you may find that you come up short even if you achieve your main goal.

It has been shown that when athletes visualise themselves performing that their muscle fibres react as those they were physically performing. The beauty about visualisation is that it's something you can do almost anytime and anywhere, although first thing in the morning and last thing at night are two excellent times to visualise your goals. Phelps' visualises his races daily with such intensity he can see the bubbles in his wake.

4. Develop your mental strength
The bigger the goal you set yourself the more resistance you're going to experience. And so if you don't develop mental fortitude you will not last the course. Preparing for the Olympics is a four year ordeal during which much can happen to distract you and obstruct your progress and so you really do need single-mindedness of purpose.

"I think the biggest thing is that if I have something on my mind that I want to achieve, I don't give up and I won't stop until I realise it."

One way to develop your mental fortitude and 'sticktoittiveness' is to have a big reason why – something that will help to keep you motivated. For Phelps it's about raising the profile of swimming to the masses. He's passionate about encouraging young people to swim. Phelps' life story could have turned out rather differently. As a child he suffered with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). He was sent to swimming lessons as a positive outlet for his energy.

5. Be dedicated to the pursuit of your goals
It takes tremendous dedication to achieve your goals. You have to be prepared to make sacrifices and you have to be prepared to do things that others are not. Phelps trains twice a day for six hours a day, seven days a week. During his weekly training systems he swims the equivalent of 37-50 miles. He even trains on Christmas Day. Between 1998 and 2003, Phelps missed only three training sessions - two for a wisdom tooth operation and one because of a snowstorm.

Other outstanding athletes do similar things. For instance, great runners will train come rain or shine because they know that they cannot predict what the weather will be like when they have to compete. So they prepare themselves for as broad a range of circumstances as possible.

Likewise, whatever area you've set goals in, determine what you would have to do to give yourself that edge and then do it.


  1. MICHELLE6:18 pm


    GO MIKE!!!


  2. Hi Michelle,

    Happy to see you're a BIG fan of Michael Phelps.

    And congratulations to Brazil on winning the bid to host the 2016 Olympics. I just know that it will be an amazing event and I hope Brazilian people generally will benefit immensely from the games.

    Meanwhile, I've my sights set on a more imminent sporting event to take place in Brazil - the penultimate round of the Formula 1 Grand Prix. It should be a thrilling race!

  3. I love this post. I think people don't realize that goals can be accomplished with positive thoughts and lots of hard work. Guys like Michael Phelps understand this.

  4. Thanks for your feedback. I love using Mind Movies. They're a great way to help you enhance visualisation.

  5. Calvin7:12 am

    As this is the goal achievement center I thought something should be put up in relation to goals. There is a great book on goal setting by Douglas Vermeeren. Most people are considering Vermeeren to be the modern Napoleon Hill. I think this is also a landmark book on achievement and it needs to be recognized.

    The book is Guerrilla Achiever.

    As most are aware the Guerrilla books fathered by Jay Levinson are among the best business and marketing materials in the world. This newest Guerrilla book also lives up to the same expectations as the other Guerrilla books. In the pages of this book you’ll find innovative and empowering ideas to create the life you have always dreamed of. The book also features many of the success interviewed conducted by Doug Vermeeren which are a great feature within the book to show how some of the principles outlined can be turned into real life application. I also really appreciated the exercises and questions to stretch your mind further and develop your abilities to race towards your success. It is definitely a must read book for high achievers. The major thought I was left with at the end was that it was more than just a book on goal setting, (heaven knows that there are already more than enough books on that.) But this is a book on goal achievement and creating a life of lasting success and power. Power to excel and do more! The power to create the life you have always wanted.