When it comes to accomplishing our goals, what has more influence – our minds or our bodies? History is littered with people of great might as well as great thinkers. Each has had its day of triumph. But when it comes down our personal lives, which determines the difference between success and failure?
Might vs. Will
This battle between will and might may rage onwards inside each one of us. But did you know that complete domination of one will instantly bring the two into harmony? But which one? I’d like to answer that with a little story about something here in the United States known as “Hell Week.”
And I’m talking about the real Hell Week, not some college fraternity hazing. Hell Week is the most notorious test of human endurance ever conjured up. It’s used to produce the elite warriors known as Navy SEALs. Technically, Hell Week is only one week of months and years of a grueling training program, although grueling isn’t strong enough a word. In fact, I don’t think my words can actually describe what these soldiers go through, but I will do my best.
Hell Week consists of 132 continuous hours of the most demanding physical endurance training you could imagine. Those left in the end truly don’t have the word quit in their vocabulary. Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell in his book Lone Survivor describes the experience in detail.
…they sent us down to the surf for flutter kicks, heads in the waves. Then more whistles, more crawling and back into the water…finally they called us out and the whistles blew again…crawling, itching and burning. Five guys quit instantly…They made us paddle hundreds of yards, dig and row, lift and carry, dump boat and right boat, swim the boat, walk the boat, run the boat, crawl, live, die (p. 134-135).”
Remember, 132 continuous hours of that. And that is just one brutal paragraph in two chapters on the SEAL experience training. Like I said, my words can’t even come close to the reality of their training, or the sacrifice of these men. I could probably run this blog on ideas from this book alone.
The Secrets to Triumph
There are some valuable lessons here. The lessons lie in the secret to surviving Hell Week. Listen to the advice given to these SEALs before the worst part of their training.
“…you are about to experience a very searching and painful test. Each one of you is going to find out what you are really made of. And every step of the way, you will be faced with a choice. Do I give in to the pain and the cold, or do I go on? It will always be up to you. There’s no quotas, no numbers. We don’t decide who passes. You do. But I’ll be there on Friday when Hell Week ends, and I hope to shake the hand of each and every one of you (p. 129)”
“First of all, I do not want you to give in to the pressure of the moment. Whenever you’re hurting bad, just hang in there. Finish the day. Then, if you’re still feeling bad, think about it long and hard before you decide to quit. Second, take it one day at a time. One evolution at a time…
“Don’t let your thoughts run away with you, don’t start planning to bail out because you’re worried about the future and how much you can take. Don’t look ahead to the pain. Just get through the day, and there’s a wonderful career ahead of you (p. 124).”
I quote these as if a simple speech could get you through Hell Week. I in no way intend to downplay what these men go through. But there are treasures that can help you in your own life when it comes to my original question – mind over matter?
The Rewards of Struggle
You’ll notice that none of these quotes talks about being the strongest, the fastest or the most able. Of course, it always helps if you are. But the true key to endurance and success lies in the mind. You mental attitude is what determines whether you succeed or fail. In fact, the entire purpose of Hell Week is to push you beyond the most extreme limits of your physical abilities in order to instill a confidence that absolutely nothing afterwards will be impossible.
This effect is further solidified in the words by one of their instructors during this week from hell.
…for the rest of your lives there will be setbacks. But they won’t affect you like they will affect other people. Because you have done something very few are ever called upon to achieve. This week will live with you for all of your lives. Not one of you will ever forget it. And it means one thing above all else. If you can take Hell Week and beat it, you can do any damn thing in the world (p. 147).
This is how we should approach challenges in our lives. Most of us will never face anything even close to the degree of Hell Week for the Navy SEALs, but we will have our own hell weeks throughout our lives. It is our mental attitude that will allow us to overcome all obstacles. When push comes to shove, the mind will always control the body. Never forget that your body can take much more punishment than you ever imagined. You’re not even close to running out of strength!
In closing, I’d like to share a video clip from the movie Facing the Giants. If you have subscribed to our 14 Days to a Better You e-mail course, you will recognize it. If you haven’t, I highly recommend it! You can sign up using the form in the top right of the page. Let these lessons sink deep into your hearts. I promise you that you’ll never face another challenge the same way again.
Please tell me about your “mind over matter” experiences in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.