How Navy SEALs Build Unbreakable Minds

A powerful framework to develop your mindset

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How Navy SEALs Develop Mindset

There are some concepts I revisit and review every year. They’re that valuable and impactful.

One of my favorites: how Navy SEALs build an unbreakable mindset.

This is a framework I learned in 2021 while spending three days in the wilderness training with a buddy (a former SEAL) and a small team of people.

The framework has three pillars, which anyone can learn and apply.

Today, I’m going to share them with you. Let’s dive in.

(Note: I first wrote about this in Issue 17. If you’ve been part of The Process community since then, I hope this is a valuable fresher. If this is new to you, I think you’re in for a treat. Enjoy.)

In May 2021, I spent three days deep in the Smoky Mountains training with a SEAL and a small team.

It was some of the most beautiful country I’ve seen:

We covered ~20 miles across rugged terrain, carrying 60+ pound packs and venturing into unforgiving corners of the wilderness.

  • We learned how to survive in the wilderness

  • We learned how to build an elite team

  • We learned how to lead and be led

  • We learned a lot about ourselves

The foundation of all of that was mindset.

In simple terms, mindset is how you view and process the world around you.

It influences how we think, feel and act in any situation.

Our mindset is impacting us (for better or worse) every moment of every day, whether we realize it or not.

The SEALs teach three pillars of mindset:

  1. Patient

  2. Present

  3. Deliberate

Here’s a summary of each.

1. Patient

“Be patient” is the first pillar of mindset.

We must be patient in three ways:

  • with ourselves

  • with our teammates

  • with the process

Be patient with ourselves:

We’re going to make mistakes. It’s part of the process of growth. When we do, patience will help us work through challenges, learn and carry on.

Be patient with our teammates:

Our teammates are human. They’ll also make mistakes. Getting frustrated with a teammate doesn’t help them or you. If you want to be a great teammate, start by being patient.

Be patient with the process:

Everything is a process. We can’t achieve a goal on the first step. We can’t master a new skill on Day 1 of practicing it. Being patient with the process helps us be consistent. Relentless consistency over time wins.

→ How to apply the principle of Patient:

We can apply patience every day in countless ways.

Start with yourself. What are you working towards?

Slow down. Concede control. Let the process unfold.

2. Present

“Be present” is the second pillar of mindset.

SEAL training (known as BUD/S) is notoriously difficult.

But SEALs often say the same thing: No single evolution is extraordinarily difficult.

It’s the totality of it that breaks people.

When do you think most people quit in SEAL training?

If you said Hell Week (like me), great guess. But you’re wrong.

In my buddy’s class, most people quit in one of the easiest evolutions.

It’s a 1-mile beach run. No time requirement. You just have to look like you’re running.

The catch: you don’t know when it will end.

You run until the instructors tell you to stop. So, why do so many quit when all they need to do is lightly jog?

They fail to stay present.

Instead of thinking about the next step, they wonder when it will end. They tell themselves they can’t do this forever. They become overwhelmed and then mentally broken.

→ How to apply the principle of Present:

Focus on what you’re doing right now.

Not later today, not tomorrow, not next week. Practice training your mind to be in this moment. Recognize when you’re not present and bring yourself back.

Practice this consistently, and you’ll quickly develop the muscle.

3. Deliberate

“Be deliberate” is the third pillar or mindset.

Being deliberate means exercising self-control.

We must be deliberate in two ways:

  • with our actions

  • with our speech

Be deliberate with our actions:

For SEALs, this is obvious.

Every physical action can mean life or death in combat. Thankfully for most of us, that’s not the case. But our physical actions still matter. They keep us safe, healthy and out of harm's way.

Be deliberate with our speech:

The spoken word is unbelievably powerful.

What we say impacts us and those around us more than we know.

If you ever talk to a SEAL, you’ll notice most of them waste few words and are extremely intentional in what they say. This has been trained into them.

When things get hard, the power of our speech is amplified. Our tongue is our rudder.

→ How to apply the principle of Deliberate:

Pay attention to your body.

How you move, how your body feels, how you do simple things like picking up groceries. Develop physical awareness.

Pay attention to what you say. What purpose do your words serve? Do they supply energy or do they drain it?

Be intentional with them.


To recap, the three pillars of how Navy SEALs teach mindset:

  1. Be patient

  2. Be present

  3. Be deliberate

I use these principles every day.

Practice them consistently, and chances are a year from now your old self won’t recognize the person you’ve become (for the better).

P.S. Here’s a picture of our team a couple hours from completing the mission. We were exhausted but fulfilled. 

I can’t encourage y’all enough to get out and do difficult things with people who will make you better. Put something on the calendar this year. It’ll be one of the greatest investments you ever make.

Me: black hat, far right

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