In September, 2014, Michael Phelps appeared on the Today Show. The topic of conversation was his performance let down of the 2012 London Olympics. After such as stellar performance at the previous Olympics in 2008, Phelps has failed to live up to his (and everybody else’s) expectations during his time in London. And it wasn’t until this interview that much of his lack of success during the 2012 Olympics was revealed.
After his 2008 Olympic success, Phelps dropped into a deep depression. As he put it in the Today show interview, “Leading into London, I didn’t want anything to do with the sport. I think I was just over it. I think personally I had a lot of struggle getting through the four years after ’08.”
How could someone who, from an outsider’s view, had everything anyone can imagine be depressed? Literally the most decorated Olympian ever, multiple endorsement deals, tons of fame and fortune, and ends up feeling lost and confused about his life. Although on the surface this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, if we dig a little deeper we may be able to find an answer.
The Science of Achievement
Tony Robbins talks a lot about the 2 elements of life that we need to master as humans. Both of these elements should be constantly worked on and ever adapting as we move through the years. And the first element he talks about is the Science of Achievement.
The Science of Achievement is…well, a science. It is something that can be taught and replicated over and over. For Michael Phelps, swimming was a science. He spent countless hours in water and many others in the weight room training his body to be the best swimmer it can be.
Let’s look at another example. If you come to me and ask me the best way to lose 10lbs in 2 weeks, I can give you a strategy for that. I can tell you to eat low carbs, high protein and moderate-high fats. I can tell you to perform and HIIT session 3–4 times a week and to make sure you’re getting 7–9 hours of regular sleep. This is a strategy to losing 10lbs in 2 weeks. It’s a science.
So a science can be taught and replicated consistently. This is true in pretty much any part of your external life. Making money, for instance, is a strategy. The problem is, most people have low standards (even though they think they have high standards) of making money. The strategy to make $1 Million dollars is out there, so it can be replicated.
The other element of life that we need to master is a little trickier. And this is where we may be able to find the answer to our conundrum of Michael Phelps at the beginning of the article.
The Art of Fulfillment
Ask any artist what art is to them and you’ll get a different answer each time. For one artist, art may be sculpting human bodies. For another artist, art may be painting landscapes. For a third artist, art may be turning a wine bottle into a beautiful decoration.
The Art of Fulfillment, then, is something that can’t necessarily be taught and replicated. It is an individual process that each person has to figure out on their own. How are we going to feel once we’ve achieved our goal? What are we going to do next when we’ve reached the top? These are questions that help us figure out our Art of Fulfillment.
For Michael Phelps, he had mastered the Science of Achievement. He was literally at the top of the swimming world, stapled into history. What was less obvious at the time was, how was he going to decide to feel once he reached the pinnacle? What was he going to do once he achieved everything you dreamed of achieving?
And for many of us, this is a big reason why don’t pursue anything beyond a certain level of comfort. When we think of the idea of becoming better, we get scared. We think of the idea of becoming someone is who looked up to, we fear letting people down. So, instead, we decide that it’s easier to not try at all. It’s easier to stay where we are and accept our existence.
I want to challenge you right now. I want to challenge you to start finding your art. Start to figure out what it is that makes you makes you get up in the morning and do what you do. Decide if you’re giving everything you can to every aspect of your life. Are you passionate about the work you do? Are you passionate about your family? Are you passionate about being happy no matter what happens? Because if you can do this, if you can be happy no matter what, then you will have mastered the Art of Fulfillment.