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Mentally Tough

After reading about the Navy Seals in Newsweek a week ago, I learned a little bit more from the DVD released from the History Channel called the Brain. What was interesting was the segment about how the Navy was actually able to increase the pass rate of Navy Seals by employing some new mental toughness techniques. Prior to the new techniques the pass rate was 25%. After the change the pass rate climbed as high as 33%.

They found that in dealing with fear and stressful situations there are two important parts of the brain. The amigdala and the frontal lobes. The amigdala is the primal part that process information quickly and starts immediately getting other parts of the body involved. The frontal lobes involve higher reasoning, but take longer to use. Essentially, when seals in training are confronted with a situation in the first impulse is for the amigdala to take over, but in order to succeed they need to use the other parts of their brain to execute their given task.

They outlined 4 steps used to create mental toughness and help trainees succeed. I think you will find that you can use these same techniques to help you achieve other goals for yourself. Basically, what they found is that the brain is very complex and lots of different signals are traveling all over the place. By using these techniques the recruits were better able to accomplish their goals.

1. Have a clear goal – It seems kind of obvious, but what the more successful trainees did was take it a step further and break down their large picture goals into very small and specific goals. For example, one former seal talked about his goal in the morning was to make it to breakfast and then his goal was to make it to lunch.

2. Mental Rehearsal – The candidates were instructed to rehearse in their minds the steps they needed to take over and over again.

3. Self Talk – I’ve never recorded this for myself, but apparently you can say like 300+ words a minute to yourself. This has a profound impact on your minds ability to reason and solve problems.

4. Mood regulation – This is the ability to quiet some of those hormones and other chemicals that start to go running around. They found one of the best techniques was to use controlled breathing. Slowly exhaling could help reverse these trends.

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