Could you think positive thoughts if you were running out of oxygen and drowning?
Navy SEALs learn how to do it in training. Olympian athletes are also able to maintain iron willpower and focus on the positive when they are running miles on end or (literally) leaping over hurdles.
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No matter how hectic life gets, you can have the same mentality. Even though your challenges are different from surviving a combat zone or becoming the fastest runner on earth, these two groups have some secrets that can apply to anyone's life.
I won't keep you in suspense, here are some of their secrets to becoming mentally tough that you can start using to take on anything:
A common quote from SEAL training reminds us, "It pays to be a winner."
And studies estimate that we say 300 to 1,000 words to ourselves every single minute. That's why none other than the U.S. Navy SEALs swear by positive self-talk as a way to take on a strenuous day.
When their oxygen flow is suddenly cut off underwater, SEALs are able to tough it out by telling themselves that everything is fine and thinking positively. So you can probably also use this tip to get through a day at the office.
To start, tell yourself how great your day is going to be as you're riding the subway or driving down the freeway. If you start encountering a rough morning, go outside for a few minutes and repeat some more positive affirmations to yourself.
David Goggins, besides being a Navy SEAL Veteran, is currently the World Record holder for most pull-ups done in 24-hours (4,025), a fifth place finisher in the Badwater 135 (a 135-mile race in Death Valley), and an Ironman triathlete. His secret to achieving the "impossible" is that:
"When your mind is telling you you're done, you're really only 40 percent done."
This is more than just a motivational statement: science backs up that we're often more physically and mentally capable than we believe. For instance, researchers found that subjects who were given a placebo but told it was caffeine were able to lift significantly more weight than those who were really given caffeine.
It's the same reason athletes are able to complete a marathon after hitting "the wall" at 16 or so miles (when it feels like their legs are about to turn into jelly): they push just a little harder, and then they find out they're capable of much more.
Of course, we all have limits. But when your mind is telling you "no", try to stay mentally tough for just a few more minutes. Once you start, you'll realize that everything in life seems impossible, until it isn't.
Mark Spitz, a USA Olympic gold medalist in swimming, said, "I'm trying to do the best I can. I'm not concerned with tomorrow, but with what goes on today."
Sometimes it's difficult to focus on the big picture, like completing SEALs training or making it to the Olympics. So instead, these competitors set daily goals. They select one or two things that they want to accomplish that day to bring them one step closer to their ultimate milestone.
You can follow the same idea in your own business and stay mentally tough by writing down small goals each and every day. A study from Harvard showed that people who have goals are ten times as successful as those without goals, and those who write them down are three times as likely to reach them as those who don't.
For some, it may simply to get one new client or to make it through the day with no customer complaints. You can celebrate these small successes along the way to your larger goal. And if you fail (which will happens to even the best of us at some points), you start all over with a new goal the next day.
Champion U.S. Olympians use visualization as an effective way to stay tough when they're running a marathon or endlessly swimming. But not in the way you'd think.
Studies actually indicate that merely visualizing yourself at the proverbial finish line is ineffective, and can actually detract from your willpower.
So rather than just picturing themselves at the (literal) finish line, champion Olympians visualize themselves going through the motions of the race. It's a scientifically proven way to boost your mental willpower — whether you're jumping over a hurdle or filing paperwork.
By visualizing how you'll get through a task or challenge, you'll not only give yourself the self-confidence to do it, you'll also come up with unexpected solutions along the way.
Brent Gleson, Navy SEAL veteran and motivational speaker, once wisely said:
"When setting goals and pursuing success, you must sometimes lead and get others to paddle with you. You can't do it all alone. The minute you realize that you don't know everything and need help along the way, the better off you will be."
It's a misconception that mentally tough people go at it alone. It takes a strong person to ask for help. Many of us either have no idea that we could benefit from help, or are too afraid to come forward because we assume this is seen as weakness, or a lack of intelligence.
The one piece of advice you need to hear as a current, or future, successful business entrepreneur is that it is absolutely acceptable, and sometimes necessary, to seek help.
So don't be afraid to reach out to a friend or seek out a mentor. Speaking as someone who has greatly benefited (and still benefits!) from mentorship, being in a position now to give back to a new generation is very rewarding, and others will gladly help you with open arms.
If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur or business leader, learn to channel your inner Navy SEAL or Olympian. By learning how to develop a tough and resilient mental attitude, you'll set yourself up to follow their path to success.
Elle Kaplan is the Founder and CEO of LexION Capital, a fiduciary wealth management firm in New York City serving high-net-worth individuals. She is also the Chief Investment Officer and Founder of LexION Alpha.
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