People always ask David Goggins: how did you get so tough? He is the only person to have completed Navy SEAL training (including two Hell Weeks), Air Force tactical air controller training, and U.S. Army Ranger School. Now that he has retired from his military career, he’s an ultra-endurance athlete, committing feats of physical and mental resilience like the Badwater 135, which requires participants to run 135 miles in 24 hours in the peak heat of Death Valley. Not that he was always a super soldier: Goggins once weighed 300lbs and was by his own admission lazy and undisciplined. Here, Goggins explains how he transformed himself and won the war in his mind—from positive self-talk and building a ‘cookie jar’ of resilience, to the 40% rule, here’s how you can learn to push past your own mind games. You can follow David on Twitter and Instagram @davidgoggins and Facebook.
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Transcript: So I’m all about acknowledging your shortcomings in life. A lot of people talk about “triple down on your strengths. Triple down on your strengths and don’t worry about your shortcomings.” That’s a whole new thing I’m hearing right now. Maybe it’s not new, but it’s new to me because I’m not out there really listening to all this stuff. That’s the quickest way to never grow. To never grow. If you sit there and have that mentality of “triple down on what you’re good at” you’re never going to grow. You’re always going to stay the same.
Either you’re getting better or you’re getting worse. So one thing that helped me out a lot when I was growing up was people always ask me: how do you build mental toughness? Mental toughness—a lot of people have these classes out here. A class on mental toughness. Positive thinking. Visualization. All these different techniques.
Mental toughness is a lifestyle. It’s something that you live every single day of your life. When I was growing up I was a lazy kid. I was a lazy kid, and everybody goes, “How did you get to where you’re at today? How did you get to where you’re running 200 miles at one time in 39 hours? Being so disciplined?”
It started off, honestly, with recognizing that my bedroom was dirty. My bed wasn’t made. I lived a sloppy life. So I took very small increments in my life. I started making my bed. I started cleaning my room. There were dishes in the sink. It started off with doing small house chores. I saw that the yard needed to be mowed. So instead of being told it needed to be mowed, I would mow it.
I started doing things, coming outside of my lazy ways to become better. And for a period of time your brain doesn’t like it, but it starts to realize: this is a new way of thinking. We are now doing things that we are uncomfortable doing. We are doing things that we don’t want to do. So the brain starts to slowly grow.
And let’s say you don’t like to get up early in the morning to go run. I hated it. I still hate it. You do that. You live uncomfortably to gain growth.
You have to have friction in your life to gain growth. And the only way to do that is to make yourself uncomfortable. And get to the point where instead of running from the things you don’t want to do, you actually face them and start to gain more and more growth in your life. So that’s how I approach all those things.
Self-talk, for me, has been the biggest thing in my life. A lot of us have a dialogue that is crap. It’s a crappy dialogue. We live in a world right now that is very external. Everything is very on the surface. Superficial. Everything. And what we’re telling ourselves is what we see on TV. It’s what we see on Instagram. It’s what we see on Facebook. And we’re telling ourselves stuff that doesn’t really penetrate to our core, to the inside of our soul. So our self-talk is like: “What am I going to wear today? How am I going to look today? I need to act this way today because this way is cool.”
My self-talk became something that actually made me better. And I had a whole bunch of negative things in my life. And to get to the self-talk portion of it first, you have to quiet all of the phones and social media and all the negativity of the world to get to even hear your own self have a self-talk.
You can’t have self-talk if you’re hearing someone else’s dialogue and what they’re putting out on social media. How they want you to act. How they want you to dress. How they want you to talk. Everything out there is you trying to keep up with somebody. You’re not trying to find your own self.