Physical Preparation and Mindset Development Require Patience

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First Phase Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALs candidates participate in log physical training at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, July 14, 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy M. Black)
First Phase Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALs candidates participate in log physical training at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, July 14, 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy M. Black)

Just looking at a motivational poster can't get you ready to challenge yourself and achieve a goal -- especially if that goal requires a rigorous process of preparation, learning, developing and growing. Many young people are overconfident in their abilities and actually underprepared for the challenges ahead of them.

When it comes to military service, your patience and ability to give yourself time to progress will be what determines your success in enduring basic training or special ops selection.

Though this poster was on my wall for years, it took more than looking at it every day to prepare for that goal.

You have to develop two things during your preparation phase: First, the physical abilities that will allow you to pass tests and give you the ability to do your job and, second, the mindset and mental toughness to push yourself when needed. These two things do not happen without patience and progress in your personal growth.

Here is what happens when one of the two requirements is underdeveloped:

You Have a Strong Mindset but Are Physically Underprepared

There are mentally strong and confident people who are just tough, both mentally and physically, and will never quit, no matter what. Maybe they were born with that never-quit attitude or maybe it was developed through a tough childhood or working manual labor jobs to help feed their family.

Life somehow made them tougher than the average person. There are many stories of these types of people going through training and never having a problem with the mental toughness challenges. They never once thought about quitting, but they physically broke or could not keep up with the physical standards as they failed tests or events.

Sometimes, these people are able to make it through training by sheer grit and meet the standards, even as they endure aches, pains and injuries that would sideline the average person. This is pretty rare.

The more common example is the most mentally tough people who break themselves as they fail to meet standards physically or with tactical skills and wash out of training. In tough military special ops programs, there are many people who quit, but most fail to meet the standards or get medically dropped.

You Are Physically Prepared but Have a Weak Mindset

There are also people on the opposite side of the spectrum who are very well prepared for training or special ops selection. Maybe their life was spent being a top-notch multi-sport athlete and they had a well-developed, progressive training program that helped them achieve above-average standards for both the PST and specific events of selection training. In other words, they prepared well physically to get both to and through training.

Even the best physical performers have issues. But when aches, pains or minor injuries occur, are they able to suck it up, play with pain and STILL meet the standards for training? Maybe they never failed anything in their life or have never received constant negative feedback from instructors.

This is a challenge to many high-performing athletes. Their overconfidence gets crushed quickly the moment their WHY gets tested. When they are cold, wet, sandy and sitting in dark, murky water after a long day of training, even the perfectly prepared will be tested here. Do you have a strong WHY you want to do this job? Do you have that mindset of you would rather die than quit on your teammates? Because this is the type of desire and mindset that has to be in place when you are alone with your thoughts when your WHY is tested.

And then there is the Physically Under-Prepared Person with a Weak Mindset: This one might not even make it TO the training and, if they actually get accepted into the training, they will quickly fail in the mass exodus of students in the first two weeks. Most people who fail special ops selections are in this group and should have taken more time to prepare.

Explaining Common Sayings About Patience

You have probably heard the saying that "patience is a virtue" all of your life. While it is true, patience does not mean waiting around for something to happen. The truth is that patience gives you time to take action.

Another common saying is, "Good things come to those who wait." While this may be true in some cases, good things come to those who bust their ass every day, building good habits, discipline and persistently getting better physically, mentally, morally or spiritually.

Patience allows for this growth to occur both mentally and physically. Having patience also shows maturity. Most people who fail lack the maturity that patience would give them.

Maturity helps you realize and assess your true weaknesses NOW versus discovering them when it is too late (typically during a test, under stress and the weight of your journey).

How Important Is Patience?

Patience allows you to develop resilience (the ability to handle stress better), durability, work capacity and discipline; it even builds mental toughness. You build all of these over time, and patience gives you the time to allow them to develop. You build all of these through the logical progressions that patience allows.

You also build a better foundation for growth. Upping your game to new levels will be required of you along your journey of challenging goals. In the end, patience allows for you to build confidence in your abilities through these stress inoculations of preparation. It will also keep your confidence in check by humbling you on occasion, as there will be failures and plateaus you have to move through.

In Conclusion: Patience Gives You Time

Time gives you the ability to progress. Progression with your training and education builds a smarter, tougher, more durable person who can actually have the tools to handle long stressful days and nights, whether it is rigorous academics or physical screening and selection programs in special ops units.

You cannot get good at all the elements of tactical fitness without patience. Strengthening your weaknesses through constant assessment, maintaining your strengths and learning new skills is the basis of becoming a tactical athlete in any military, police or fire fighting professions, and this process takes time. See diagram for more info on what you need to develop to high levels and how they all work together to make you a resilient person with a better chance at success.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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