david goggins

Become Mentally Fit, Not Mentally Strong

By Dave Nelson, Milestone Mind

As many of us read in several publications, there is a tremendous amount of emphasis on mental strength these days. There is no doubt this is a fascinating subject matter, and why it captures so many people's attention. 

If we are to look at this trend, however, what is it getting at for people? 

It's almost like we've decided to make mental strength the cause of success. But look at it more closely, and I thinks it's the cause of depletion and dissatisfaction as mainstream media has defined it. Let's explore this.

When you read the mainstream notion of mental strength, what comes to mind? 

For me when reading any mainstream articles or opinions on mental strength, it aims to set the bar on it and conjures up images of high octane, high adrenaline, no fear, no pain, and calling you to live your life in an almost a robotic way. It denotes you're not mentally strong - and hence will not be successful - unless you don't sleep, don't get up at 3a, don't workout 3-hours a day, only eat one meal, and then work 12-hours a day at your job; while completely disregarding your feelings, and to continue to move ahead despite them. Think about this for a second - this idea of mental strength and success sounds terrible. Why do we feed into this? Who decided this creates success?

It's like we've created a mental strength monster! 

Additionally, often these articles conjure up images of commandos, warriors, and the like, and aims to draw parallels to everyday life based on the themes used either in war or high-stress situations. These pieces often make the reader feel like if they're not living this life, they're on the outside looking in, and will never be successful. And let's get something straight: no matter how hard we try, the corporate world is not war - period. It is mostly people doing their best to provide for their families. I understand there are stock prices to hit, quotas to reach and profits to be made; however, it is not a matter of life and death, and quite frankly, drawing these parallels undermines the true nature of what these warriors endure in actual wartime situations. We need to stop drawing this parallel. The only thing becoming a matter of life and death through the use of this comparison - that we tend to draw between war and business - is creating an environment where people's physical, emotional and mental well-being are being abused, and that they are dying in the process - that's the only matter of life and death I am seeing.

Now, let me be clear - I have the utmost respect and admiration for commandos and warriors, and think of my life as a warrior's way of life, drawing inspiration from many of eastern warrior philosophies (see the book The Warrior Within as an accessible example). That said, I think the warrior's way of life has been distorted by mainstream opinion and popularity based on how many define mental strength and how we have used this definition as the cause of success (and let it be noted, the true warrior's way of life is a genderless approach to life - all can live this way).

The warrior's way of life is an approach to life and not necessarily a check list of things that makes one a warrior, or in the above example on mental strength, setting a standard so high that if you do not do live in a narrowly focused and brainwashed state at all times, you will never reach this standard and be successful. This notion of mental strength is dangerous.

We need to redefine success, and the cause of it, starting with the idea of mental strength. The 'mental strength' way of life could literally kill you because of the way it deprives one of human necessities - such as sleep, nutrition, love, relationships, personal interests, and hobbies, etc. - in this pursuit of ultimate mental strength, and thus success, as it has been defined by mainstream media.

It's time we defined success as being mentally fit first. This idea is a balanced approach that appreciates the polarities of life, and how each part of our lives - personal and professional - are of the utmost importance to live well. To be mentally fit, you have to honor the balance of life, and of self, and how one side of life compliments the other. Being mentally fit means living and doing the best you can in all areas of your life, not just one, and that through this, the other side of this area benefits - personal to professional and professional to personal. Most importantly, being the best you can be in all areas of your life does not mean you're always-on in every area - sometimes it means being off in them, giving them the rest they need, honoring rest as a cause of action, and vice versa. This means we need to re-engage with our feelings, and what our bodies are telling us in order to leverage this notion (power) of polarity - being mentally fit - and its offerings. I believe this can create not just professional success, but personal success, and I hope we can understand how one compliments the other, becoming healthier and more whole in the process. I'd put a healthy and whole 'mentally fit' workforce up against a 'mentally strong' workforce any day of the week.

Choose to be mentally fit, not mentally strong, and let's redefine this as the cause of success - before the latter truly becomes a matter of life and death.


Milestone Mind Personal Insights: Feelings and Processing

By Dave Nelson, Milestone Mind

As I've been deep into developing our programming further, it has become apparent to me that self-actualization is a sense, meaning that our highest selves want the feeling of freedom, self-expression, and individuation, but that certain things block this state from becoming a reality.

To help provide more clarity to this, I use the following comparative.

Tai Chi is a moving meditation where the belief is we all have a life force within each of us described as Chi. Tai Chi is an art form aimed at centering our being, allowing this life force to flow freely through us. Qi Gong is a healing art form that also starts with moving meditation, with its primary purpose of releasing old chi and allowing new chi to flow freely within, and then using this Chi/Qi to heal. Both art forms ask the participant to jump into this flow within themselves and to ride its beautiful current. 

What strikes me about Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and Self-Actualization, is they all require faith that what you are jumping into will carry you to freedom. Conversely, if you fight the current, its effects could be devastating and destructive - you lose balance, become anxious, frustrated, resentful and so forth. It is no different than white water rafting, where you are asked just to keep paddling with the current - this is where the ride is fun. It's not fun, and very short lived if you and your boat crew tried paddling against the current: you get swept up and crushed. Similarly, when the Alaskan Salmon swim upstream to lay their eggs, they arrive exhausted, only to find themselves trying to jump out of the water, and over waterfalls continuing upstream, only to be caught in an open grizzly's mouth. The list goes on. When you swim against the current, you become exhausted, frustrated, angry, and ultimately, you get crushed.

Life is no different. What informs us of our personal currents? Feelings do. Feelings are there for us to trust and to ride.
Now, somewhere along the way, after we decided to trust our currents, our feelings got hurt - some more severely than others. It's like you were paddling with your current, and out of nowhere a boulder pops up, and throws you and your boat crew flying, scrambling to get back on the boat. You're left treading water, but a feeling inside of you immediately says 'look for the the boat' knowing this vessel heading downstream is the safest place for you. Quickly trying to find the boat doesn't happen in real life, though, does it?  When we get knocked off in our everyday lives, instead of getting back on the boat, we swim against the current - against every feeling we're having, that says 'find that boat and get back on it.' 

Boulders in our emotional lives equal interior hurts and pains, but because we can't see them as we do physical objects, we can choose to pretend that they are not there - storing them away somewhere deep in our sub-conscious minds. We make believe that we're still paddling on the boat downstream when in actuality, the boat is nowhere in sight, and we are fighting the current. 

So now let's say that you've decided that you don't want to fight the current anymore and that you'd like to get back in the boat and go downstream, but this time, the boat seems stuck! You want to trust the current, but you just can't get the ship moving.

The following could be holding you back.

Let's pretend for a second that you're going downstream, and you hit a boulder, but decided not to accept that the rock knocked you off course, that there was nothing there, and you just wanted to keep moving (denial). So you get back into your boat, and the boulder now falls into your boat! Again, ignoring the boulder, the boat gets weighed down, and you begin to sink. You slowly drift down the river, and as you do, more and more stones fill your boat, but you are still not recognizing them and that they are slowing you down (indifferent and disassociated from reality). Soon enough, you've come to a complete stop, and still not accepting the reality of these boulders. The indifference has weighed you down so much, that you don't even know what feelings are anymore, and have no resources or creativity to get the boat moving again.

This story is how many of us are today - we want to trust the process, but goddammit, what is getting in the way?! Unprocessed hurts and pains; boulders. We block them out, to the point of indifference - as if nothing matters. We may not overtly describe this as ourselves, but reality could be painting a different picture. Yet, as you sit there in your weighed down boat, the current is still sweeping over the top of you, tugging at you to ride it - this is the equivalent of your determination, no matter how subdued it may have become, asking you not to give up, and to come up with a solution.

One solution is to stop pretending like your boulders aren't there but to recognize them, and throw them back in the water where they belong. 

One of the most powerful techniques in NLP and Analytical Psychology is recognizing all of your feelings, even the ones that hurt. Do you ever have that same event, person or place run through your head over and over and over again, like a movie went wrong? This is your subconscious mind asking you to process this memory, and move on; however, we don't always do that right? What usually happens is the memory comes up, we pretend like it's not there, which subconsciously we become angry, which then causes cortisol to flood our systems (resulting in lowered dopamine), causing us to become distant and not present, which brings on irritability, and so forth. THIS IS US FIGHTING OUR CURRENTS! Life is asking you to process and release. 

So, how do we process and release according to this school of thought, making your boat lighter and allowing you to ride the current freely? Doing just that: recognizing and releasing your boulders.

5-Minute Process and Release Technique (PLEASE NOTE: If there is a deep trauma, I recommend not doing this technique, and seeking a professional setting to help process the trauma):

In a quiet and safe place, start to bring these stressful thoughts or memories to your conscious mind. As they come to your conscious mind, don't judge or become angry at them, just recognize them. Your body may start to respond, but just be with the thoughts, do not become angry or react to them - just let your body respond. Don't push the thoughts away, or begin venting about them, just recognize them. Breathe deeply through this process, asking for healing in these areas, and just keep breathing and breathing, until, your body begins to relax. Once you feel like the thought has loosened its grips, and your body calms down, let the thought slowly drift away, becoming vague and not visible anymore - like a boulder falling to the bottom of a river. 

By doing this, you're allowing the conscious mind to process this memory, and then release it, striving to leave the body in a calm state - much different than the flight or fight state that the memory was causing when you were pretending like it wasn't there. You may have to repeat this technique over a few days (just once a day), but hopefully as the memory comes back, it should begin to quickly drift away, and your body should associate calmness and release when or if the memory comes back again. 

The hope is that if we can process hurts and pains, and then release them, that you can get back into your boat and ride your current, your life force, your chi, to self-actualization - freedom of your higher self.





Note: Milestone Mind is not classically trained in psychoanalysis, but is in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, and is 100% responsible for our interpretation of the above Jungian and Analytical Psychology technique, seeking not to preserve its traditions but rather striving to make this technique available to everyday people.