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Hook & Barrel
A Lifestyle Magazine for Modern Outdoorsmen

navy seal wisdom

The Trident Mindset Walks Us Through How to Have Better Control Over Our Inner Lives

Imagine having a picnic with your family in a beautiful meadow alongside a basket of delicious bread, cheese, and wine.

It is possible to be in this setting and feel racked with stress, fear, and panic.

Perhaps you loathe public speaking and have to give a speech next week in front of your entire company. If you spend the picnic thinking about your speech – “I’m so screwed. Why are they making me do this? I’m going to embarrass myself in front of everyone.” – your brain will make you feel stressed and anxious even though you’re in an idyllic setting. 

Navy Seal Wisdom: Getting Through Stress & Anxiety

Conversely, if you spend the picnic thinking about how grateful you are to have the family you always dreamt of or of how wonderfully fluffy your dog is, your brain will produce neurotransmitters that make you feel filled to the brim with joy, gratitude, and peace.

This demonstrates the foundational principle of self-talk: Our emotions are created by our thoughts, not by our situations.

In the exact same situation, your thoughts can make you happy as a clam or paralyzed with stress.

Enter: Self-Talk

Self-talk is defined as the voluntary thoughts we think to ourselves. You can also think of your self-talk as your inner voice.

We have two types of thoughts: voluntary and involuntary. When you are meditating and think, “Would I rather reincarnate as an ostrich or an emu?”, that’s an involuntary thought. You didn’t try to think it. It just appeared. When you rehearse a presentation in your head, that is voluntary; it is self-talk. You are intentionally trying to think a specific word or series of words.

Self-talk consists of intentionally thinking (either once or over and over) a word or phrase that helps you keep your thoughts positive, so you can create a positive emotional state.

Getting Through ‘Hell Week’

Here’s an example of following Navy SEAL wisdom from our teammate, Joe, from SEAL training:

When I was in Hell Week, I found my mind being constantly bombarded with negative thoughts. “This is too hard. I can’t keep going on like this. How am I going to make it three more days.” These negative thoughts made me feel panicked and hopeless. I knew if I kept thinking these thoughts, I would be ringing the bell to quit in no time, so I just started repeating in my head: “A few days of pain for a lifetime of pride.” 

No matter what was going on around me, I just kept repeating those words.

Holding a plank: “A few days of pain for a lifetime of pride.”

Freezing in the ocean: “A few days of pain for a lifetime of pride.”

The instructor screaming at me: “A few days of pain for a lifetime of pride.”

Repeating This Thought Over & Over Caused Two Things to Happen:

1. My mind couldn’t think about how sorry I was feeling for myself or how daunting the week was because my mind was occupied with repeating my self-talk. Because the mind can only consciously focus on one thing at a time, focusing on my positive thought had the effect of crowding out all the negative ones. 

2. I felt my emotions and energy levels transform. Because my mind was focused on something positive and inspiring – having an entire lifetime filled with pride – my brain produced helpful neurotransmitters like dopamine, which made me feel more motivated, energized, and capable. The more I repeated the phrase, the better I felt.

This is a perfect example of self-talk. Joe’s involuntary thoughts were crushing him. Negative thoughts were leading to negative emotions (doubt, fear, anxiousness), which were leading to negative actions (poor performance and wanting to quit). So, Joe switched his thoughts off auto-pilot, took control of the steering, and used self-talk to intentionally and repeatedly think a positive thought, which led to positive emotions (motivation and focus) which led to positive actions (completing Hell Week).

Thoughts Determine Emotions

It is imperative to realize that your thoughts – the running dialogue in your head – determine the emotions you feel and the actions you take. Instead of mindlessly going through the day allowing your unexamined involuntary thoughts to dictate your emotional state, start paying attention to what your inner dialogue is saying.

When you notice your self-talk being negative, simply pick a motivating word or phrase to repeat until the challenge is over. This simple act of taking control of your thoughts – rather than letting them run on autopilot – can be all you need to transform fear into confidence, stress into calm, and restlessness into contentment. 


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