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Hook & Barrel
A Lifestyle Magazine for Modern Outdoorsmen

navy seals mindset, wisdom visualization

The Trident Mindset brings Hook & Barrel a lesson in the business of being a better human. Read on for their wisdom visualization.

Sun Tzu, one of history’s greatest strategists and the author of The Art of War, said:

“Every battle is won before it is ever fought. Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”

Sun Tzu was referring to the importance of preparation. The way you win the battle before you fight it is by preparing so rigorously that defeat is not an option. Visualization is the way we [Navy Seals] did this in our careers.

A Wisdom Visualization from Navy SEALs

A Hypothetical Scenario

wisdom visualization
“The Art of War” – Sun Tzu

Let’s say (hypothetically, of course) you’re breaking into a terrorist financier’s home to plant a bug while he’s away. Before doing such a thing, you would spend hours visualizing precisely what you’ll do in each possible scenario you could encounter. 

What if he comes home early? Will the neighbor call the police because they saw someone enter? What if there is an alarm system you didn’t know about? Could there be an angry dog? What if there’s a maid? What if the home is booby-trapped? Could the home be rearranged, and you can’t place the bug where you planned to?

The Challenge

For each challenge that could occur, you would visualize the scenario in as much detail as possible and then visualize what you would do in response to overcome the challenge (Note: to “visualize” simply means to create a vivid mental picture—like a daydream). 

For example, if he comes home early:

  • Which window or door would you sneak out of?
  • If escaping out the back garden, how does the back garden gate open? Does it swing in or out? How does the latch work? 
  • Once out of the garden on the street, where are the security cameras? Which route do you need to take to avoid them?

How well you respond to situations is directly related to how prepared you are for them. 

If it never occurred to you there might be a guard inside, you will be shocked, stressed, and panicked when you encounter him. And when you’re shocked, stressed, and panicked, you make very poor decisions. Making poor decisions is not acceptable in these types of operations, so you need to prepare. And prepare. And prepare. 

You need to win first and then go to war—rather than going to war and just hoping things work out.

What Could Go Wrong?

Michael Phelps, the greatest swimmer of all time, did the same thing. Before each race, he would visualize everything that could go wrong during the race:

  • His goggles breaking
  • An old injury flaring up
  • A poor start
  • Being behind late in the race

Then Phelps would visualize himself responding perfectly to each scenario. When these challenges inevitably did arise (for example, his goggles snapped during an Olympic qualifying race), he wasn’t shocked and panicked because things didn’t go according to plan. He had already mentally prepared for this happening by repeatedly imagining dealing with and overcoming the challenge. So, when adversity struck, Phelps simply did what he had rehearsed and executed the solution.

Application of the Principles of Wisdom Visualization

It’s the same thing in life. If you do hard things, you will constantly face challenges and obstacles.  No plan survives first contact. Things always go wrong. 

Despite the ubiquity of this adversity, we often naively expect everything will go according to our plan. Then, when life inevitably doesn’t cooperate, we get stressed, frustrated, and unhappy. It is the unexpected nature of the challenge that makes it so deleterious to our mental health and performance.

The solution is visualization. When you’re pursuing a meaningful, challenging goal, rigorously prepare for it by:

  1. Imagining all the challenges that could occur
  2. Determining a solution for each challenge
  3. Visualizing yourself executing the solution to each challenge

This way, when you encounter a challenge while pitching a new client, negotiating a deal, going out in the field, giving a speech, having a tough conversation with your child, or competing in a race, it won’t be the first time you’ve dealt with this challenge. You’ve already considered, planned for, and defeated the challenge dozens of times in your mind. 

As a result, you won’t have to stress, panic, or wonder what to do. You’ll simply execute the plan you’ve already mentally made and rehearsed in advance.

Win first. Then go to war.

Onward.


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