Stronger Than You Think

The SEALs use 4 important principles we must enact each day to improve our mental toughness.

“I have never accepted what many people have kindly said, namely that I have inspired the nation. It was the nation and the race dwelling all around the globe that had the lion heart. I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar.”

— Winston Churchill

From 1940 well into 1941, the German Luftwaffe planes unleashed a fierce bombing campaign on Great Britain, targeting cities and other industrial hotspots. Residents scattered for shelter when they heard loud bomber sirens signaling an attack. When the air attacks did not force a surrender, the head of the Luftwaffe, Hermann Goring, summoned his top fighter pilot, Adolf Galland, to a meeting at his hunting lodge in East Prussia. 

At this meeting, Goring quizzed Galland on why the British hadn’t waved the white flag. Goring wanted to know how the Brits could continue to take this relentless assault every day. He blamed Gallard for not hitting the right targets, for not delivering the knock-out punch that would allow the Germans to win the war. He tried to convince Goring that the British fighters were excellent pilots who were never going to roll over and lay down. England was fighting for something bigger than itself — demonstrating that the country could overcome any major or minor setbacks.

But Goring thought otherwise. He felt more bombing would destroy its will. No human could ever endure this many setbacks, he thought. So, he ordered more attacks.  For 57 days, London was bombed at all hours — the worst of which occurred Sept. 15, tearing the city apart. But it did not break its people.    

Goring was dead wrong. England's resolve, in fact, caused a sense of panic through Berlin and the rest of Germany. Now, instead of having an easy fight in Britain as they prepared to fight on the Russian front, the Germans realized that they would need to fight for another long cold winter without a victory in sight. Germany may have been winning the war in September of 1940, but they were never in control of the outcome. 

The British, for love of country, practiced mental toughness. They behaved as if the Navy SEALs were teaching them how to be mentally tough. The SEALs use 4 important principles we must enact each day to improve our mental toughness:

  1. Eat the Elephant — one bite at a time.  The SEALs want us to take it one day at a time, make slight progress and come back tomorrow for more with the same resolve, the same passion, just as the RAF bombers did every day when facing the entire German Luftwaffe.

  2. Think Positive Thoughts. Yes, it’s going to be hard to get back on our feet. Yes, it was hard hearing those bombs ramshackle London. But the Brits stayed positive in their self-talk. Forget the odds, tell yourself you can.

  3. 4X4X4 Be under control.  The SEALs will breathe in for four seconds, out for four and then repeat for four minutes. Be patient, under control, and never allow yourself to succumb to being overly emotional. 

  4. Find your Tribemate. In his book, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, the author Sebastian Junger writes: “Humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary. It’s time for that to end.”

The point of the story is we may all be faced with tough times, tough situations, (clearly not as tough as being bombed day and night); yet, we can never give in to the difficult circumstances, we can never give into the path of least resistance. What looks lost might just be a temporary setback. 

We are much stronger today than yesterday. 


P.S. If you are in search of a book recommendation, our team at The Daily Coach highly recommends Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. Required reading for many of the most successful organizations, it has become an integral part of the official leadership training programs for scores of business teams, military units, and first responders. Detailing the mindset and principles that enable SEAL units to accomplish the most difficult combat missions, Extreme Ownership demonstrates how to apply them to any team or organization, in any leadership environment. 


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