Michael Phelps won the Gold Medal in his first swim in Beijing! There seems to be some confusion and wonder at how and why Michael Phelps was able to overcome so many odds to not break under so much mental pressure. Michael is described in countless articles to have laser like focus on his swimming and single mindedness on being the best. His concentration has even been described as other-worldly. Yes, Michael has the body makeup of a perfect swimming machine, but in competition it is always the mental aspect which allows someone to step above the rest – in Michael’s case, way above the rest – domination.
Michael Phelps has ADHD. I am not the least bit confused by what others are describing about his laser like concentration, this mental part of his makeup, believe it or not, is rather normal for most people with ADHD. It is called Hyper Focusing. Hyper Focusing allows us to concentrate on something so intensely that we cannot break away from whatever we are focusing on, it can provide supreme drive and motivation. Before I go on about how this helps Michael, let me first be clear about the reality of Hyper Focusing for most people with ADHD. Hyper Focusing is a major cause of dilemma and strife, it can be more of a distraction than anything else. It is often said that kids with ADHD cannot focus and concentrate in school, that’s not entirely true, it is just that these kids are focusing on other things – day dreams, that butterfly outside the window, or maybe something they want to do outside of class.
It is when we start Hyper Focusing on something which we have a talent in, and can make a career of, that Hyper Focusing becomes a benefit. If you read over many of my articles here on ADDer World you will notice that I have written many times at how people with ADHD can be the best at anything they set their mind’s to, well, not just the best, better than anyone who has come before them! This has been proven time and time again, this is not a myth or made up wishful thinking, it is a fact. Find someone with ADHD who is doing what they Hyper Focus on in which they have talent and you will find someone doing amazing things which defy all logic. Michael Phelps is the latest proof.
In my book I clearly describe how pressure, stress and yes, even fear, helped me Hyper Focus. I am a pool / billiard player and when I am under the most pressure, which could seem unbearable to others, I would always perform at my best – I hardly ever lost when under extreme mental pressure. That same pressure, stress and fear does not help me Hyper Focus in other things, it can do the opposite, if it is not what I am self-motivated for. That’s a longer explanation better left in my book and not this article.
This brings me back to Michael winning a Gold Medal yesterday in Beijing. In an article I was reading this morning this stood out to me:
“In an event in which he was supposed to be pushed, he had no peers. In a race in which there was to be stress, he became the picture of relaxation, so at odds with the feat he accomplished. With President Bush, the first lady and former president George H.W. Bush in the stands waving American flags, Phelps won the 400-meter individual medley at the National Aquatics Center in a world record time of 4 minutes 3.84 seconds — crushing his old world mark, winning an Olympic gold medal and likely sending chills through the rest of the competitors on hand, many of whom could succumb to Phelps in similar fashion later in the meet.” washingtonpost.com
I read similar remarks in many other articles about Michael Phelps and it seems to me that few understand the power at Michael’s disposal when it comes to Hyper Focusing. Having the president watching, the first lady and the former President too, is enough to overwhelm most people and make them start rethinking what they are doing or forget what they are doing all together. It is extreme mental pressure and not to mention that just about everyone else in the world is watching too. Michael Phelps was expected to do well and that adds its own kind of intense pressure, the fear of failure and not living up to expectations. The reality that many fail to comprehend about someone with ADHD is that all such pressure is simply more stimulation – it is natural Ritalin, if you will, but far more effective! Whereas Ritalin helps release someone from their single minded, hyper focused and seemingly distracted thoughts, mental pressure of an intense nature helps one increase their Hyper Focus on whatever has captured their mind’s attention.
Congratulations Michael and a special thank you from the rest of us with ADHD!
A short warning to parents of ADHD children: Hyper Focusing cannot be easily directed to activities that you choose are best for the child. Fear, pressure and stress will not help a child improve in school or other activities as I describe above. If confused, read what it is like from “inside” in my book One Boy’s Struggle.
Update: 2012 –