Prepare Well and Never Even Think
No matter what goal or challenge we take on in life, there tends to be that moment that occurs along the journey where you make a decision because you are forced with a choice of quitting or not quitting. The goals, the timelines, the processes are different for each of us, but we typically have to rely on pure will, guts, determination, and remember “our why” in order to be successful with the personal or team mission you are trying to accomplish. The process that we have to consider is how do we best utilize our past, present, and even the future to help us get through what feels like sticking points in personal, professional, team, or military selection goals.
The Past Experiences Build You Today – Prepare You for Tomorrow
The past successes give us confidence to move forward and our failures teach us even more. To keep trying when times get tough, persistence regardless of outcome, and a never quit attitude can be learned from both successes and failures. You learn what to do and build good habits around them and you learn what NOT to do, but build some resilience for future issues that occur. This is how mental toughness is built – one day at a time - by failing and not quitting and getting comfortable being uncomfortable. Humility is also learned and maybe the most valuable lesson for your future. Eventually, you will learn that you cannot do everything by yourself, you need a team, a training partner, a mentor especially when your goal is highly challenging with large fail / attrition rates (special ops, medical school, law school, weight loss, etc).
However, after all the preparation, soon it will be game day – the day when you have an option to keep moving forward in the program or stop. Here is a useful sports psychology skill you can use to pull from your past and bring to the future when you feel like you are done and have nothing left. It is called the Performance Cue – To make a cue word or performance cue work best, you have to tie it into a moment of excellence from your past, a moment of excitement, or some other feeling associated with a great accomplishment. For instance, a walk off home run to win the game in the ninth inning of a baseball game, sinking a buzzer-beating shot to win the game, or catching that interception and running into the end zone. All of these are sports related but you can also tie the word into the feeling of the birth of a child, graduating school, or some other long-term accomplishment. Give that feeling a name like “game winner”, “game on”, “Let’s roll”, “Let’s do this.” My personal one was “train to compete” because I figured out if I was thinking about winning something, I never thought about quitting. That one worked twofold – it kept my mind off of quitting and pushed me to perform harder and actually got me excited to perform versus dreading that next event.
The Present – Game Day and the Moment of Stopping or Keep Moving
When you are in that moment of quitting or not quitting, you typically have a series of obtrusive thoughts that are starting to cause some self-doubt. It could just be actual physical pain and discomfort, but that moment of the first self-doubt will quickly evolve into “this isn’t for me” or “I quit, I can’t do it.” You have to be aware of this and stop it immediately before it becomes overwhelming to control. You have to “Remember Your Why” at this moment, think of all of the hard work to even get where you are now. Why are you doing this? Have a good answer ready when you ask yourself that. Then answer it and keep moving forward thus shutting down that Quit Demon that kept popping in your head as you roll out of bed, before you start moving, get wet, or are just plain tired. Just keep moving. Another trick to help you get out of that moment is the Name IT – Tame IT skill. Obtrusive thoughts, flashbacks, or moments of self-doubt is really more of a survival skill for you – not a sign that you are weak or crazy. These thoughts are designed to keep you from hurting yourself, keep you alive, and survive what the brain perceives as potentially dangerous, uncomfortable, or tiresome. You need energy to survive and the brain wants the body to be more efficient with that energy use. But, when you are 100% putting out (physically, mentally, emotionally), you have to shut that down real quick or it can stop you in your tracks. Do this – give that obtrusive thought or image a name and it will help the brain find its proper place in the filing cabinet in our own heads. I personally like funny names like “fuzzy bear” when my kids have a nightmare about a monster chasing them. For those long nights, I used the term “compete mode”. When the thought of “this sucks” or “why am I doing this” came in, I quickly shut it down with “Compete Mode” or “Beast Mode” or “Bulldog” to pull back some emotions from high school sports with our mascot.
The Future – Seeing the Light at the End of the Tunnel
The use of future actions can help you endure long and painful moments in the present. For instance, whether it was long practices in sports, staying up late to study, or an 18 hour day at SEAL training, I always knew that there would be a moment when I am done for several hours. I can shower, eat, stretch out, and go to sleep. Seeing yourself graduate especially after watching a graduation of the people in front of you. Seeing is believing and sometimes you have to see it in order to believe it possible for yourself. Taking that attitude into a challenging moment and viewing the future as you are either done for the day or completely done and fully accomplished a long-term goal and graduated is a strong way to look into the future when that present moment is beating you down.
Notice the word “motivation” did not occur in this article. In long term goal accomplishment it is great to be motivated and you will be once you realize the path you want to take, but in the end your habits and discipline will pull you through when the days are long and motivation is low.
In order to graduate you need to prepare by training your body and mind. By understanding all the elements of GRADUATE you can be sure that you’re taking the steps to achieve your big dream, goal, or project.
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Training to Get THROUGH the Spec Ops Selection Course (aka graduate)
This is where training usually transitions from focus on the elements of fitness (strength, power, speed, agility, endurance - run-ruck-swim, muscle stamina, mobility, flexibility, grip) to mastering specific events of your future training. Longer runs, rucks, swims with fins, treading, pool competency skills, load bearing activity (logs / boats / equipment), and others depending on your school of instruction.
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Who is Stew Smith CSCS? Coach, Trainer, Writer, Podcaster: I'm the former Navy SEAL that tactical candidates go to for books, ebooks and online coaching to prepare themselves to get to and through intense tactical assessment and selection programs and qualify for service in their chosen tactical profession. See More at StewSmithFitness.com
Where to Find More Information About Optimal Performance Training Programs
When you start training again, consider the seasonal tactical fitness model. I call it A WAY to train and obviously not the only way to train. But it offers the opportunity to never neglect your weaknesses, helps with flexibility and mobility, but will also put you at a level of physical abilities where you are happy with your overall ability to do just about anything. We have a system where the seasons dictate our training. When it is nicer outside, we tend to run and do more calisthenics. When it is colder and not so nice, we lift more, run less, and still maintain our outdoor activities with shorter runs and rucks. Check it out: Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization System.
The Specific Military / Special Ops Physical Fitness Workouts Where Optimal Performance Will Be Tested Each Day
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