EQ Moment #7:
Michael Phelps Reviews His Final Olympic Games
(Click the image to view the video)
When the 2012 Olympic Games kicked off, all eyes were on Michael Phelps, as fans wondered whether he could break the all-time record for career Olympic medals. The Games started off slow for Phelps who finished fourth in his first race, the 400 individual medley. Spectators grew anxious: Had he lost the special touch that had made him so successful in the 2008 Games? Then Phelps rebounded, winning four gold medals and two silver medals, making him, with 22 medals, the most decorated Olympian of all time.
After the Games sportscaster Bob Costas met with Phelps and asked about his performance. Like most spectators, Costas wondered what had helped Phelps turn around his fourth place finish to multiple podium finishes. Phelps shared that he had started the Olympic Games tight and tense, and he hadn't felt comfortable in the pool. After he failed to medal he started relaxing more, smiling more, and trying to have a good time. He had already announced that 2012 would be his last Olympic Games, and in his words, he wanted to “. . . just have fun, you know, that’s really what this is all about.” Once Phelps was able to relax, he started adding medals to his collection.
He might not have known it at the time, but Phelps was using Self-Management Strategy #7 from the Emotional Intelligence 2.0 book (Smile and Laugh More). When you laugh and smile, the muscles and nerves in your face send signals to your brain conveying your positive emotion. Phelps was under immense pressure, and his body reacted by tensing up. Although this reaction is completely understandable, his body needed to relax to perform. Michael Phelps taught us that when you are nervous, angry, or stressed smiling will trick your mind into feeling the mood you need to excel.