The Fantastic Life

Becoming Mentally Tough


Most people would argue that the Navy Seals are some of the toughest people on the planet, both physically and mentally.  Below is a great article from Nicolas Cole talking about the habits the Seals create to become mentally tough. 

Here are some of my thoughts on their habits.

  • Eat the elephant.  In his book Resilience, Eric Grietens, a former Navy Seal, talks about “getting to the Dot”—If you are eating, eat.  If you are running, run.  The point is to break tasks into small bites…..the only way to eat an elephant.
  • Breathe.  The seals use a 4 x 4 x 4 breathing method for controlling their emotions.  There are all kinds of strategies to bring your breathing under control.  Here is another from Dr. Andrew Weil. 
  • Small victories.  As we push, enjoying the journey becomes paramount.  I learned this later in life.  But it is true that the most mentally tough people we know get pleasure from the day-to-day grind.  We call it The Process. 
  • Find your tribe. Surround yourself with people who are on the same mission as you –NOBODY wins alone.

Take time this week to restart your path by incorporating some of the above into your daily life.

Rule #11 from my book The Fantastic Life: The Growth Paradigm
The Navy Seals didn’t become elite performers  overnight. They trained their mental toughness, taking control of small areas to grow their impact. 


6 Habits That Will Turn You Into One of the Most Mentally Tough People on the Planet

Learn from the best.

By: Nicholas Cole

Nov. 7, 2016 

CREDIT: Getty Images

Who are the most mentally tough people on the planet? Well, that’s subjective–but one group without question would have to be Navy SEALs.

This incredible article breaks down what SEALs do to cultivate such mental strength and fortitude. But I figured I would add my own additional commentary to an already robust list.

1. “Eat the Elephant”–Don’t Build Rome, Build One Single Home

Being an effective team member is all about understanding how your small contribution moves the group toward the achievement of a larger objective. What SEALs do is they “eat the elephant,” they learn the art of breaking down big goals into small, actionable tasks.

In order to have mental fortitude in any endeavor, you have to learn the art of stepping back and understanding both the big picture and the tiny steps that will bring that vision to life. If you are only focused on the big picture, you’ll forever live in the clouds–and get frustrated because nothing is actionable. Conversely, if you are only focused on the tiny steps, you’ll never see the big picture–and you’ll get frustrated because you feel like you’re spinning your wheels (which you are).

You have to master both. Start small, but remember the big thing you are building at the same time. That balance takes practice.

2. “Visualize Success”–Rehearse in Your Head

When I was a kid, I had really bad nightmares. I used to think a lot about what I would do if a burglar ever came into our house. One night, I heard a loud sound downstairs when everyone was asleep, and I really thought the moment had finally come. I was 7. I remember looking around my room for a weapon and, in my head, going over my plan over and over again–I would hide behind the door, wait until they peeked their head in, and then WABAM!

…It was all very dramatic.

But, humor aside, this is part of the process when it comes to maintaining a clear head in moments of stress (or battle). You have to spend a lot of time rehearsing scenarios ahead of time so that, when the moment of truth presents itself, you are ready.

3. “Emotional Control”–Witnessing Your Anxiety

SEALs use a technique called “the 4 by 4 by 4 method.”
1.  Breathe in for four seconds
2.  Breathe out for four seconds
3.  Repeat for four minutes

This is really no different than a meditation breathing exercise. The purpose is simple: Calm your mind. Every great leader knows not to make decisions in the heat of the moment–and that goes for both business and war. Whenever you feel stressed, it’s about taking a moment to check in with yourself, and the simplest way to do this is to watch your breath.

4. “Nonreactivity”–Reframing the Moment

The glass can be half full or half empty. It’s on you to decide which way you want to see things.

People who are mentally tough have a knack for always seeing the positive.


Because they know seeing the negative won’t get them where they want to be any faster.

Reframing the situation in a positive light isn’t just a “feel good” exercise–it’s an extremely effective way to move yourself and the current situation in the direction of your choosing. Leaders, especially, know that reframing to find the positive is essential for keeping people motivated and engaged. And if you can learn how to reframe to the positive, your endurance and tolerance for obstacles and challenges will increase exponentially.

5. “Small Victories”–Celebrate the Tiny Things

People who have the ability to push and push and push have an even greater ability to appreciate the journey.They can go so long, and so far because they are encouraging with themselves along the way. They celebrate the tiny things–instead of always saying “I’m not there yet.”

At some point, “I’m not there yet” just makes you feel like you’ll never get “there.” You will feel the opposite of motivated. You will feel defeated.

Don’t be afraid to take a moment and see where you are on the path. Sure, you might not be “there” yet–but you’ve certainly come a long way. Be appreciative with yourself. Practice the habit of seeing the positive. This energy will carry you through any obstacle.

6. “Find Your Tribe”–Nobody Wins Alone

No matter how talented, how successful, how brilliant you are, just remember: Nobody wins alone.
With SEALs especially, team is everything. The entire mentality is built on teamwork and trust and communication. Reason being: You can accomplish more with others than you can by yourself. And beyond that, you can grow and learn and master yourself faster when you are surrounded by others who share similar habits.

Although it’s called “Personal Growth,” the greatest personal growth happens through interaction with other like-minded people. As the cliché goes, “Iron sharpens iron.” You want to find people similar enough to you that you get along, but different enough that they challenge and teach you. They help you become better and give you a sense of community and acceptance that is an inherent need in all human beings.

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