If you Google “state management” you will likely be directed to sites about state government. But, state management is a term we have used for many years from our expertise in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) to describe how to get yourself into a winning zone so you can access peak mental and physical states to accomplish a task or goal. Athletes refer to this as “putting on your game face” and this zone is extremely useful in leadership and workplace settings when you understand how to properly execute it on a daily basis.
Phelps’ longtime coach, Bob Bowman, has a new book out called The Golden Rules and provides a deeper look at how Phelps’ state management strategies have led him to be one of the greatest Olympians in history. These same strategies can help leaders — or anyone be better at their game!
A clear vision alone does not ensure success,
and this is a great learning for anyone who
wants to achieve their best.
First, Bowman says that Phelps has a very clear vision of his goal – to swim fast enough to win Olympic medals! But, a clear vision alone does not ensure success, and this is a great learning for anyone who wants to achieve their best. Bowman’s job is to make sure Phelps backs up his vision with a daily focus on process – implementing strategies to do what it takes to swim faster and better to win those medals. Bowman says it is the daily habits that result in long-term greatness! When we work with leaders and high potentials, we help them clarify their vision and develop a game plan to reach those goals on a daily basis.
Mental rehearsal is the key for achieving peak
performance… You are only as successful as the
strongest mental picture you have of yourself!
Second, Bowman says no one uses visualization better than Michael Phelps! Months before a race Phelps gets into a relaxed state every day, and mentally rehearses for at least two hours a day. He visualizes himself winning – and if he sees himself falling behind in a race, he visualizes the particular details of how he swims and what he does to recover. Bowman is a big believer in mental rehearsal for achieving peak performance in nearly every aspect of your life. He says you are only as successful as the strongest mental picture you have of yourself!
Third, Phelps then takes his visualization to what we consider an advanced form of state management. He sees himself from the outside, as a spectator would see him from the stands. More than 20 years ago our team began studying Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) to help leaders and others be their best and we refer to this strategy as “going observer”. Phelps is observing himself from a dissociated perspective, which adds another layer to his successful visualization strategy. This is the Programming part of NLP – you are programming your brain to perform at a higher level, and many studies back this up.
Studies have proven that the brain cannot
distinguish between something that is vividly
imagined and something that is real!
Studies have proven that the brain cannot distinguish between something that is vividly imagined and something that is real! Psychologists at the University of Chicago had one group of basketball players practice foul shots for thirty days and a second group only imagined shooting foul shots for thirty days. At the end of the thirty days, the first group improved their foul shots by 24 percent, while the imagined group improved by 23 percent! For maximum impact, it is a great idea to include sensory elements in your visualization – and Phelps does this, too. According to Bowman, as Phelps visualizes himself winning, he smells the air, tastes the water, sees the clock and hears the sounds. Adding in these sensory elements is key to getting stronger results.
Fourth, Bowman says Phelps’ dedication to daily practice is foundational to his success. Great athletes, great leaders, great singers and great actors would never achieve their best without practice. At one point Phelps trained every day for five years! We are called on to coach high potentials – people that organizations invest in because they see them as future leaders. We can often tell who will go on to achieve great things in their careers, because they are willing to put the time in to perfect new ways of thinking and new skills and strategies. There are no shortcuts to success!
Practice makes perfect – and practice makes
Achieving Your Goals – State management is an essential tool for getting yourself into a winning zone so you can access peak mental and physical states to accomplish a task or goal. You can use state management to be your very best — and we recommend you begin by using it to first achieve smaller tasks – such as delivering a presentation, leading a meeting, conducting a media interview, having a difficult conversation, selling a proposal, etc. By starting with smaller daily tasks first, you can perfect your state management capabilities and then move on to larger goals. Practice makes perfect – and practice makes success!