The survival feats of Navy SEALs boggle the mind.. Their superman-like strength and skills rival Spielberg’s million-dollar movies. Their training has been the subject of journalism reports and shows on the Discovery channel. One common thing in both fictional and true-to-life survival is how Navy SEALs use mental strength to overcome the direst condition– or what we call the survival mindset.
The Navy SEAL is an elite force trained to survive just about anything. They are a great example of a survivor. They go through hellish training to get the honor of calling themselves “SEAL.” Not everyone is SEAL material, not all can pass and finish the SEAL training. We cannot all be SEALs but we can look into their mindset and learn some survival hacks
Mind over matter does exist. Our brains are very powerful. They dictate how we feel and how we react. Groups of people are trained to control their minds to will their bodies to follow. To explore this further, let us look at monks and Navy SEALs.
What do monks and Navy SEALs have in common? They are both masters of their mind. The two have opposite ways of training in survival psychology– their will to live. Monks are known to deprive themselves of common human comfort. Monks use meditation to hone their minds. Monks appear docile and delicate to the common public. They are known as masters of the mind. They are able to will their body into submission. Monks can force their body to survive by calming their primal urges and focusing their minds. On the other hand, the men of Navy SEAL who is a strikingly alter-ego of the delicate monk has mastered a similar hypnotic state that defies the laws of pain and physical limits.
The Navy SEALs mindset for survival is cultivated in an entirely different manner. Unlike the peaceful state of euphoria for monks, a SEAL endure repeated torturous attacks designed to drain their physical and mental endurance. It pits the SEAL against themselves and survival the same. Survivalists can learn from both Monks and SEALs about how to have a survival mindset.
As one ex Navy SEAL member, Cade Courtley, maintained “Survival is all about preparation. You start in your mind, start getting mentally tougher. You start rehearsing mentally situations you might find yourself in, so that when you find yourself in that situation, you’re able to deal with it. You’re able to think through it, act appropriately and do it. And that’s exactly what we did in the SEAL teams.” So let’s prepare, gather our survival hacks, let’s start the mind games.
SEAL team training is more than just a common technical survival training. Several accounts on how this training is carried out are available in the internet. Of course, what we can get from the internet and in films speaks volumes on how hard a Navy SEAL trains but it does not decrease the impact it has on us. Everybody has high regards for anyone who has overcome extreme situations as a human.
The training of a SEAL starts off with a PFT – a physical fitness test. If you pass, then a series of trainings aimed to exhaust your mental and physical resolve will follow.
SEAL stands for Sea, Air and Land, thus the next phase of trainings equips the trainees to navigate and survive the most extreme conditions for all forms of sea, air, and land combat.
One of the much-discussed SEAL training is the BUDS (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training), in this training, a SEAL is trained to defeat the common fear of drowning. The important thing to note in this training is the manner they conduct it. This training is composed of extreme dousing of water, combat diving where a trainee is faced with distress situations underwater to trigger survival mental conditioning, and long-distance underwater transit dives.
Aside from these, there is also a land combat and warfare called SERE training (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape). SEAL trainees are deployed to complete a hostile mission based on real life events. Noting the nature of this training, if a SEAL is captured, they will face physical and mental torture and that may happen them in a real mission.
Discovery channel made a reality feature show with Joel Lambert, an ex-Navy SEAL. He has to outsmart, outwit, and outrun the Special Forces from different countries, braving unknown terrains and factors to win against his hunters. While he was able to escape and evade his pursuers in most of the episodes, he has some pretty close calls as well. This may just be a small production but it shows how hard SERE training can be.
After the BUDS and SERE training, there can be advanced training. Training described as “includes foreign language training, SEAL tactical communications training, Sniper, Military Freefall Parachuting, Jump Master, Explosive Breacher, and much more”
“Hell Week consists of 5 1/2 days of cold, wet, brutally difficult operational training on fewer than four hours of sleep. Hell Week tests physical endurance, mental toughness, pain and cold tolerance, teamwork, attitude, and your ability to perform work under high physical and mental stress, and sleep deprivation. Above all, it tests determination and desire… “
“Over the years, research has been done to determine a common trait in those individuals who make it through Hell Week, without definitive answer. They are not necessarily the largest or strongest men, nor the fastest swimmers, but those with burning desire to be SEALs.” – NavySeals.com
Just reading through this can conjure up the most brutal images beyond normal thoughts. A SEAL is subjected to extreme conditions to see how far they can go, how hard they want the honor, how they are as SEALs.
Cade maintained that “There’s no need to be taken by surprise. No need to be a target. We can fight back. We can protect ourselves. We can beat the odds. If you start thinking and acting like a Navy SEAL, and you can survive anything”
In this statement, he confirmed that a navy SEAL’s mindset is such an effective instrument in survival. An ordinary person has some kind of preparedness for his worst case scenario. A bug out bag, provisions for a period of time, and other clever survival hacks, add some learning about the survival mindset of a SEAL can greatly boost the chances of survival.
Mind hack #1 : Mental Conditioning : visualization
The most powerful weapon is our mind. The brain is the control center of the human body and anatomy has given the brain the best placement possible, being on top and protected by our skull. In mental conditioning, SEALs are trained to create an image of what may transpire in any plight. In doing so, they are able to condition their mind and foresee what happens next. Since they are able to create mental images of the possible scenario, SEALs are given the time to mentally prepare their own reaction as well.
These mental conditioning exercises are also a SEAL’s own clever survival hack. In this state, a SEAL is able to assume what happens next. They can choose their own reaction to a mental situation. Given the luxury of time, SEALs can have multiple plots. In each one, they can direct the next scenario with their reaction thereby controlling the turn of events to suit their intended goals.
During training, Navy SEALs undergo emergency conditioning. In this survival mindset, they have very little to nil time to create full mental plots and prepare their possible reactions. In response, a Navy SEAL’s mindset divides goals into parts. This technique eases the pressure on the brain by choosing the most important stimulus to attend to. The SEAL is able to focus on reaching one goal and then another until all goals are checked
This visualization technique is one of the best hacks we can copy. The Navy SEALs survival mindset is a tried and tested survival hack. We are not fortune tellers but using visualization, “Mystery is at the heart of creativity. That, and surprise” says Julia Cameron, By visualization, we are preparing our minds to play out the possible scenarios and our reactions, as well as the next series of events. The Coupled with our physical preparation for survival, surprises are used as leverage instead of setback, like providing answers to “how do they do it” playing in a continuous loop.
Mind hack #2 : Scenario awareness
Another Navy Seal mindset that has proven helpful for survival is scenario awareness. This is mentally taking note of the situation, the surrounding, and survival.
Some people are lucky enough to have top-notch memory recall. A SEAL uses a similar clever survival hack mimics photographic memory. A SEAL makes note of useful details in a short span of time using his available senses. He will gauge the scenario he is in, then check the resources, and choose the best survival option.
To better explain this concept, an example. Walking home from work, a shady guy seems to be following you, it is 2 blocks from your house and it is dark. What would you do?
- Stop. Call for help
- Run to the nearest house, knock and ask for help
- Keep walking, fast!
- Go to the nearest safe place and call for help.
Any of the choices above can be done but note that there is still danger. Option A is a quick fix, but you need to know where and when to place your call. Remember that when you place your call for help, your attention is split giving the shady guy a chance to attack you. A note to consider, if you still need to fish around your bag for your phone, forget this and just look for safety. The survival hack for this is to place the call without stopping. You probably know your route so you have a good idea how far you are from safety. You can try calling hands free if this would be the most convenient way to call for help.
Option B and D is a gamble, a definite loss if you choose poorly. Since there is a time lapse between you call for help and the time the door is answered, If the door is not answered, your pursuer can to trap you instead. On the other hand, if all things go right, you have a safe place where you can call for help.
The most common yet risky reaction is option C. The typical survival mindset is to get away from any threat, but if we use the scenario awareness, you would gauge how dangerous the situation is, how much distance is between you and the guy and which leverage can you use to extract yourself from danger into safety.
You know your own route, anything that seems unusual should raise red flags. In survival mindset, one needs to be aware of the surroundings. In the example, it is a daily route, a leverage if you have prepared your mind for similar scenarios using Mind Hack #1 and Mind hack #2
Mind hack #3 : Mental / Paranoia preparedness : triggering consciousness
Cade Courtney clarified preparedness from paranoia. “I would never preach being hyper-vigilant, being paranoid, because that’s no way to live, That goes back to the confidence of knowing, ‘OK, I’m ready, I’ve thought about it, I prepared for it, now I’m going to live my life because I know if this happens, I will know how to handle it.’
This statement explains the third of the survival hacks from the Navy SEAL. There are accounts of doomsday preppers that is said to be borderline paranoia. What Courtney stresses as the Navy SEALs mindset is that the mental conditioning and mental preparedness exercised is based on facts. The mental scenarios that the SEAL created is based on available facts given to them and not just mind farts.
Constant mental practice of a response to a scenario encourages our consciousness to remember the best response in a pre-conceived situation. The response becomes instant. The awareness for the same moment is now an involuntary reaction to certain events.
If you ever sensed that the scenario has happened to you but can’t really place why, that is a notion called Deja Vu, a french phrase meaning “already seen.” It is the workings of the mind that triggers the place or the feeling of being in a similar state.
That is the same basis for the navy SEAL’s mindset of mental/paranoia preparedness. In this survival hack, a trigger serves as the key to unlock the results of mental readiness. The survival psychology behind this is similar to riding a bike. Once you have the skill to ride a bike, it does not leave you. You don’t always ride a bike but when you do, there is a trigger in your subconscious that makes your body remember how to ride a bike.
The key to this survival mindset is still mind conditioning and planned caution. It is important to know what to do and how to react when needed. The bottomline for this mind hack is triggering the right response for the moment. You have played and prepared for any risky instance. You can retrieve the reaction you want when the moment calls for it. Much like a savings deposit to your account and then making a withdrawal when needed.
Mind hack #4 : Body conditioning : push or pause
SEALs are mentally prepared to respond to any threat but they are also trained to assess for the best course of action to achieve their goal. One of the clever survival hacks presented is Body conditioning : push or pause. A little different from other survival hacks, this mind hack requires mind hack # 2 and awareness. A navy SEALs mindset is conditioned to ignore physical limits. SEALs undergo intense physical training allowing them to have higher tolerance of physical stress and endurance.
The mind can rule to ignore physical limits but as humans, they are also trained to listen to their weapon carrier- the body. Awareness of the working body condition is essential to ensure top performance. Unlike SEALs, our bodies are not trained with intense physical activity and in order to hack their survival mindset, we should be aware and admit that we are not SEALs, our physical limits are different and we should be aware of our own strengths. We should know when to push for survival, go with our plan of action,… pause. Stop. Regroup.
We have hacked into the survival psychology of a Navy SEAL, but since our bodies are not made to endure pain like a SEAL, we should know our own danger. The mental readiness and conditioning skills we have hacked would be worthless if we do not admit that as normal people, we also need prepare for bog downs.
As SEALs exhibit thoroughly, mental drive can make the body follow suit. In mental preparedness, all the elements to continue are present. All scenarios have been planned and constantly reviewed, but one of the most clever survival hacks we can copy from Navy SEALs is perfect timing.
SEALs on a mission can be sent to risky landscapes and the most hostile environment, sometimes, for extended period of times. Their survival skills kick in the instant they receive their mission brief and they mentally plan the whole mission. However, Murphy’s Law can always rear its ugly head. In order to achieve and carry out their mission, they need to couple scenario awareness with perfect timing. As stated earlier, picturing how a scenario will play out can give you the edge in steering the events. However, you cannot purposely direct everything, so timing your actions as well as your strength properly could be your very key to survival.
Let’s say your only option for survival is to climb up to the top of a steep cliff mountain side to get to a road where rescue is likely. The condition is not ideal- temperature has dropped greatly and you have not had any food or water for two days. Will you push through aiming to get to the top by sun up or wait for a better time?
This is a situational dilemma. SEALs have the physical and mental skills to survive. We can hack the mental part but the physical part needs more work. Let us apply some of the survival hacks we have discussed
- Mind hack #1: What can happen on the climb up during the cold dark night versus early morning start. I can go straight or find a path that is easiest to climb with lots of foot holds and maybe something to eat or drink.
- Mind Hack #2: How is the terrain, is it easy to take, what are the risks? How would the cold affect the hike, how about walking in the dark. What can I do?
- Mind Hack #3: I can do this! I just need a solid sensible plan, but it is dark, how could I make this easier…
And using Mind hack #4 : The cold will not do me any good, I am cold and tired and walking blind. I can find a warm spot away from the elements, keep myself warm and recharge. I can start again tomorrow, better chance of increasing my speed and I have a clearer view of my surroundings. I can go straight through, maybe find a footpath to reach the road, I can also drink some of the morning dew and find some sustenance. I know I can do this, I just need to keep myself prepared and ready.
In the Attitude of Survival, using wilderness survival as a topic, this mind hack is ably described, “Work with nature instead of against it. You will have the crucial task of solving the problems of staying alive. Your problem solving must be based on recognizing threats to your life, knowing their priority of influence, knowing their severity of threat to your life, and taking actions that will keep you alive. It is important to consider your safety at all times.”
He could have kept on climbing but he will be exposing himself to more risks with elements he can not control. Our survivor knows he can push through but opted to pause because he mentally assessed his chances of survival based on the scene and his options. He has shown some clever survival hacks, making sure of his actions and knowing his best survival chance. He has kept his positive attitude and mental alertness, planned his actions and spot what needs prompt attention.
Mind hack #5 : Combat breathing
One of the survival hacks taught to a Navy SEAL is combat breathing. This technique uses the rule of 4 explained in the article 4 Ways to Acquire Navy Seals’ Mental Toughness: “One of the ways that navy seals are using to control the effect of these hormones is through breathing technique known as the 4×4. When navy seals are in a dangerous environment or overwhelmed, they would simply breathe in for the next 4 seconds and breathe out steadily over the next 4 seconds. If done properly, it’s extremely effective in calming yourself down.”
When a survival mindset is triggered, being overwhelmed is a normal reaction. Extreme mental illusions and fear can be the effect of the trigger as well. Since there is mental preparedness, having a calm exterior by breathing properly can build the success of survival response described in Mind Hack #2.
One of the best hacks known to use the same principle of Mind Hack#5 is the brown bag breathing. When a person gets anxiety attack, controlling the breathing by using a brown bag is a house hack used to calm the person. Instead of the 4×4 breath in and out, the brown bag is used in place of the breathing holds. When a person feels anxious, he breathes fast causing the body to heart rate to accelerate as well. By using an ample sized brown bag, the breathing is regulated by slowing down inhaling and exhaling and calming the person as well.
Mind hack #6 : Convert fear to confidence
Fear is a normal reaction of anyone who is in discomfort, doubt, unknown circumstance or threatened. Hacking the Navy SEALs mindset, they know the word “fear” but instead of letting the fear dwell and grow in their consciousness, they transform it to confidence by positive thinking. A clever survival hack that can be used by all is using your mind to pep talk to reduce your fear.
SEALs uses the technique of turning fear into force to keep the spirit during their gruelling training. As stated in 4 Ways to Acquire Navy Seals’ Mental Toughness “navy seals were reminded that no matter how tough their “grinding” are, there are many men who have gone through it and it’s entirely possible to graduate as a navy seals.” This technique targets both mental thoughts and feelings of a person.
When placed in distress, a SEAL reassures himself that he can achieve his goals. Noting that his fear is just temporary, he will continue this positive conversion until traces of doubt is replaced with confidence in himself, his training and his team.
This survival mindset is done to dispel despair and thoughts of surrender during extreme conditions. Fear can cripple mental capacity and cause doubt. As one of the survival hacks, fear can also be used as reason for self preservation. Fear can be used to trigger pre-conceived mental scenarios for survival.
Mind hack #7 : Have the will for “Hooyah”
Being that a SEAL uses survival psychology constantly, one of the positive mantras that urges them forward is a line by Winston Churchill “ “We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival.”
“Hooyah” is one of the battle cries of a SEAL. In Urban dictionary, Hooyah is defined as:
- I’m so damn motivated; I need to let some out of my mouth!
- I understand.
- That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, but I don’t want to do any more push-ups, so I’ll do it.
- F#@K You!
This battle cry is as powerful as it is hard to define. There is something in this word that instill the feeling of renewed spirit. You feel strong, powerful, you feel like a SEAL. As the meaning gives us, HOOYAH contains a thousand pounds of confidence. It works up the mental drive to succeed. One of the most used survival hack is the SEAL’s spunk in any situation. When the Master chief says failure is not an option, there is no other option than victory.
Using “Hooyah” to motivate yourself is as important as converting fear to confidence. Surprise chances should be expected, however ironic it sounds. SEALs are required and trained to counter their surprise and use it to their advantage. The same goes for survival hacks, SEALs are trained to focus their minds into a achieving small goals as part of their top goal. This is an efficient way to achieve their ultimate mission goal.
Russell, a psychology professor who publishes articles on Navy SEAL survival psychology, describes a SEAL in training as “Someone who has true grit, and has the ability to persevere even in the face of adversity. Someone who’s not easily overwhelmed. This person must have a locus of control – which is the belief that you can control your problems – a sense of what happens to you is by your actions. A sense of mastery. You have to enjoy mastering challenges both mental and physical… they look at a challenge as an opportunity to improve themselves, as a way to endure.”
His description of a SEAL resembles a deity with the mental skill of the whole Justice League team. The mental capacity of a SEAL can be compared to concrete wall – made up of multiple elements, designed to function as a single unit, reinforced with an outer force and can take extreme force. Cracks can show but it will still stand. Drill a hole, add stress and tension and it still stands. There is just no quitting.
Simply put, one of the best hacks of survival is to have the will to survive. If there is no driving force for your survival, you would have taken the easy way out and let darkness take over your body. Having a purpose, a goal, a personal reason to rise above whatever is thrown at you.
SEAL team’s motivational phrases
Like many groups, SEALs have their own set of phrases that they use per person or as a team. The linguistic appeal of their phrases can be used by survivalists to boost their mental confidence.
“Get comfortable being uncomfortable”
Any need for survival is a distressing situation. Like the clever survival hacks cited above, make the best of that moment to move and remove yourself. This is a phrase that conveys the meaning of the survival hack “convert your fear to confidence.”
The word comfortable is used in a different context in this phrase. It means to acclimate or adapt. Discomfort has negative effects which can wreck your mental confidence, thus a SEAL, or a survivalist should not welcome distractions. As stated earlier, keep your mind focused on your goals.
“The More You Sweat In Training, The Less You Bleed In Combat”
“Meaning: You need to train harder and longer than your enemies to survive. It’s not luck that makes Navy SEALs the most elite combat unit in the world. It’s hard work on a daily basis. “
Like the first phrase, the more you get used to discomfort, the less it will affect you. This enables any survivalist to think clearer. He can carry out his mental preparations to survive the crisis. This also means that mental, physical and emotional readiness is an edge in stressful and dangerous situation. Being trained to respond to these types of instances is one of the best hacks we can copy from a Navy SEAL.
“The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday.”
“Meaning: Every day you will need to work harder than the last. But when you work hard every day and see what you’re now capable of — yesterday seems easy”
You can never be too prepared. Thinking you are “all good” can make your prepping inept. When used in the context of survival hacks, this means keeping your preparations at its best as there is always something better. Use this phrase as your morning mantra and it will keep you looking forward and challenged all the way.
“Pain Is Weakness Leaving The Body.”
“Meaning: Training to be a Navy SEAL is painful. But as you get stronger you don’t feel as much pain.”
Like the other phrases “The More You Sweat In Training, The Less You Bleed In Combat” and “Get comfortable being uncomfortable,” when you prepared properly and considers all vital precautions, your chances of survival is increased. In a survival mindset, pain and discomfort is expected. Your reaction becomes more of a reflex response to stimulus created by “pain” and later on becomes a norm.
As described in one of the Mind Hacks, “Hooyah” is the will to survive. As one of the best hacks for survival, pressing on is also a small feat. Survival is not easy, but we can try preparing. Imagine just how mentally thrilling it is to scream “Hooyah”!
Psychological analysis of survival and emotional attacks
The element of survival is in each one of us. Danger and destructive times are known to make or break a person. Channeling the Navy SEAL mindset, survival starts from the mind As presented above, mental activities play a great part in survival hacks. Our minds can control the direction of our thoughts, our reaction, and even or emotions.
“Natural disasters do not wait for you to get home before they happen.” Disasters are not made to make us comfortable. In survival mindset, a person will not allow a hopeless situation, however dire, dictate his destiny. The refusal to accept defeat will kickstart the mental drive to survive. The mind hacks presented above are useful in any situation.
The Navy SEAL mindset for survival is useful in more ways than one. We can use these in any situation as our own survival hacks. Copying from the survival psychology of a SEAL; “there are others before me who has claimed victories in this same situation, if they can, I can”.
“Whenever an emotion is triggered in us, our bodies are instantly and unconsciously affected in very specific ways… Our emotions, however, were designed and fine-tuned by evolution largely to prepare us for action, for movement – to alert us to our true situation and help guide choices that ultimately must become physical choices”.
In the analysis of survival psychology, it is worth noting that our emotions can vary from our mental conditioning. As one of the survival hacks, we should use our emotions as a stimulus to improve our situation instead.
SEAL men are ready for various warfare in Sea, Air and Land. With all bases covered, they are natural survivalist. If we could, we would bottle them and keep one in our bug-out bags. Since we can’t, the next best thing is to imitate them.
As they have shown through their training and anecdotes, survival is not easy. There is no one roadmap or store for survival hacks, but we can learn. Mental preparedness is our best tool. We have a lot of information in the internet. Mikesgearreviews.com provides insightful and useful ideas and the best hacks for survival. As always, a take away for survival : Be your own weapon.