Originally published at https://www.mensjournal.com on August 4, 2021.
This article is an installment of The Everyday Warrior series, a recurring column by retired Navy SEAL and best-selling author Mike Sarraille, featuring advice, key interviews, and tips to live a life of impact, growth, and continual learning.
While we all strive to live a life of purpose and fulfillment, circumstances can often derail this noble pursuit. When times get tough, it’s easy to lose focus and forget about the bigger purpose. It’s during these moments when you need to remember: Life shouldn’t be viewed as something you win, but rather something you seek to live well.
This concept—The Everyday Warrior Mindset—is a practical, no-quit mentality that’ll help you overcome life’s challenges and come out physically and mentally healthier, more knowledgeable, and resilient. It’s about leading fulfilling lives, despite where you start or where you’re at, focusing on what you can control, ignoring what you can’t, and positively impacting those around you.
Adopting a few of the below mindsets and guiding principles will put you on a path to living a good life, starting now.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable: These are often the first words you hear from Special Operations instructors on day one of training. They aren’t trying to scare the students, but rather prepare them to adopt the mindset they’ll need to not only get through training but, more importantly, through life. There’s no way to sugarcoat it: Life is hard, so smile!
Every morning I wake up, I immediately sit at the edge of the bed and utter the words, Today’s going to be harder, but that’s why I’m here. Then I go through a 10-minute morning routine and scamper off to my personal garage gym, “The Small Minds Repair Shop,” to push through a challenging workout and get my mind right for the day.
Nothing worth accomplishing comes easy, yet so many people are looking for the easy path. Today’s advertising and marketing bombards us with shortcuts or hacks for easily attaining our goals (“take this pill and lose 25 pounds” or “make seven figures in three months with your own eCommerce website”). These are the lies of marketers trying to play off your emotions. I assure you, shortcuts don’t exist.
It’s the pain and discomfort that makes attaining difficult goals so damn rewarding, while simultaneously reinforcing positive habits. True growth and learning occurs when we’re pushed outside our perceived mental and physical limits. While pushing yourself will undoubtedly lead to failure, you have to view this as a necessary part of the process. No one is saying you have to like it—quite frankly, you shouldn’t. Most people fear failure, but it can be your greatest mentor if you just learn to embrace it. Remember, we learn more from our failures than we do from success.
On the other hand, if you choose to stay in your comfort zone, you’ve accepted complacency as a way of life––and complacency kills both on the battlefield and in life. But those that continually place themselves in uncomfortable situations will continue to evolve as Everyday Warriors seeking to live a life of purpose and impact while achieving those things they’ve set out to accomplish.
One Day ATTA Time
There’s no such thing as overnight success. The journey of living a life of impact is long, hard, and, at times, lonely. Every day is its own battle filled with hardship and tests. Don’t get fixated 60 days from now. Simply take life “one day ATTA time” to set yourself up for long-term fulfillment and success.
Focus on claiming the day and accomplishing what’s necessary to get to tomorrow. Unfortunately, not every day will be a home run––but that’s okay. As long as you learn and make the necessary changes to improve, you’ll grow. Do this on a daily basis and eventually, those small accomplishments will get you progressively closer to your larger goals. Stay in the now. The journey is more rewarding than the outcomes.
The Power of Positive Habits
Having served with some of the most high-performing leaders in the world, I’ve found they all have one thing in common: the power of habits. While we all establish desired outcomes or goals that we aim to reach—whether that be finance, health, or relationships—establishing the power of positive habits, self-discipline, and self-accountability is where we find the true value of those pursuits.
All successful people, whether in business or war, went through a series of intense battles to obtain their outcome. The journey will be long, it will be hard and, truthfully, it never ends. If you stop or give up, you’ll have accepted complacency and become stagnate. No matter how challenging your current circumstances or battle may be, positive habits will ensure you always keep going, especially during times of hardship.
Take Ownership of Your Life
There’s a dangerous trend of entitlement in today’s society. When people don’t receive what they believe they’re entitled to, they point fingers and cast blame on those who have more. When you blame others for your shortfalls and situation in life, you’ve effectively placed yourself in the category of victimhood.
Let me assure you, the only person responsible for both your success and failure in life is yourself. Once you accept and understand this concept, you’ll take ownership over your life and embrace a more positive outlook. If I succeed, it’s because I prepared, planned, and remained self-disciplined to do what was necessary to secure my desired outcome. If I failed, I have no one else to blame but myself.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
In the age of social media, depression, and anxiety are on the rise as people constantly compare themselves to others. However, most social influencers stage their content and only reveal what they want you to see. Don’t let this facade fool you. Everyone experiences their own struggles and pain––not even millions of likes can insulate you from life’s realities.
Being an Everyday Warrior means embracing your journey and focusing on attaining the best version of yourself. While learning from other people is always valuable, never let anyone dictate or downplay your dreams. Your goals are about you.
Fitness is a perfect example. People often look at fitness influencers and say, “I want my body to look like theirs.” But their genetics are different from yours, as yours are different from mine. If your goal is fitness, set a quantifiable, realistic goal like moving from 25 percent body fat to 15 percent body fat, or losing 50 pounds over the next 12 months.
At the end of the day, it’s your journey and no one else’s. Start where you’re at, do what you can, and let’s improve from there.
Self-Discipline Starts with Accountability
Dr. John Norcross, a clinical psychologist and University of Scranton psychology professor, identified that less than 10 percent of New Year’s resolutions are attained. Sound familiar? How often do we set goals like losing 25 pounds or saving $50,000 this year? Unfortunately, most of these goals are doomed to fail for two simple reasons. First, people don’t create a comprehensive plan with realistic milestones along the way. Second, they lack the self-discipline necessary to actually measure their progress and stay on track.
There’s no more admirable or important trait than self-discipline. One’s ability to follow through and be accountable is the key difference between success and failure. Self-discipline is a skill that can be molded and honed throughout a lifetime, but it takes accountability, commitment, and discomfort to follow through on your promises.
The first step to accountability is to start measuring everything you do when it comes to achieving your goal. Everything can be measured—and what gets measured gets done. If you don’t know where to start, begin by measuring everything, then identify what variables truly matter and lead to success, then refine your list as you go.
Take Time to Rest and Self-Reflect
Make no mistake, periods of discomfort and hard work must be followed by periods of rest and reflection. The human body can only take so much and I’ve seen this first-hand with Tier One Special Operators who went hard over 10 to 30 years and were deployed to combat 10+ times. Unless you want to learn the hard lessons of fatigue and burnout, you need to find time for rest. Don’t let today’s social media influencers, who often lack experiential credibility, tell you that you have to go hard every day.
High performance comes at a significant cost if left out of balance. While we need to push ourselves to our physical and mental limits to grow, we can’t sustain that top-level performance without strategic breaks to rest, reflect, learn, and recalibrate. Taking a day or two off from the gym or merely sleeping in from time to time can provide an invaluable recharge for the body, mind, and spirit. Remember, it’s better to maintain a consistent pace to victory, rather than burnout from a sprint.
In addition to rest, everyone needs time for reflection. Another common thread among high-performing people I’ve worked with is that they’re always writing—brutally critiquing themselves on their performance. The best special operations soldiers I knew had novels of their written reflections. They would acknowledge their strengths, but also focus on their weaknesses and identify the necessary steps to improve. It was their personal mechanism for growth in all areas of their lives.
We are all ‘WIPs’––works in progress––until the day we die. No matter where you’re at, there’s always room for improvement. And the second you lose focus or think you’ve got everything figured out, you’ve placed yourself on a losing path.
In Part II, we will cover the three core pillars Everyday Warriors need to focus on: physical, mental, and spiritual fitness. All are necessary to sustain performance, achieve personal goals, and find balance in life.