A good friend of mind named Bill recently called and said he was sending me an incredible book entitled Resilience written by Eric Greitens (a former Navy SEAL). Bill is a former SEAL himself, and an acquaintance of Greitens. He’s also an avid reader, so when he recommends a book, you better take a look.
He said that the book reminded him of me, so naturally I was a bit intrigued. After giving it a quick skim, I researched Greitens and found that he’d written another book, The Heart and the Fist. Further research then led me to a 3rd book, Unbeatable Mind, which was written by another SEAL named Mark Devine. Before I knew it, Amazon had compiled me an entire list of featured recommendations full of books written by former SEALS.
The odds of completing SEAL training are less than favorable: 1 in 4. To qualify to be a SEAL you must be a U.S. citizen, 17 to 28 years old ,with good vision and no color blindness. Oh…and they only accept men into the program (but that’s a different conversation for different day).
So, since most of us will never become SEALs, you’re probably asking yourself what these books have to with everyday life.
The answer is – LOTS!
It’s always darkest before the dawn
You see, life is more than difficult some of the time. For example, how do you deal with something like losing a child, going through a divorce, or suffering from a lifetime disease? Not to mention the daily, weekly, and monthly challenges of making ends meet.
On top of all of this, you’ve got work obstacles to tackle too. Deals that take forever to close, business units that underperform, and deadlines to be met. And let us not forget about the difficult clients that seem to eat up huge gobs of your time. The ones that never pay their bills on time, don’t respond to emails, and love to change their minds on a daily basis.
When was the last time you…
- Wanted to throw your hands up and throw in the towel?
- Shouted – “I just want to give up, I can’t do this anymore!”
As Greitens points out in The Heart and the Fist:
“Each man quits for his own reasons, and it might be foolish to even attempt any general explanation. But if men were willing to train for months before ever joining the Navy, and then they were willing to enlist in the United States Navy and spend months in a boot camp and months in specialized training before they came to BUD/S, and if they were willing to subject themselves to the test of BUD/S and endure all of the pain and cold and trial that they had already endured up to this point, then it seems reasonable to ask, why did they quit now?
They quit, I believe, because they allowed their fear to overwhelm them. As the sun went down, and the thoughts of what was to come grew stronger and stronger, they focused on all of the pain that they thought they might have to endure and how difficult it might be. They were standing on the beach, perfectly at ease, reasonably warm, but they thought that they might be very cold and very pained and they thought that they might not be able to make it. Their fear built and built and built. The mind looked for a release, and the men who quit found their release in the bell.”
According to Eric, the surprising fact is that the highest number of guys quit while watching the sunset. Since they’d been through a ton already; why did they quit then? His best guess is that they allowed their fear to overwhelm them. They allowed their minds to fill up with all the things that could go wrong in the future.
In other words, they allowed themselves to get emotionally hijacked – focusing on what could happen. This focus on the could happen creates some serious and intense emotions!
Avoid Eeyore Mode
So when bad things are continuously happening to us, can we avoid turning into an Eeyore (the sky is falling)?
The answer is an unequivocal YES!
Mark Divine, an extraordinary SEAL in his own right, talks about how to deal with fear in his book Unbeatable Mind – simply “starve the fear wolf and feed the wolf of courage.” More specifically –
Negativity destroys performance, so it is crucial to train to move from witnessing negative thoughts to starving them and feeding the positive. This is the specific process:
1. Witness negativity.
2. Interdict, or stop, the negative thoughts with a power statement.
3. Redirect your mind with self-talk and imagery to something positive and productive for your current goal.
4. Maintain your new mental state with a jingle or mantra.
Garbage in = garbage out
The type and quality of the thoughts we put into our mind, determine the outcome. Saturate our thoughts in anxiety and fear; and be prepared for an early exit. But fear and anxiety are natural aspects in our world, so how do we manage our thoughts so that they don’t manage us?
First, recognize them for what they are. Then, escort them out promptly. I use the phrase “I reject that thought…it’s based on assumptions and is unfounded in reality”. Another alternative is to immediately move on to focusing on getting to the next objective – whatever it is; it could be a meal, morning, pay check, etc.
Let’s quickly apply this to what I learned as a 5-year-old learning to walk in my braces (after contracting polio):
The physical therapists didn’t have me focus on being able to walk without crutches and braces one day. Instead, they had me focus on taking one step without falling, then 2 steps, then 3 steps, until I could walk across a room. And by the way, the first skill they taught me was how to get up (by myself) when I fell, because in my life…I’d be falling often.
I’d have given up from the get go if they’d started off by telling me to walk across the room without falling – not only would the objective have been unrealistic to begin with, but the challenge also would have been overwhelming. All they focused on was getting to the next step (figuratively and literally).
One more powerful way rid yourself of Eeyore mentality is to shift the focus OFF of yourself (anxiety, pain and fear) and focus on how you can serve those around you. Notice how your negativity quickly dissolves in the face of your commitment to something or someone bigger than yourself. Take the SEALs and their commitment to their country for example.
Try these techniques yourself. They can drastically change both your work and your home life. You don’t have to be a Navy SEAL or one of the last people to ever contract full-blown polio in the U.S. to be able to face your fears!