How Does Your Mindset Compare to the Special Operations Community?
What is mindset? Webster’s dictionary defines mindset as, “A habitual or characteristic mental attitude that determines how you will interpret and respond to situations.” Arguably, mindset has different applications and meanings for everyone. For the reader, you should consider a variety of mindset concepts that meet your individual needs although Webster’s concept is a great start.
For many, the military and the Special Operation Force (SOF) community is something to be venerated as the model of what a conceptual warrior is. Uniformly, it is one who is physically and mentally prepared to meet the most difficult challenges. The question I pose to you is, how does your mindset measure up against those in the SOF community? No, really…do you think you have what it takes to be a Warrior?
Achieving the mindset of America’s elite warriors is certainly something to aspire to and improving your mindset in any way that mimics these warriors is a worthy undertaking. Simply contemplating the idea that you too could possess a similar warrior mindset is a step in the right direction. Aside from being revered as demi-gods in some circles, the SOF community is set apart by their contagious sense of confidence and their ‘winning’ demeanor, AKA, your typical Alpha Male. Although similar levels of confidence are found in other organizations, as in professional and collegiate sports, it is understood that the athletes’ mindset correlate to the sporting arena and are not equivalent life and death challenges, which Special Operators face. Unless of course, you consider hotly contested collegiate football games… those can be brutal.
The intention of this brief article is to prime your internal mindset pump and perhaps initiate a rebirth. Directing you to utilize some of the same methods used throughout the military. Returning back to the SOF community, the next question I pose is, from where is their confidence is derived? Are they born with it or is it developed? I would offer that for the majority of the men, their confidence arrives through knowing a simple fact; no matter with what they are faced, they can react successfully to any situation and win, even against the odds. This may be something you have previously read about and described as fighting mindset, or something along the lines of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Further, the SOF members stand secure knowing that the men in their units are of the same mindset, they have surrounded themselves with fellow elite warriors, which provides a collected boost of power. No matter whether it is a surprise ambush, a night combat equipment jump that goes horribly wrong, a natural or a manmade disaster, or even a personal tragedy, such men are able to revert to the understanding that they are prepared for anything and can persevere through any challenge the meet.
So how do you think you compare to this type of positive, winning mindset? More importantly, how can you achieve a higher mindset that best serves your needs and challenges? It starts with a personal assessment, if you are honest in your personal assessment you will realize there is room for improvement. Since you have taken the time to read this article it is assumed you care about being the best you can be and accept fully there is always room for improvement. The good news for you is that simple steps and commitment can assist you to improve your mindset. First, know there is no magic formula to obtain a winning mindset; in fact, some will discover existing cognitive learning scars that are common will present additional challenges. Your life experiences, how you were raised form the present-day you; what you went through in your life is embedded in your cognitive memory. Did five-year old you venture out until dusk, eating mud pies, scabbing up your knees, jumping off heights no five-year old should tackle, or did you hunker down with an electronic gaming device? Understanding and accepting this and your limitations is the first step to recognize where you are; this is important. Anytime I teach I use the philosophy of starting where my client is to eventually build from that point. Understanding your own starting point is critical to success, only then you can introduce positive practice.
Three Simple Methods to Improve your Mindset
The three areas that we will discuss to develop and improve your mindset are:
Cognitive is how and what you have learned to this point in your life. This is important, as there are likely learning scars that you will need to unpack and correct. Remember we are starting at the point of where you are now. An example is this, if you never participated in organized team sports and upon arriving at college you smugly say to yourself, “How hard can it be to join the football team?” Without the previous cognitive learning, plus all the obvious skills it takes to play college football your idea is likely not going to go well, as in, you will get your backside spanked…hard. As we think in today’s environment, the mindset you need to get through highly stressful events is not something to be taken lightly. You must prepare yourself for this and if you have never been stressed or placed in a difficult situation, you will not rise to the occasion but instead sink to the lowest level of your cognitive past. You should not expect to perform well; thus, the need to start where you are to build from there.
Motivation is the key factor to success and if you are not motivated to improve and make the needed change, I would ask you to stop reading now. Really, just stop. But, if you’re still here, you must be motivated to learn and to improve. Motivation is critical in several areas: one, it will allow you to understand your positive and negative cognitive factors. Understanding this allows us through motivation to adjust behavior and present positive outcomes in a process called the “metacognitive phase,” or the relearning phase.
Behavior is your rebirth and can only be modified after motivation is established. It is how you change your direction toward a positive winning mindset. Chew on this for a moment, imagine you have never learned to swim. (I see this often and it amazes me there are adults who have never learned to swim). I know you can swim; however, for this scenario lets assume you have never been taught nor sought to learn how to swim. I was a safety swimmer for an assessment, a man weighted down with combat equipment jump off the 5-meter platform into 5-meter deep water knowing full well he could not swim. Needless to say, this is not the correct mindset we are looking for. Although this young man was certainly not short of cojones, he did lack the proper mindset and cognitive understanding that he would not survive that situation. He set himself up for failure, which he achieved very quickly as I rescued him. He failed because he did not understand these three simple factors: 1) he did not know how to swim; 2) he was not motivated to learn to swim prior to volunteering to this special unit assessment; and 3) his behavior was not altered to allow him to succeed in this task. He knew the standards way before hand, yet he did nothing to alter his behavior, dumb ass.
Think about the factors required to learn how to swim. The first steps involves the cognitive stage, you have never learned to swim and you need someone to teach you. Next, you need the motivation to swim, so you understand where your starting point is and know you need to take action. Further, you need to prepare yourself mentally as you will be way outside your comfort zone as you enter the water. Finally, you adjust your behavior and practice the required skills to survive in the water. Whether you are learning basic skills to keep you alive in the water, or want to train to be competitive, you have to behave in a way to achieve that goal.
In conclusion, I want you to think about something you are not good at, think of something that is a task or tool you need to protect yourself or your family. Driving, cardio, swimming, shooting, or whatever you come up with. Let’s examine shooting and consider you have a concealed carry permit and always take your weapon with you in public places. However, you never train with that weapon and have not shot it since you received your permit eons ago. You are just as irresponsible as the dumb ass that jumped off the training platform knowing full well the consequences, I assure you that you will not rise to the occasion, instead you will sink, just as that dumb ass did. I you do not possess the mindset to carry that weapon. Frankly, you should not carry that weapon, as you are not prepared for the immense responsibility that comes with using such a weapon. You require motivation and behavior change to be able to get back into the correct mindset required.
In future articles, I will discuss more about mindset and I encourage you to remain cognizant of the simple concept of knowing your starting point and know it is okay to seek help. Too often instructors and articles talk about mindset without explaining how to get there. Go into everything you do with motivation knowing there will be behavior change and new learning required. Exploit the strong cognitive skills you have developed and recognize the weaker ones. Be that guy or gal with a winning mindset.