23-year-old Michael Phelps is the record-breaking Olympic Swimming Champion. He is the first person to win eight gold medals in a single Olympics; the Beijing 2008 Olympics to be precise. Overall, he currently holds 16 Olympic medals; the other eight remaining are six gold and two bronze medals at Athens in 2004. What an inspiring and incredible achievement!
What many people don’t realize is that Michael has ADHD. The success of this American hero seems so effortless to the outsider, but in fact follows a challenging childhood; one that many people with ADHD can relate to. His peers bullied Michael as a child and he struggled in the classroom.
So what can we learn from Michael? You might not be an aspiring Olympic Champion, but whatever you are striving towards, Michael Phelps has key elements in his life that provide him with a strong foundation to excel in his chosen field.
Lesson # 1:
Michael has great people in his life.
He has an actively supportive mom and two elder sisters, all of who were on the stands cheering for him in Beijing. He also has a great swimming coach whom Michael respects and admires.
While the Western culture places great emphasis on being independent, humans are social beings and need human connection to thrive and be as healthy and successful as we can possibly be.
Living with ADHD isn’t easy, yet life can be much more joyful and the knocks easier to recover from when you have people who care about you, who share in your successes, as well as in the harder times.
Who are the most important people in your life? Do you connect with a loved one, either a family member or a friend every day? If not, take a moment to think about how you can incorporate this into your daily life.
Lesson # 2:
Michael exercises every day. As a schoolboy, his mom took him to the swimming pool every day, including Christmas day.
Michael’s passion and work IS exercise. However, it is still important that you incorporate exercise into your life on a daily basis. Exercise aids adults with ADHD because it improves attention, burns off pent up energy, reduces anxiety, and improves your mood.
Is exercise part of your daily life? If not, think of what exercise you like to do most and then, how to make it a part of your daily life. If possible, exercise at the beginning of the day. However, the main thing is to get moving and any time of day would be great.
Lesson # 3:
Michael does what he is good at.
Michael has a body built for swimming: he is 6 feet and 4 inches tall, a slim 195lbs, has size 14 feet, and hands that act like paddles – they are the size of dinner plates!
Usually, the things we are naturally good at are the very things that we enjoy the most. There is no point in fighting and struggling to do what you aren’t good at. It’s no fun. It’s hard work and really wears you down emotionally. When you work with your strengths, your life becomes more joyful and easier.
What are you naturally good at? Think about this question in relation to both your work and home life.
Lesson # 4:
Michael turned what he didn’t like to do into something that was fun.
Like many people with ADHD, Michael found school very challenging. He struggled to concentrate and focus in the classroom and didn’t enjoy reading or math. Michael’s mom was resourceful and gave Michael the sports section of the newspaper to make reading more enjoyable for him, and ensured his math tutor customized math problems to make them more interesting, e.g. ‘If you swim one meter per second, how long would it take to swim 800 meters?’
No matter how much or how often you use your strengths, there are some things that you have to do, even though they aren’t fun for you. You may not have Michael’s resourceful mom at your side, but you can be creative and think of ways to turn your painful tasks, that only you can do, into something fun.
First of all, think about what you really dislike doing. Do you think it can be delegated? If not, ask yourself how you can turn it into something that is fun.
Lesson # 5:
Michael has a dog that he named Herman!
Michael’s English bulldog Herman provides unconditional love, and doesn’t care how many medals Michael has.
Consider getting a dog for a pet.
Now, while you may think this a funny suggestion, having a pet dog can be incredibly helpful to adults with ADHD. No matter how wonderful the people are in your life, a loyal pet dog loves you regardless of whether you took the trash out or not, or did a good presentation at work. Because of this, they boost your self-esteem; they force you to go for walks, so you don’t forget your exercise. Also, dog owners talk to more people more often than non-dog owners do. Dog owners are less inclined to suffer from depression than non-dog owners are. Having a pet dog can also help you to have structure in your day.