February 15, 2020
Over the course of the past few years I’ve learned a fair bit about building and teaching candidates to succeed in elite military training. After working with so many candidates, I recently came to a huge breaking point in my understanding about what it takes to succeed. This real key to become a successful candidate has a few elements, so I’m going to break them down individually over the course of the next few blog posts and today were going to talk a little bit about habits.
Developing a good habit or dissolving a bad one takes 60-90 days. I find that I take about 90 days to really solidify my habits, for the sake of this article we will keep it at 90. If you’re not ready to build a habit or don’t have the mindset to wait 90 days while a habit is being developed than you’re going to struggle developing the fitness and mental fortitude, you’ll need to get through your training. This initial period of developing a new habit takes discipline. This is something I learned a great deal about habit building while I was in the Coast Guard. One of the really interesting things I noticed was the large amount of ship mates who were able to get up early, go to the gym, execute their job at a high level for a long period of time. I was under the impression that the military instilled these traits in members. Once these traits were ingrained in an individual, they would never go away and carry over into their post military lives.
What I found was the opposite. Over time, I saw some of these members leave the service and eventually they would begin to lose some of that discipline that was instilled in them while in the military. I thought that each of these individuals were disciplined. That they all possessed these particular sets of traits that would seamlessly carry over into a disciplined civilian life. What I realized was it isn’t the military that breeds discipline in each member. It is the structure of the military that creates the perception of discipline. In boot camp, you learn how to make your bed, organize your things and how to clean and prepare your uniform. Because these exercises are required, the structure for discipline is instilled in each person. But what is really happening is the formation of habits! Even an undisciplined person required to perform a task day after day throughout the course of bootcamp is going to develop habits around these tasks. Even habits go away over time, if one doesn’t lend themselves to an environment conducive to maintaining them. So, here’s the trick…
- If you’re not growing you're dying. You need to create an environment around your life that allow you to improve your mental and physical fitness to the highest degree possible. This is the mindset you need to develop. Everything you do needs to lend itself to reaching your goal.
- What are the habits inside of that environment? The majority of anything you do is habit based. What do you do when you get up? What do you do next? What is your goal for the day? If you want to develop a specific habit, what is that habit? And what do you need to do now to develop it! Sometimes you can cheat a bit to get a habit started. When I was a non-rate in the Coast Guard prepping for A-school. I had to drive 40-50 minutes every couple of days to swim in an adequate pool. This was always after a long 2-3-day shift on duty at my small boat station. The last thing I wanted to do after working 2-3 days straight was drive an hour to the pool to work out for 2-3 hours. I told myself, if I went, I could get lunch at my favorite fish sandwich place in the area. The first few times I took advantage of this cheat, but after a couple weeks, I didn’t need to talk myself into going to the pool. I just did it. And I didn’t even need get lunch after! This was only with the conscious effort of forming a habit and adding an incentive to get me going.