Mental toughness is important. It helps you to blaze through piles of work with amazing discipline and speed. And furthermore, most entrepreneur have very tough mentality. Being tough also meant better health as it can help you resist unhealthy food and give you the discipline to chomp down on those not-so-tasty but healthy food. And lastly, being tough will make you rich because you will no longer be easily swayed by manipulative salespeople and end up buying things that you don’t need. So how do you become mentally tough like a navy seals?
In response to high level of dropout rate among navy seal trainees, pschologist were tasked to help navy seals trainee to pass their navy seal training and to graduate as a full-fledge navy seals. Psychologist have noted that most navy seals dropout during the drowning test where trainees have to stay underwater for 20 minutes while their instructor harrass them by turning off their oxygen mask and ripping off their face mask and stimulate conditions that is close to drowning. This is to get the trainees used to challenging and life-threatening environment that they will likely face in the future.
“It’s just sad” Said one of the officers. Yes, it’s disappointing because these men have proven to be physically tough. They just have to overcome the fear of drowning. However according to a neuroscientist, it’s apparently a very hard difficult thing to do as drowning means death and throughout the course of evolution, we have developed a very primal instinct to resist water and our brain is hard-wired to induce large amount of fear when we can’t breathe. For a significant number of graduated navy seals, they just couldn’t handle the fear although they were assured of immediate medical help should they show any signs of symptoms of drowning.
A navy seal trainee being harassed by his instructor during the water test. Note that his goggles were removed and air tank shut to create confusion and fear.
Now with the demand of special forces increase. The US navy want to increase the number of navy seals available and they seek the help of neuroscientist to help improve the mental toughness of all their navy seals trainee and hope that they can re-wire their brain and become less fearful of water. This is to help them pass the water test which many dreaded.
The neuroscience team hired by the navy developed “The 4 Pillars of Mental Toughness” to help navy seals strengthened their mental toughness. And you can use them too to toughen your mental strength. And they are namely setting goals, mental visualization, positive self-talk and arousal control.
#1 Setting Goals.
According to Neuroscientists, they found that trainee who were able to pass the test are the one who set many goals. Not just any goals but very short term and very specific goals. For example, during a “grinding” session just before breakfast, neuroscientist discovered that those who didn’t give up actually set very short term goal, for example not giving up at least till breakfast. And through short term goal, navy seal trainees were able to stay focus on the current task instead of worrying what might come after breakfast. It’s sort of like switching off the part of your brain that tells you to give up and the navy seals trainee simply just keep grinding on and they just kinda go with the flow.
For the ordinary folks, you can apply such a technique to yourself too. Instead of getting distracted and thinking about how much work have to be done by the end of the day, just focus on one task at a time. And don’t bother yourself with what will happened after you finish that specific task. Just turn off the part of your brain that is telling you to quit and just stay calm and carry on.
#2 Mental Visualization
Mental visualization has been used by many sportsmen and musician to hone their skills. When they are resting, they would visualize themselves doing that perfect swing of golf or playing that perfect piece of music. According to neuroscientist, mental visualization is just as important in doing the actual practice itself.
During navy seals training, the trainees have to wear their scuba equipment and perform emergency drills while underwater. Furthermore, they would be constantly harrass by their instructor who would cut off their oxygen supply and tie up their scuba pipes. If the instructor found that the trainee aren’t calm enough, they would fail the test. But for those who passed, neuroscientist found that they practice mental visualization. Mental visualization is important because when done repeatedly, it teaches and rewire your brain at a very primal level. Most people are wired to the risk of getting drowned in water but for these navy seals who have used mental visualization, they rewire their brain such that they no longer fear water nor drowning. They will be completely calm even when air supply is cut off and they are starting to feel breathlessness. They would be able to perform the emergency with ease even in the most difficult condition
Yes success is not easy, it requires you to perform at your peak. It could be that perfect negotiating deal, that perfect presentation or that perfect moment when you shoot that ball and win that critical last point for your team. Make use of mental visualization, it’s a very powerful tool to force your brain to “exercise” and keep on practicing virtually and when combined with actual practice, you will very good at anything with the shortest possible time.
If you don’t have it, fake it till you have it.
This technique is also powerful to keeping your motivation level high. Many successful entrepreneur have said in interviews that they use mental visualization frequently to help them achieve their goal.And most of them use mental visualization and visualize them driving in their lamborghini or ferrari and this help them to stay motivated and continue on with the grind.
#3 Positive Self-talk.
Do you know that you talk to yourself at a rate of 800-1600 words per minute? Imagine being a negative state for 5 minutes, you would spoke a minimum of 4000 negative words to yourself! And that’s sufficient to affect your mood and efficiency for the rest of the day. Navy seals were taught by neuroscientist to self-hypnotize themselves with positive words to keep their spirit up. They constantly remind themselves that no matter how tough the “grinding” are, it will always end. Like many soldiers would like to say ” Tough times don’t last, tough man do “. And another famous quote of navy seals are ” Pain are weakness leaving the body”. Also, navy seals were reminded that no matter how tough their “grinding” are, there are many men who have went through it and it’s entirely possible to graduate as a navy seals.
Tough times don’t last, tough men do.
Perhaps when you are having a tough time, continue to stay positive and beware of negative thoughts. Note that tough times never last and one day tough times will end and things will get better, for every up slope, there will always be a down slope. When you are struggling achieve your goals, tell yourself that whatever amount of money or success that you desire, someone else have done it, someone else have went through the grind and it’s now very successful. Tell yourself that and stay positive and never give up.
#4 Arousal Control
Navy seals trainee getting this wrist and ankle tied to stimulate drowning and fear. Trainees must control their arousal to past the test.
Controlling your mental state is very crucial to becoming a successful navy seal. There are many knee-jerk reactions that were built into us by nature and they have been fine-tuned for since start of human race. Some examples of knee-jerk reaction include widening of our pupil, shaky hands and sweaty palm when we are in fear or stressed up. It’s a very natural body response that is aimed to helping you stay out of danger or protect yourself from danger.
It’s something that ordinary people cannot control because knee-jerk reactions are caused by powerful hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, and it’s even harder to control when your brain secrete them in huge amound when you are in fear or stress. But for navy seals who are required to perform at their peak in very stressful and demanding situation, these knee-jerk reactions is highly undesirable.
One of the ways that navy seals are using to control the effect of these hormones is through breathing technique known as the 4×4. When navy seals are in a dangerous environment or overwhelmed, they would simply breathe in for the next 4 seconds and breathe out steadily over the next 4 seconds. If done properly, it’s extremely effective in calming yourself down.
If next time, you feel overwhelmed with your work or business, try the 4×4 breathing technique. It’s important to always remain calm at work because a stressed up mind cannot think clearly nor create new ideas. If you want to perform at your peak during stressful period and continues to make good decision and innovate, learn breathing techniques from the navy seals. It’s simple and it works!
In conclusion, navy seals have one of the toughest mentality on earth. Their brain are programmed to forget about fear and even in the most life-threatening and stressful environment, these navy seals have been proven to stay calm and execute their task with perfection. Of course, we shouldn’t aspire to have the same level of mental toughness as navy seals but if we can achieve just a portion of it, we would have definitely be a lot more successful. Navy seals have been practicing those 4 techniques and it appears that it work well in strengthening your mental toughness. It’s definitely something that anyone can practice to strengthen their mind.