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Mental toughness is both an innate trait and a developed set of habits. We can cultivate mental toughness through a tough life, through tough choices, through tough experiences like BUD/s and Kokoro Camp. These are the typical means by which mental toughness is forged through the crucible of “pain is weakness leaving your body.” The crucible develops confidence, a deep seated knowingness that you are capable of persevering, and opens you up to be less of a Rambo and to rely on your teammates. These situations cultivate humility and presence, which are attributes of the mentally tough leader and follower.
However, what we have found at SEALFIT is that mental toughness can also be cultivated in a more subtle manner through the practice of certain skills.
These skills include:
Breath control: Awareness of our breath, and control of it, is ultimately the best tool to get and maintain present moment awareness. It is in present moment awareness that we are most powerful, alert and, yes, mentally tough. We are not in a fear state about a future unknown, or in negative state about a past screw-up. We are just here, now, and able to serve our teammates and tap into the energy of the moment.
Positivity: What wolf are you feeding, right now? Once we have control of our breath, and hence our minds and bodies, then we must ensure that we are filling the cranial vessel with the right information. Positivity covers more than self-talk, but that is the place to start. Check routinely that you are feeding the courage wolf (positive), rather than the fear wolf (negative). A cue to remind yourself is useful in the early stages of guarding your mind against negativity. I recommend a rubber band on your wrist…every time you notice it ask yourself “what wolf am I feeding now?”
Goal Setting: Goals are connected to our major defining purpose in life. So proper goal setting goes well beyond the typical 1 month, 3 month and annual process to set achieving goals for your business or personal life. It starts with a deep introspection into what I call the three “Ps” – to wit: What is your passion? What is your Purpose? And what are your Principles?” Once you have answered these questions satisfactorily, then your goals will spring from them effortlessly. Now when the going gets tough and quitting sounds like a nice option, we can persevere easily because our goals are subordinate to our major driving aim, or purpose, in life. What could be more important than accomplishing goals that are aligned with our purpose? Any effort on other goals is frivolous in comparison.
Envisioning: Though there are more, the final mental toughness skill that we will discuss here is envisioning. Envisioning is creating and becoming in your mind that which you desire, before you enter the arena. I call this the First Premise of our Unbeatable Mind program. You must win in your mind before you step foot on the battlefields of life. How do we do that? All of the skills discussed here are involved, but the granddaddy skill is envisioning. Envisioning involves developing keen powers of imagination and then the ability to play the imagined event in our mind with amazing clarity. We add color, emotion, and sound and then perform it in our mind until it gains an uncanny realness quality. You will know you are there when you feel like the event you are envisioning (ie: becoming a SEAL, or graduating Kokoro camp, or hitting the $5 million mark in your business) has already happened.
Here are some basic operating instructions for beginning an envisioning practice.
Have a clear idea in your mind of exactly what you want to imagine before you start. Certainly this is going to be something momentous if you are investing this energy into it. The imagined event can be winning or completing an event (Olympics) or becoming a certain type of person (SEAL).
Begin to conjure the image in your mind’s eye – slightly forward and about 20 degrees above your eyes. Begin to see, hear, and feel yourself performing perfectly the desired situation.
Conjure the image once or twice a day until you can run through the event from start to finish. You will want to see yourself doing it with perfect form, with a win or you achieving your goal. It may take a while to be able to complete an event in your mind. When I did this with my College swim coach, it took me several months before I could complete the 200M breaststroke in its entirety in my mind.
Practice the imagery daily until you “feel” that it has already happened. Journaling your experience is powerful way to anchor this process. Write down what you see and feel and how the imagery morphs over time.
- Another support tool is to video-tape yourself performing at your peak moments, and then creating a montage video with powerful affirmations and music. You can review this prior to your envisioning session.
Good luck with putting these techniques to good use! I look forward to working with you in person soon in Unbeatable Mind, SEALFIT Academy or Kokoro Camp.
Train hard, stay present and have fun…hooyah! — Mark Divine
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