We head into the new year full of hope and New Year’s commitments… many of which we will ditch like a candy wrapper soon. There are many reasons for the lack of follow-through on good intentions. Perhaps it won’t be a surprise to hear me say that taking on a new habit requires mental toughness, and mental toughness is a skill.
So, though we want to forge a beautiful body and healthy lifestyle, the reality is we must first forge mental toughness… then those other things we desire follow naturally. It is true that mental toughness is cultivated through a tough life, tough choices and tough experiences. Ask anyone attempting BUDS or Special Forces training and you will note that they develop toughness and resiliency through the commitment and preparation for these programs, as well as by enduring the hardships of them. The good news here is mental toughness can be developed by voluntarily accepting tough things into your life, and facing them with discipline and courage.
However, mental toughness can also be cultivated by practicing a few skills daily, which may be more practical and less painful than going through BUDS. I submit that practicing these mental skills daily, learning the workings of your mind, will ultimately develop the same toughness as a Navy SEAL. After all, mental toughness really comes down to making the right choices at the right time for the right reasons, no matter what is happening externally. It is about developing control over your mental and emotional domains, like the ancient Stoic who ignored the outside in order to refine his or her inside. There are four key skills in this training, which we teach in depth in my Unbeatable Mind Inner Circle.
Control your breathing: Awareness of our breath, and control of it, is the best tool to bring initial control over our mind. Breath control will bring a present moment awareness absent of fear or future unknowns. We are just present when we practice breath control, and our minds begin to focus and able to tap into greater energy.
Maintain a positive mind: What wolf are you feeding, right now, fear or courage? Once we have control of our breath, and hence our minds, then the need is to reinforce positive self-talk. I recommend asking yourself ten times a day: “What wolf am I feeding now?” and activating a positive internal dialogue to feed the courage wolf.
Envision your desired future: Envisioning is the skill of winning in your mind before you step foot onto the battlefields of your life. Envisioning involves developing your imagination and then imagining a more complete or desired future for yourself… and then practicing that daily.
Set goals aligned with your purpose: Your goals need to be connected to your ethos, or defining your purpose and stand in life. Many times we commit to new year resolutions that have no connection to our ethos, so when the newness wears off we can’t answer “why am I doing this again?” Your goals should endure the challenges to their need, so that when the going gets tough and quitting sounds like an option, we can persevere easily because our major driving aim, or purpose in life, is in the line of fire.
Practice these four skills daily and you will develop the mental toughness of an elite warrior. Then those New Year resolutions will be easy to stick to, once the commitment is made. I hope to see you in training in 2017 with SEALFIT or Unbeatable Mind so, together, we can make this an amazing year.
— Mark Divine