“Unfuck your mind. Today we’re going to concentrate on unfucking your mind,” Cousin screamed at us as we began our Saturday morning bootcamp workout. His intention was to spend the next hour making us carry as much heavy crap he could place on our shoulders, from point A to point B, to prove our limitations were mental and not physical. We hear all the time that “it’s as much mental as it is physical.” Sometimes we hear “it’s MORE mental than physical.” Yet, we spend all of our time getting our bodies ready and very little time getting our minds ready.
While this is typically the case for endurance events, it is not the case when a woman goes through training for a natural birth. For those gents who don’t know what that means, it’s giving birth with no pain medication. I can’t even imagine the pain. Through mental training, my wife beasted out our son with no medicine. I watched her eyes. I watched her breathing. It was the most amazing physical feat I’ve ever seen and it was nearly all mental. Since then I’ve been asking myself if she can do that through mental training and everyone says that endurance events are as much mental as physical, why aren’t we training mentally like she did?
I’m not a doctor, a psychologist or an experienced endurance athlete. I’ve run a marathon and an ultra-marathon relay in the last four months and have participated in six GORUCK events. This year I am training for a GORUCK HTL, one additional GORUCK Heavy, three additional GORUCK Toughs and two marathons in 2016. After a lot of research, I’m going to tell you how I’m approaching mental training every day. Because I’m currently doing this routine I cannot tell you about the results yet. I plan on following up frequently to let you know what’s working and what’s not working in the attempt to “unfuck my mind.”
The Warrior Mindset
(all from 8 Weeks To SEALFIT by Mark Divine)
You think differently from the common man or woman. On the outside they may look like you, but on the inside you’re very different. The mental preparation for the warrior mind-set allows you to dominate any challenge you accept in life:
- Stay focused and relaxed, adaptable to the changing situation.
- Know that you are going to succeed – there will be no wondering.
- Tap into energy that lies deep inside you, allowing you to be capable of at least 20 times what you think you are.
- Control fear and turn stress into success.
- Keep goals very short, and be prepared for whatever comes your way.
- Find humor in the challenge through a positive attitude that keeps you and your team motivated.
- Be decisive and confident, a true leader.
The Mental Skills
1. The 3 P’s: Purpose, Passion, Principle
“Know the other and know the self, in a hundred battles you will be victorious; know the self but not other, in a hundred battles you will lose half. Know neither the self or the other, in a hundred battles you will lose all.” – SUN TZU
What are you really supposed to do with your life? What is one thing you would focus on if you had nothing holding you back?
Who are you? What makes you feel as if your hair’s on fire? This informs your purpose when intersected with your skills and talents.
What is it that you truly value? How can you “habituate” these values until you own them?” (Mark Divine, 8 Weeks To SEALFIT)
2. Goal Setting
I write a lot about goals. In summary, goals help you stay focused, ensure you are on the right track and are easily broken down into micro-goals that are easily consumable. Without goals, you float aimlessly through life, or in terms of physical feats, you float through events. For a marathon, the finish line is your goal, but set those mile, 5k and 10k micro goals for yourself. In a GORUCK event, set the movement and time hack as your micro goal. Crush those micro goals and give yourself something to celebrate and smile about during the suck. Watch this video to learn more
Mindfulness is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.” It’s a common theme throughout Buddhism. This skill allows you to stay calm in stressful situations. In terms of endurance events, I find it helps to reset the mind and concentrate on internal dialogue when in times of pain. It helps you zone out.
4. Positive Internal Dialogue
Talk to yourself. Don’t let the foo take over your mind. Tell yourself over and over that you can do it. Dr. Phil says, “Your internal dialogue powerfully programs and shapes your self-concept. If you believe you are worthy and strong, you will live up to that truth.” I tell myself to “stop being a little bitch and embrace the suck.” I also remind myself repeatedly that “when you think you’ve reached your maximum, you’ve really only reached 40% of your potential.”
Without getting too in depth, visualization basically means visualizing something that isn’t there. It’s the ability to see it in your mind before it happens. In this case, visualizing success and seeing the finish line helps you get there. When something is miles or hours away, it’s hard to see an end. When it’s hard to see an end, it’s easy to quit. Visualization helps you see the end now, enabling you to keep pushing.
If you can control breathing, you can control part of your nervous system. Controlling breathing can help you turn off what is known as the flight vs. fight response. What’s more, when you can control breathing, you can also be in control of your mind and body. Control breathing and help control your response to any external stimulus.
7. Pain Coping
All these techniques are meant to help you with pain, but let’s be honest – no matter what, you’re going to hurt. And that hurt is going to eventually take over. All the ibuprofen in your pocket isn’t going to eliminate all your pain, so it’s important to learn how to best deal with it. Habits are formed by repetition. Throughout your normal day you can find numerous opportunities to practice pain coping.
Give yourself a reason for success. Find strength in others. Maybe it’s accomplishing a task to make yourself proud or maybe you are trying to prove something to someone else. It can be a religious or spiritual reason. Maybe it can be something historical. I’ll explain my motivations below.
9. Embrace The Suck
Find strength in the shitty. Find joy in pain. Use the heavy logs or the miles as your energy. Don’t just endure it. Embrace it. “Stoics had an art known as turning obstacles upside down. To act with ‘a reverse clause’, so there is always a way out or another route to get to where you need to go. So that setbacks or problems are always expected and never permanent. Making certain that what impedes us can empower us.” (Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle Is The Way).
Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote, “Our actions may be impeded but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt, the mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
My Daily Routine
1. Meditation (skills: mindfulness, breathing, visualization, 3 P’s)
Meditation is a practice where an individual trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness, either to realize some benefit or for the mind to simply acknowledge its content without becoming identified with that content, or as an end in itself.
The term meditation refers to a broad variety of practices that include techniques designed to promote relaxation, build internal energy or life force and develop compassion, love, patience, generosity and forgiveness. A particularly ambitious form of meditation aims at effortlessly sustained single-pointed concentration meant to enable its practitioner to enjoy an indestructible sense of well-being while engaging in any life activity. (wiki: meditation)
On top of all that, meditation helps me zone out, which I find particularly important during an endurance event so I’m not concentrating on my pain. It enables me to be somewhere else, somewhere internal. Daily meditation is a non-negotiable for me, meaning it’s something I absolutely will do every single day no matter what. I find it to be the most important item on this list.
I suggest using the Headspace app, but there are many good ones in the various app stores.
2. Box Breathing (skills: breathing, mindfulness, pain coping)
“Begin to take control of your breathing. Later, this will allow you to control fear and stress and maintain a calm body and mind. SEALs call it arousal control. Simply start by exhaling all the air from your lungs, then breathing slowly into your belly to a count of 4. Hold your breath to a count of 4. Then exhale to a count of 4, expelling all the air at the end. Finally, hold your lungs empty for a count of 4. The 4-4-4-4 count is a box, hence the name of this drill. Do this breathing exercise before your training for a least 5 minutes.” (Mark Divine, 8 Weeks To SEALFIT)
3. Wim Hof Method (skills: breathing, mindfulness, pain coping, motivation, positive internal dialogue)
Wim Hoff is an absolutely insane Dutchman known for his ability to withstand extreme cold. He holds more than 20 world records and has done some things that just shouldn’t be possible, including:
-Completing a full marathon in the polar circle with temperatures close to -4 F. He was dressed in nothing but shorts.
-He holds the Guinness World Record for the longest ice bath at nearly 2 hours.
-He climbed Mount Everest wearing nothing but shorts.
The list goes on and on. Through his Wim Hoff Method, consisting of breathing techniques, meditation, stretching and cold shower training, Wim teaches people how to tap into their autonomic nervous systems to control immune responses.
Yes, that all sounds insane. I’ve been doing it for a few weeks and already I have more energy, I can hold my breath for two minutes and I can withstand much more time in a cold shower. I believe this method will help me cope with pain during endurance events. I also hear that it’s mighty frigid in the English Channel. This should help.
4. Morning ritual
a. Review all long-term goals, quarterly, weekly and daily goals. (skills: goal setting, 3 P’s, motivation)
Click here to learn more
b. Pray (skills: mindfulness, 3 P’s, internal positive dialogue)
c. Visualize success(skills: visualization, 3 P’s, motivation, goal setting)
Every day I sit for five minutes with my eyes closed, visualizing what success in my life looks like. Every day is different and sometimes I concentrate on one aspect of my life more than others. I concentrate on family, financial, business, physical, spiritual and relationship success.
After five minutes of visualization, I read the following from Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. Please know that this visualization (and auto-suggestion) technique works specifically for me and my line of work, and may not for you. I encourage you to find something that works for you.
The application of this (auto-suggestion) principle is made through a simple arrangement of positive thought impulses stated in writing, memorized, and repeated until they become a part of the working equipment of the subconscious faculty of your mind.
I know that I have the ability to achieve the object of my Definite Purpose in life, therefore, I DEMAND of myself persistent, continuous action toward its attainment, and I here and now promise to render such action.
I realize the dominating thoughts of my mind will eventually reproduce themselves in outward, physical action, and gradually transform themselves into physical reality, therefore, I will concentrate my thoughts for thirty minutes daily, upon the task of thinking of the person I intend to become, thereby creating in my mind a clear mental picture of that person.
I know through the principle of auto-suggestion, any desire that I persistently hold in my mind will eventually seek expression through some practical means of attaining the object back of it, therefore, I will devote ten minutes daily to demanding of myself the development of SELF-CONFIDENCE.
I have clearly written down a description of my DEFINITE CHIEF AIM in life, and I will never stop trying, until I shall have developed sufficient self-confidence for its attainment.
I fully realize that no wealth or position can long endure, unless built upon truth and justice, therefore, I will engage in no transaction which does not benefit all whom it affects. I will succeed by attracting to myself the forces I wish to use, and the cooperation of other people. I will induce others to serve me, because of my willingness to serve others. I will eliminate hatred, envy, jealousy, selfishness, and cynicism, by developing love for all humanity, because I know that a negative attitude toward others can never bring me success. I will cause others to believe in me, because I will believe in them, and in myself.
I will sign my name to this formula, commit it to memory, and repeat it aloud once a day, with full FAITH that it will gradually influence my THOUGHTS and ACTIONS so that I will become a self-reliant, and successful person.
Yes, this exercise is primary about wealth, but my goals go far beyond wealth so this formula helps me envision all goals, including physical goals, as accomplished through auto-suggestion.
5. Evening ritual (skills: 3 P’s, goal setting, motivation, internal positive dialogue, mindfulness)
Review all goals. Cross off every to do accomplished. Track all daily to dos in an app so they can be reviewed for long term tracking. Determine what went right and what went wrong today. Figure out why some items on the to do list were not crossed off and decide what can be done tomorrow to better accomplish the missions at hand. Create tomorrow’s to do list. Pray and thank God for today’s accomplishments.
6. Pain Coping (skills: pain coping, breathing, mindfulness, internal positive dialogue, embracing the suck)
I got this one from my wife’s birth training. Start by holding an ice cube in your hand for 60 seconds at a time. Then every week progress up 30 seconds. I’m now at three minutes. You wouldn’t think that holding ice sucks, but man, it hurts. While holding the ice, practice your other skills including breathing, visualization, positive internal dialogue, mindfulness and embracing the suck.
7. Read / Watch something motivational (skills: motivation)
I believe you can find a lot of strength in others. Identify people or stories that prove your goal can be accomplished. Concentrate every single day on those items so that you are auto-suggesting to yourself that the feat is possible. The body is nowhere near as weak as it feels.
Before GORUCK Tough events, I read a lot of Navy SEAL books and always watch Lone Survivor (make sure to read the book too as it goes into a lot more detail). If Marcus Luttrell can survive being shot up to hell in the Hindu Kush, I can get a damn railroad tie five miles. As stated above, when you think you’ve hit your maximum, you’ve only really reached 40% of your potential.
Currently I’m reading and watching a lot about D-Day because I’m preparing for the Normandy GORUCK. I watched Saving Private Ryan last weekend and am currently reading D-Day by Stephen Ambrose. How can I quit on a beach where thousands of Americans died? That’s motivation.
8. Read Stoicism (skills: mindfulness)
ESPN recently published an article entitled “How a book on stoicism became wildly popular at every level of the NFL” about Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle Is The Way. They explain why a book about Greek philosophy is being read, not just by football players, but by athletes across the country. They explain stoicism and sports much better than I can:
The answer, at its most basic level, is this: Athletes and the people who coach them may be unfamiliar with stoicism, but they are stoics. They endure pain or hardship without feeling or complaint. They control what they can control. They talk ad nauseam about controlling only what they can control. They’re on to Cincinnati. They stay in the moment, and take things one game at a time. And by doing that, they are voicing a philosophy—living a philosophy, training under a philosophy—without knowing of or understanding it.
“Stoicism as a philosophy is really about the mental game,” Holiday said. “It’s not a set of ethics or principles. It’s a collection of spiritual exercises designed to help people through the difficulty of life. To focus on managing emotion; specifically, non-helpful emotion.”
I’m currently reading Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic. Earlier I posted a quote by Emperor Marcus Aurielious – he was one of the most famous stoics.
9. Do Yoga (skills: mindfulness, breathing)
Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice or discipline which originated in India. You’re probably thinking of it as something women do on a mat because they don’t want to get dirty. But that’s not even close to true. Mark Divine says yoga is vital for durability, core development, balance and detoxifying. In the case of mental preparedness, it’s important for concentration development, tapping into your inner energy and practicing your breathing techniques.
Yoga is not currently in my routine but will be starting next week.
Where To Begin
Before you begin any of this, I want to encourage you to do the following:
1. Determine your purpose.
2. Determine your passion.
3. Determine your principles.
4. Determine your goals.
5. Break your goals down into micro goals.
6. Find a good book or something that will motivate you.
5. Download a meditation app.
6. Schedule your day to include all the techniques listed that you believe will be beneficial.
I will write more on 1 – 3 soon.