In his book, Asken goes on to say that "Because the brain (and the mind) exists in the environment of the body, the quality of that environment is an essential factor in the quality of psychological function." In other words, you can maximize the use of your mind all you want, but if you're a couch potato, you're probably not going to do well in a stressful situation.
Working out, eating right, and getting enough sleep are critical factors toward developing your peak performance. Not that this is anything new, but it's advice we continue to ignore and pay the ultimate price for doing so. You can't afford to break the mind-body connection and expect your peak performance to be there when you need it the most.
It's not about training for the Olympics either. There are knuckle draggers that would have you believe if you’re not throwing up, you're not working out. And that couldn't be further from the truth. Though there are exceptions at every agency I've ever worked with, you can't expect a 55-year-old to train the same way a 25-year-old does.
To maintain a positive mind-body connection, your goal is to maximize your own conditioning, maintain a high number of abilities, and increase your tolerance for stress. True peak performance has never been about how much weight you can lift or how far you can run; it's been about operating optimally under long periods of intense stress. That’s the secret to surviving and winning.
I've seen this very principle at work on the Discovery Channel's TV shows "Out of the Wild: Venezuela" and "Out of the Wild: The Alaska Experiment." For each show they pick nine ordinary people, give them three days’ worth of survival training, and then ask them to survive in extreme conditions for almost 30 days while traveling upward of 70 miles. Usually by the third day, the combination of hiking, climbing, extreme climate, and lack of sleep and food are affecting everyone. You can see firsthand how both physical and psychological stress take their toll.
The point it brings home to me is that the people with the best attitudes and strongest survival mindsets are the ones that make it all the way through. It’s not always the biggest and strongest who make it, but those with the most heart; those who keep on going no matter what is thrown at them. It's a lesson you need to remember if you want to become a true warrior.
You've heard people say that if you can see it you can achieve it. Well, there's a reason for that. Mental imagery, or visualization, is one of the most powerful skills you can use to enhance mental toughness and performance. It’s not used as a substitute for hands on training, but to supplement it. Research has shown that if you prepare mentally and believe you can accomplish a task, you will increase your chances of success. If you allow negative thoughts and doubts to enter in, they will decrease your chances of success.
A simple form of imagery training goes something like this. You first think about the action you are about to practice. You go over it in your mind and imagine yourself doing the task while sitting or standing quietly. Next, you think about it again but you go through the motions almost in a pantomime fashion. You might have seen someone with his eyes closed talking to himself, moving around and pretending to perform a task. Although he may look like he's in a trance, he’s not crazy; it's just a form of cognitive rehearsal. The last part of this of course is actually practicing the task.
This type of training helps create a bridge between the psychological and physical aspects of what you are trying to accomplish. If you incorporate this into your training, new skills won’t seem so new when you try them for the first time. Mere repetition will not do the trick; you have to go beyond just going through the numbers. You have to want to be successful and you have to see yourself being successful as you perform each task. You need to have a single-minded focus.
Overcome and Win
Some of us are already warriors in one form or another. Being a warrior means throwing your heart and soul into something you believe in and never looking back. Having a warrior mindset means you won't quit. It encompasses the Spartan philosophy of bringing back your shield or being carried back on it.
Having a warrior mindset means doing whatever it takes to be prepared because warriors don't just survive, they overcome and win. At the end of the day, life is nothing but a mind game; it's important that you play to win. Your life depends on it.
Think Like a Warrior
- A warrior is one who is engaged aggressively or energetically in an activity, cause, or conflict.
- An attitude is how a person views something or tends to behave toward it.
- Mindset comes from employing a fixed mental attitude that predetermines your response to a given situation.
- The keys to a warrior mindset are preparing and believing.
- It's all a mind game; how you play is totally up to you.
Amaury Murgado is a special operations lieutenant with the Osceola County (Fla.) Sheriff's Office. He has 25 years of law enforcement experience, is a retired master sergeant from the Army Reserve, and has been a lifelong student of martial arts.
Leading Warriors and Covert Ops