I think the resilience of Navy SEALs is irrefutable . Tonight, I was treated to an amazing talk with a top-level individual responsible for SEAL recruiting and training and a psychologist who works alongside the SEALs. They were tasked to find the “X-factor” of resilience…what separates the people who not only volunteer for SEAL training but complete what is typically 18 months of grueling training. What they found were 4 big mental factors that can predict your ability to succeed in the face of adversity. These 4 factors are universal for anyone trying to achieve excellence in anything.
- Goal Setting and Segmenting. Everyone knows the importance of working towards goals, but the key they found is the ability to break down your larger goal into smaller benchmarks. It doesn’t matter if its weight loss, a sales goal, or a planning timeline, the mini-goals are what will help you keep focused and not end up overwhelmed in the face of a monstrous task.
- Visualization. Again, this isn’t something new, but what you have to realize is it isn’t just a matter of imagining what success looks like. SEALs think beyond that, they imagine the sights, sounds, smells, taste & feel of the process will be, and what victory will “taste” like. They imagine the sounds of radio communications, the smell of gun powder, the sights of the area they are going into, how their equipment feels in their hands. I imagine not only what my events will look like, I think about the sound of conversation of guests, the entertainment playing in the background, how will the food taste & smell, is the campfire too close and causing smoke to interfere with dessert? I know exactly what I want my guest experience to be like, I visualize every aspect of it so I know what I’m planning.
- Arousal Control. Just like the man told the whole room – get your mind out of the gutter! This is learning to control your response to stress. Biologically there are three natural responses to any type of stress: fight, flight, or freeze. Once you know how you typically respond to stress, you can learn to harness that energy and make it a positive. I admit, in the office my stress responses aren’t that great. It’s more avoidance than anything. Onsite I am much more assertive – I tend to be a fight personality at that point. But knowing that, I do try at all times to keep my stress level at a minimum. I pay attention to my breathing, my ability to concentrate and my body’s level of tension. Once I identify stress, I work to relax through breathing exercises, a mental re-calibration, or tension relieve exercises to loosen up tight muscles.
- Self Talk. This apparently is the hardest one for people in general to change if it doesn’t come natural. Everyone has self talk naturally, things we tell ourselves. Some of us have positive self talk (Good job on that project, you did good!). Some have negative self talk (You blew it, you’ll never have that chance again!). The trick is to have positive self-talk. When something bad happens, rather than weighing yourself down with negative comments try instead to say – well that didn’t work, but I’m confident that I’ll get it this next time around. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on the subject so instead I would like to refer you to this article from the Mayo Clinic and this from Psychology Today. The studies they have been doing have shown in a large sample of people (not just SEALs, but professional athletes, and Olympians) that self talk actually creates biological changes in hormone levels and brain activity.
So no, I’m DEFINITELY not a SEAL or a professional athlete – or heck even a recreational athlete, but I do strive for excellence in a job that is constantly challenging me and stressing me out to no end. If this works for frogmen, then I feel like it’s worth a shot for little ol’ me.