You can have what Navy Seals and Olympic athletes have: Mission focus

Mission focus is something both Navy Seals and Olympic athletes have. It's also something each of us can use to achieve our goals. Chris Jansing, of MSNBC, showed a video clip today titled, "Navy Seals: The Science of Mental Toughness," as part of the NBC special series, "Silent Warrios: An exclusive view at the lives and the training of Navy Seals."

The documentary stood out to me because it focused on the psychological aspects of the making of a Navy Seal. It became even more interesting to me when it compared what Navy Seals and Olympic athletes have in comon, i.e., Mission focus.

In the video Jansing tells us that, "For Seals, mental toughness is the number one indicator of sucess." That's what achieving our goals is all about. Isn't maintaining our focus on the job at hand the way to become a good student, parent, educator, athlete, writer, doctor, engineer, teacher, and even a Navy Seal or an Olympic athlete? Whatever goal we set for ourselves will require mental toughness on our part so we keep going when the going gets tough.

US Navy Seals flag animated clipart
The key ingredient used by Navy Seals to gain this mental toughness is one that is within the reach of all of us. They choose to go through constant training challenges. Time on task. Moment after moment. Day after day. As with the Navy Seals, it's the constant training of our minds, bodies, and souls, that will allow each one of us to reach higher and go further in our own lives.

Research is backing up the idea that mental toughness is key in achieving goals. "The Navy has been doing cutting edge research on mental toughness," Jansingcontinues, "developing a written test that helps weed out candidates who aren't likely to make it thru training."

Cmdr. Eric Potterat, Naval Special Warfare Psychologist adds, "For the first time, to my knowledge, we're able to predict, from the neck up some of the science of mental toughness...Panic, fear, doubt, the minute we teach our candidates to be able to control that, their confidence goes up because they don't have the same fear response that you or I might have"

That's the key, isn't it? How many books have you read that told you the same thing? Whether it be, Hug the Monster, As a Man Thinketh, Unstopable, Dare to Win, An Enemy Called Average, or Unstoppable Women, to name just a few, the advice is the same: Do not let the molehills in your life become mountains. Bring the obstacles you're facing down to size and you'll see that you are, indeed, able to deal with them. You can work through whatever is keeping you from achieving your stated goals.

I enjoyed seeing how the research and experience that the Navy has garnered in this field is being shared with Olympic athletes. Jansingasks, "how does a Seal on a mission, how does an Olympian in a gold medal moment, make years of training come together when it counts most?" We each have our "goal medal moments" where it's up to us to stay the course or throw in the towel. It makes sense that our individual mental toughness can be a key determining factor of our success at such times.

I agree with what a US Olympic psychologist says in the video. He thinks that, "there are things that are similar in terms of how we have to be primed and ready for an elite performance opportunity." Long before the opportunity comes for us to perform at our best, we need to be ready for it.

The video shows us members of the Olympic Water Polo team going through mock drills under the Navy Seals' supervision at the Seals' base in Coronado, CA. Terry Schroeder, USA Water Polo, shares why they came, "So often the difference between winning and loosing is just a fraction. And so we were looking for whatever little piece we could grab."

Wrapping up the segment, Jansingsays that, "On the playing field and the battlefield, using mental toughness to come out on the winning side, both Seal instructors and Olympic coaches told me that what they all have in common is mission focus."

Mission Focus. Now there's a thought worth grabbing hold of, isn't it? What is it you want to become? What do you want to accomplish? How are you focusing on your goal, your mission? Take a hint from the Navy Seals and Olympic athletes and work hard at maintaining your mission focus.


  1. Anonymous2/04/2010

    Loved the special on the mental side of SEAL training! I have been reading some of Eric Potterat's research, have seen him featured on the History channel, and have heard him speak. He is one of the most knowledgeable people in the country when it comes to the science and mental training of elite performance.

  2. Thanks for telling us about Dr. Potterat's research. I went online looking for articles by him or about him and found several. If you find additional related articles, come on back and tell us about them.

    Here's one article from Men's Health that quotes Dr. Potterat as saying that, "Eric Potterat relates this study to sports and described the difference between winners and losers. "Physically, there's very little difference between athletes who win Olympic gold and the rest of the field. It's like the SEAL candidates we see here. Terrific hardware. Situps, pushups, running, swimming — off the charts, superhuman. But over at the Olympic center, the sports psychologists found that the difference between a medal and no medal is determined by an athlete's mental ability. The elite athletes, the Tiger Woodses, the Kobe Bryants, the Michael Jordans — this is what separates them from the competition. Knowing how to use information." [http://www.navyseals.com/fear-and-mental-toughness].

    Another article I found that quotes Dr. Potterat, also from menshealth.com, is "Train your mind to overcome 4 of life's most fearful situations," by Paul Kita. The four fears mentioned in the article are Public speaking, Heights, Flying, and, surprisingly enough, Commitment. Dr. Potterat speaks to each of these in succinct and quotable words.

    Thanks again from bringing his work to our attention!

  3. Anonymous3/06/2010

    I am a trainer for a very successful NFL team and can tell you that Dr. Potterat's work is often used by our athletes. He seems to have credibility among the athletes because of his work with the Navy SEALs . I started reading his work about a year ago and have never come across research like his that ties brain areas and hormones to elite performance. Teams that want an advantage will soon all start to use it. Anyhow, I agree with what was said in the last post.

  4. Thanks for the additional recommendation of Dr. Potterat's work! :-)

  5. Anonymous5/05/2010

    I just heard a talk by CDR Potterat last week. It had to do with ways to control the human stress response and elite performance. I was amazed. It got me interested in looking up more about his work and this topic. If you guys ever get a chance to hear him talk, do it.

  6. Thanks for yet another endorsement of CDR Potterat's work. Much appreciated. We've heard nothing but good reports regarding his work and it's good to keep this thread updated on the subject. :-)