Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed

How to Set and Attain Your Goals

Mark Divine retired as a commander in the US Navy where he had served as a SEAL for 20 years. He holds an MBA from NYU and is the founder of SEALTFIT, NavySeals.com, and U.S. CrossFit. His latest book is The Way of the SEAL: Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed.

Mark, it’s great to have a chance to talk with you as everyone is thinking about New Year’s resolutions: how to make them, but more importantly, how to keep them. Your book is a blueprint for success and is packed with principles, ideas, methods, and specific actions all designed to change your life. We can’t cover even a fraction of them, but I want to ask you about just a few.

 

“The best leaders keep their minds positively focused.” –Mark Divine

 

Visualize Powerfully

Let’s start with visualization. You put it this way: “Visualize Powerfully.” How do you personally visualize your goals and your success?

I learned in the SEALs the importance of winning the mission (goal) in my mind before stepping off the ramp into the dark of the night.

What this means for me is a three step process:

Go after well defined targets

First, I ensure that the targets I go after are the right targets and are super well defined so I don’t waste valuable time and energy chasing impossible dreams or improbable projects. In the past I often had poorly defined new year goals that quickly fell by the wayside. That happened because they were the wrong targets, or poorly defined to begin with. I outline a powerful process for preventing this and selecting the right targets in my book.

Imagine what victory looks like

Second, I imagine what victory looks like for my target / goal. I see it as clearly and with as much detail as possible in my mind’s eye. In fact I have built an imaginary training space I call my ‘Mind Gym’ where I do this inner work. In the gym I see the outcomes of the goal, see myself achieving it and what my life is like after. I see myself as the type of person who CAN achieve the goal and possessing all the skills and knowledge necessary to crush it.

Review your goals daily

Third, I visit my mind gym daily to review the visualization while tackling the tasks and preliminary steps toward accomplishing the goal. This strengthens the image and eventually leads to greater confidence and certainty of mission success.

 

“Decisiveness is a must for anyone seeking to gain momentum toward their critical targets.” –Mark Divine

 

Breathe for Success

You talk about the importance of breathing in your book. Why is it so important and would you share one of your breathing exercises?

The Benefits of Deep Breathing

In a firefight or any intense situation, I learned to perform better by controlling my physiology and psychology. The key was learning how to breathe more powerfully. It is the first and most important of what I call the ‘big four of mental toughness’ skills. Deep diaphragmatic breathing, through the nose, brings two immediate and critical benefits for mission success:wayofseal_cov

First, It is a stress release mechanism because it stimulates the automatic nervous system’s calming function. We are riddled with stressors coming at us from all angles, many self-imposed, and this breathing technique slows down our heart rate, calms our body and allows us to get back in control of our physiology so we can direct it towards performance.

Second, it centers us by narrowing the range of our critical mind’s thought patterns. The concentration required to breathe deeply means you are now focusing on health and stress release. This triggers positive feelings and thoughts, and the mind slows down so we can direct it towards the important tasks leading to success.

The training technique is simple, called the ‘Three part breath.’ Begin by exhaling all the air from your lungs, then inhale deep into your belly . . . your belly will move out. When the lower part of your lungs are full (your belly is ‘full’), then activate your diaphragm to fill the middle of your lungs. When that is full, then use your upper chest to fill the top of the lungs. The exhale is then done in reverse order, and the whole breath cycle should be a five count inhale and five count exhale. Over time you will do this naturally and unconsciously in one step, versus three steps. It will help you stay positively focused on your important goals in 2014 AND have great benefit for your overall health and peace of mind.

Change Your Day With A Deep Breath

Photo by dfbphotos on flickr.

7 Benefits of Deep Breathing

 

We’ve all said it.  “Take a deep breath.”

When the kids come running in the door, breathing heavily and launching into a story a mile a minute.  “Take a deep breath.”

When someone is panicked and trying to tell you what happened, but she is obviously under duress.  “Relax.  Take a breath, then tell me.”

 

“When you own your own breath, nobody can steal your peace.” -Unknown

 

When he storms into your office with a voice just beneath a yell, red-faced and angry about something someone did.  “Before you tell me another word, take a deep breath.

But the real benefit comes from breathing before a crisis or stressful event.  A deep breath almost at any time can change your mood, improve your day and help you achieve more.  I don’t always remember to do it, but when I do, my day is more relaxed and I have a better and calmer presence.  As a singer, I know that I feel better after singing a difficult song.  The reason may very well be the forced deep breathing from the diaphragm.

Some of the benefits of practiced deep breathing:

Learning From Life’s Storms

Photo courtesy of istockphoto/sebastian-julian

Growth in Difficult Times

One Saturday in March we had the oddest weather in Nashville.  You’ll know exactly the type of day I am describing because we’ve all seen it.  One minute it’s a magnificent sunny day, then an approaching ominous cloud unleashes a downpour of rain.  Then, as fast as it comes, it disappears and the sun returns only to repeat the process over and over again.

I usually wish for that perfect, sunny day.  Most of us do.  We don’t like the bad weather, the dark clouds, lightning and thunder.

 

“Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.” -Epictetus

 

It’s like that in life, too.  I am always hoping for that perfect weather.  We don’t want to be sick.  We don’t want to have difficulties at work.  We pray for everything to be just perfect.

As I think about my career, my life and my experiences, I can honestly say that I’ve grown more in the difficult times.  When a storm is raging in my life, I am forced to a new place.  I have to change tactics, learn a new skill, and do something differently.

 

“Be still and know that I am God.” –Psalm 46:10

 

Lessons from Life’s Storms

Here are a few storms I’ve experienced: