"It's better to be a warrior in a garden, than a gardener in a war" - Unknown
What I couldn't get into the title of this post, and what goes without saying, is that warriors also have strong, sexy bodies :)
Prove me wrong.
For the most part, we have enjoyed peace for quite some time. Yes, there's been war, and opportunity to go to war, but a relative few fight those wars so we may enjoy our modern lives and sleep peacefully at night, like so many bumper stickers in Texas tell me. I am a huge fan of these men and women that fight for our freedom and way of life. I think in another life, I could see myself as a military man.
Peace is great, don't get me wrong. However, the argument can be made that we as humans have evolved through some pretty horrendously challenging circumstances, including war, which seems to be something that most, when it comes down to it, want nothing to do with.
War, it can be argued, is sometimes necessary. However, there are rarely winners in war. All sides lose something.
But, this post is not about the geopolitical niceties of war, it's more about connecting with our inner warrior that is, wether you recognize it or not, a big part of our DNA. Male, female, it doesn't matter, we are fighters through and through. Because what can't be argued, is that challenges create opportunities to be great, for there is no growth without adversity.
"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places." - Ernest Hemingway
Our Mindset portion in our current Outlaw EDU cohort is part three to our Optimal Performance Project, and one of my favorites to talk about as these skills transcend all aspects of life. For this portion, we've decided to focus on the Warrior Mindset and cultivating an Indomitable Spirit. As an athlete, we choose to go into battle nearly every single day if we want to get better at our sport. Every day presents a new challenge, a new opportunity, or new ways to slowly give up.
I try to come from the heart with these posts and present a different angle than most coach blogs I've read. Most are full of quips and one liners and hoo raw and "just do it" surface level stuff. But it's not all roses, so there will be some painful truths in here that I think are important to highlight since we all go through similar experiences on our tumultuous journey to excellence.
Humans have evolved to take the path of least resistance. Food used to be scarce. Doing things takes calories. Calories used to be hard to find. So it was beneficial to survival to be as efficient as possible. Bigger brains + better tools - work = better food, better tools, and more progeny.
That's over simplistic, but you get the idea.
Now that we have everything at our fingertips (seriously, who would have thought DoorDash would be a thing 15 years ago??), we can choose to live a pretty efficient life. However, if physics teaches us anything, it's that there's a cost and reaction to every single action, thought, and decision. By choosing to workout, we've chosen to spend that time improving our body (and probably mind). By choosing to eat junk food and sit around all day, we've chosen the path of least resistance in the immediate gratification of the moment, lowering our opportunity to improve our mind/body/soul. And there's no immediate consequence either. Our bodies and minds are great at adapting and justifying. Since there's no immediate threat of death, we say, "Well, one more can't hurt."
So back to the everyday battles we face and how choosing to do one thing over another can increase our warrior mindset, or slowly help us to give up.
"One more" turns into a day, turns into a week, turns into a month, a year, and then before we know it, we've given up because, "It's just not meant to be" is what we tell ourselves, knowing full well we didn't put our full effort into the equation.
The concept of a warrior mindset transcends historical battlefields and finds relevance in our daily lives, and can be a fun tool to help make the decisions when weighing the opportunity or consequence of each decision. This warrior mind embodies resilience, strength, and the ability to overcome obstacles. A critical component of nurturing this spirit lies in understanding and leveraging mental models, engaging in positive self-talk, embracing challenges, and recognizing and moving away from the victim mindsets.
Think of the mental gymnastics you go through when justifying 'lazy' decisions or even full blown lies.
"It's fine, I can do that later"
"Well, my friends are hanging out now, so I don't want to miss out"
"Jonny Speed isn't doing any of that, and he's the fastest kid I know, so I don't need to do that"
"I'm already one of the best, so I don't need to put in more work"
And so on.
When you choose laziness with your words, or with your actions, it defines your short and long-term results causing unintended consequences and weakness leading to a path of mediocrity
Understanding your mind and CHOOSING your own destiny is such a powerful feeling and creates so much clarity in your life. It makes it easier to wake up early and go for a jog, get into the gym, push yourself on your next ride, and have the discipline to stick to your goals and schedules, especially when things are not going your way. When you are the master of your domain, you know what you want, and how to get it and obstacles are just learning opportunities to make you stronger and even becomes the preferred path over an easy one.
And cultivating a warrior mindset is a fun, and powerful way to get to know your mind and discover your limits and how to break through them.
So back to the 3 fundamentals of building this mindset.
What are Mental Models?
Mental models are frameworks or representations of how we understand the world. They shape our thinking and perception, guiding our decisions and actions.
In cultivating a warrior spirit, mental models are invaluable. They help us simplify complex situations, forecast potential outcomes, and make more effective decisions. By adopting diverse and robust mental models, we can approach problems with a clearer, more strategic mindset, akin to a warrior strategizing for battle.
The clinical way of thinking of mental models is goal setting. If you sat down and reverse engineered your goals down to the very tiniest detail, you'd have thousands of mental models for you to rely on when making everyday decisions. You'd be able to weigh each decision against your mental model of what you've set as your goal and make an easier, faster decision if it's a cost or an opportunity. This is what I mean when I say, "Make the invisible, visible"
My nerdy way of thinking of mental models is slightly inaccurate, but it did help me as a kid to focus on some important things and shape the habits I created early on. What I did was identify with my favorite characters in novels I read and tried to learn from them, or even be them. Paul Atreides (Dune), Ender Wiggin (Enders Game), Jason Bourne (Bourne Identity), Temujin (Ghengis Khan series), Ansin San (Shogun). My mom let me read some pretty adult books as a kid, it's cool. Anyway, I would get obsessed with these characters and try to live like they did.
Take Action on Mental Models:
What are 3 mental models that shape who you are? What are some models that help you manage your time, make tough decisions, and make you, you?
Positive Self-Talk: The Warrior's Chant
The dialogue we have with ourselves significantly influences our mental and emotional state. Positive self-talk is a potent tool in building a warrior's resilience. It involves consciously shifting from negative, self-defeating thoughts to affirming and constructive ones. This shift can enhance self-esteem, reduce stress, and lead to better performance in high-pressure situations.
This is one of the most simple, yet effective tools an athlete can cultivate for optimal performance, but also one of the hardest to be diligent with. It's taken me years to build my self-confidence, and I still struggle with it and my negative self talk. It's a real deal, and a skill that when fostered in a young mind, can take root and grow into a strong and powerful force that gives you the confidence to try hard, scary things.
In Craig Manning's teachings and book, "The Fearless Mind" he uses neurobiology to show how destructive negative thoughts can be. But, he offers a simple solution proven with science: it takes 3 positive thoughts to counter 1 negative thought.
You will never get rid of negative thoughts, we are programmed by evolution to dwell on the negative and think about all the negative things that could happen. But, recognizing these negative thoughts and training your mind with the skill of positive self-talk and counteracting them with at least 3 positive affirmations will build your warrior mindset. It takes time and also placing yourself in novel situations that you may not be very good at truly build this skill.
Take Action on Positive Self-Talk
Recognize negative thoughts, emotions, and self-talk
Immediately take 7 deep breaths
Replace the negative with 3 positives "I've put in the work" "I haven't done this yet, but I'm willing to try" "I know I can do this because..."
Place yourself into new situations that are outside of your comfort zone to really advance this skill - Try a new sport, learn a musical instrument, dance, improv comedy, whatever. The goal is to go into a new challenge and practice positive self-talk through the challenge.
Embracing challenges is fundamental to the warrior spirit. Viewing challenges not as insurmountable obstacles but as opportunities for growth and learning is key. This mindset encourages us to step out of our comfort zones, develop new skills, and build resilience. Each challenge conquered is like a battle won, strengthening the warrior within.
These successes, or even failures, will put money in your mental skills bank that will continue to accrue interest as experience that you can draw on later to literally do whatever you want in life. I say failures because how you react to both success and failure determine your overall success in life. If you have a true warrior mindset, then you are almost happy when you lose because now you know you have something to strive towards and put all your power into solving this new problem. It's a fun challenge!
Finally, warriors are not victims, if they are, they don't last long. A victim mindset, characterized by a sense of powerlessness and a tendency to blame external circumstances for one's difficulties, is anti-warrior spirit. Recognizing and addressing this mindset involves taking responsibility for our actions, focusing on what we can control, and adopting an attitude of empowerment. By doing so, we liberate ourselves from self-imposed limitations and step into a more proactive and powerful role.
Which takes us back to being the master of our own domain and knowing what we want, where we are going, and maybe not how to get there, but at least having your mental toolkit, your strong, healthy body, and the willingness to try new things, fail, and try them again until you succeed, and then seek out the next challenge.
This journey to cultivating a warrior spirit is a lot of fun, and a shiz ton of work. I've seen young athletes find this path early, and some found it later, but when they do find it, it's life changing. There's no denying that it's not easy, but that's the point. The easy, lazy, mediocre path leads to a boring, jealous, unfulfilling life later on.
Sounds harsh, but it's the truth.
It requires developing and refining mental models to navigate life's complexities, engaging in positive self-talk to maintain mental and emotional strength, embracing challenges as pathways to growth, and actively moving away from victim mindsets towards empowerment.
By committing to these practices, we can all cultivate a warrior spirit that not only leads to optimal performance but also enriches our lives with resilience, courage, and a profound sense of personal strength.