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The Difference Between Overthinking and Underthinking Your Future Goals

Stew smith

Underthinking / Underpreparing For Highly Competitive Programs Will Crush Your "Dreams" Before You Even Get Started

Being thoroughly prepared to get accepted INTO a program as well as making it THROUGH that program are part of a two part process I have been coaching for decades - The Phases of Tactical Fitness. For many competitive challenges people seek there is a process that requires a "wanna-be" to prepare significantly to become a competitive candidate.  This is often the end of the road to achieving a potential goal by soon realizing they are ill-prepared to meet the standards of such programs. Usually, at this point, there was little preparation done, little research done, and very little thinking done until the tests to get accepted crushed their dreams before they even started. Did Not Finish (DNF) or failing to meet the standards has very little to do with overthinking at this phase. This one is pure under-achieving, lack of thinking mindset that stop a dreamer in their tracks. If anything, it is an immature over-confidence that led to this outcome. But there is another side of the spectrum that is equally as crushing to goals and dreams...

Being Prepared is One Thing - But Overthinking Can Stop All Progress and Ruin Your Mental Game...

I have often said, "Seeing is Believing" and it is helpful to observe and talk to people who have achieved what you are wanting to do. For instance, as an underclassman at the Naval Academy, I saw dozens of people before me get accepted into BUDS and successfully become SEALs that it enabled me to find and use the template of training that prepared them to get TO and THROUGH training. The impossibility factor that is present in many people's mind as they travel this same journey was not a conscious thought - not just for me - but for all of my BUDS select classmates at the Academy as well as our graduating BUDS classmates.  We had 100% graduation rate from our Academy class and even had more to lateral transfer a few years later as there were not enough billets for all the eligible candidates my year in 1991. But for over 100 of my BUDS classmates, the journey did not go as well for many reasons:  

Failing to meet the standards (4 mile runs, 2 mile swims, obstacle course, other tests)

Getting Injured - Accidental injuries through no fault of their own but there are also many over-use injuries (often stems from lack of preparation).

DOR - Drop on Request / Quitting - Over-thinking is a major part of this way of not making it THROUGH the training. 

Safety Violations - These happen and are rare but doing something that endangers yourself and others (shooting, diving, explosives, etc) can get you dropped from the program regardless of your physical / mental toughness. Be self-aware of the new tactical skills you are learning and stay vigilant with safety.

Admin Drops - Not following the rules is common in each class and a few will be dropped for missing muster / breaking curfew or being involved in a liberty incident on the weekends. This is definitely the UNDER-thinking category.

BEWARE - Things That Can End Your Spec Ops Dreams Before They Even Begin...

Take the Impossibility Factor Out of Your Goal Achievement Process

NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE is a great saying but for those not medically qualified to serve in such capacities it can prove to be an impossibility.  So, be thankful that you get the opportunity to even TRY. An attitude of gratitude can go a long way when the day turns into night. When it is cold, dark and you are wet in murky water with sand in your pants doing an evolution that appears to have not end in sight, be thankful you are still there.  BUT also know, EVENTUALLY it will be done and you will take a warm shower, be clean, eating your favorite recovery foods / drinks and getting comfortable to go to sleep. Getting up the next morning is not something you have to worry about now - focus on the present and be ready to get uncomfortable again. Be thankful for that opportunity. 

At this point, you will find that what you are doing is NOT impossible and many have made it through the challenge before you. People have endured the same evolutions, the same cold, tired, wet, and sandy feeling and made it. Look at the classes with different colored helmets than yours. They are just immediate proof that the program you are seeking to endure and graduate is in fact VERY POSSIBLE. 

The Dangers of Overthinking ANYTHING:

Overthinking is plain and simple NOT HEALTHY. The stress / anxiety created by overthinking tomorrow's problems often ruins a perfect day to prepare for the future.  Second guessing yourself, having doubts, and even horrible predictions are natural to the human mind so do not beat yourself up when you have these types of obtrusive thoughts. BUT it is your job to immediately change the narrative in your head to something that is more useful and productive in the here and now (present).  Here are some helpful ways to re-direct negative thoughts and overthinking the future:

1 - Self Awareness - it is good to have external awareness of potentially dangerous situations, but you also need to have internal awareness so you can recognize stress levels increasing by simply having thoughts in your head. If you notice constant thoughts of things you cannot control take note and focus on your breathing and going to a happy place.

2 - Reverse the Thoughts - Even reverse the thought by envisioning success instead of failure. Have you considered you are just being overly dramatic? Maybe your own head is exaggerating the situation. Saying to yourself - stop being ridiculous and let's focus on today can help with over-thinking these kind of negative thoughts of failure.  As Goggins says, "Turn off the inner-bitch."

3 - What is the Problem? Fix It -  If you have a problem or weakness you are worried about strengthening, make a plan to solve that problem. It may take more time than you anticipated, but any weakness will be exposed within the first day of any spec ops training program.  Having a solution is key to fixing obtrusive overthinking.  

4 - Assess Yourself - If you are not assessing you are only guessing.  When you are guessing you are ready to go the possibility for more doubt and negative thoughts can invade your space.  Check out the assessment tool link that shows the physical scores in all areas of physical performance that determine success of such training programs as BUD/S. 

5 - Why Are You Doing This? Your WILL will be challenged several times and when it is, you have to have an answer when you are cold, tired, and miserable as to why you are doing this. Even if you are an over-thinker, you can turn it off if your will and why are strong enough.  Eventually, the obtrusive thoughts of doubt will cease to exist and you are off to the finish line. 

Seeing is Believing - you just have to be willing to look and understand what it means to you and your goals.  No matter what those goals are.

What Programs Are Right For YOU?

It depends on your scores compared to other successful students.  See the Assessment Tool to Make it To and Through Selection and see where you stack up with all the elements of fitness - not just a PST score. 


Navy SEAL / SWCC, EOD, Diver Program Series - Phase 1 is what I call a beginner guide, but it is still challenging.  It is geared toward those who are scoring minimally or failing their Navy PST test - 500yd swim, pushups, situps, pullups, 1.5 mile run.  It is easier than The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness and a good prep course before attempting it. 

Click for more info on this program...

Remember - the PST will only guarantee you get TO the Training....Getting THROUGH BUD/S requires much more:  See How This Candidate Built Himself to get GOOD at everything:

See what is "good enough" - PST Type Scores for Spec Ops Training:

How about your durability - strength numbers? (click)

Who is Stew Smith? Coach, Trainer, Author, PodcasterI'm the former Navy SEAL that special ops 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

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 just about anything. We have a systems 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.  

My most recent programs that walk you through these four cycles with 12 weeks of each season in two programs. 

These Seasonal Tactical Fitness BLOCK Periodization programs will walk you through 4 x 4 weeks cycles with 16 weeks of each season in two programs. (32 total weeks)

Other Specific Military / Special Ops Physical Fitness Workouts Where Optimal Performance Will Be Tested Each Day

Army PFT Workout (Prep For Rucking, OPAT, ACFT)
Army Special Forces / Ranger Workout
Army Air Assault School Workout
Army Airborne Workout


Advanced Running Program - Special Ops Supplement Plan
USMC OCS / TBS Workout


The Combat Conditioning Workout
Air Force PJ / CCT Workout  Battlefield Airman Prep Course
The UBRR Upper Body Round Robin Workout / Spec Ops version


The Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer / Navy SAR Workout
The Service Academy Workout (West Point, Navy, Air Force Academy)
The Navy, Air Force, Marine Corp Boot Camp Workout


The Law Enforcement Physical Fitness Workouts

The FBI Academy Workout  |   FBI Workout Vol 2  
The DEA Workout
The FLETC Workout - Ace the PEB
The PFT Bible: Pushups, Sit-ups, 1.5 Mile Run
The Fire Fighter Workout - Ace the CPAT


Online Coaching Options

Online PT CLUB - Weekly Workouts created personally for you.

New Member's Only Content / Services Program!

If you want access to years worth of workouts, many of the top eBOOKs, favorite workouts of the week, free fitness APP, closed Facebook Group, video / picture library of exercises, and more access to LIVE Q/A sessions check out the Stew Smith Fitness Members Section

The dashboard below has the links to all the information, archives, videos, and links to workouts, podcasts, live Q and A lessons. 

Consider this! - A Membership Program and Gain Access to Exclusive Content
(click for Fitness Club Dashboard - members only)

Best of all, if you have questions, email Stew Smith himself (  Join the tactical fitness group discussions, latest articles, videos, podcasts at the Stew Smith Tactical Fitness Training Closed Group on Facebook.


Questions?  Just email -

At - List of Products and Services

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  3. eBooks
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