Just before we started Hell Week (six days of virtually no sleep), our SEAL training class was told to clean the instructor’s office. As we started cleaning, there sitting front and center on the first desk closest to the entrance was a large three-ring notebook with an over-sized typeface title: CLASS 181 HELL WEEK SCHEDULE.

Two curious classmates photocopied the entire schedule and brought the copy back to their room to study it. What do you think happened the moment they started reading all the things the instructors had planned for our next six days of around-the-clock training? They became overwhelmed with the information. It was so overwhelming for them, they quit before they even started Hell Week.

Manage the Moment, NOT the Mountain

When our brains are given too much information, especially if it is information associated with uncertainty, such as in running and swimming longer than we ever had experienced for Hell Week, our first reaction is to say, “I can’t do this,” and therefore we stop before we even get started. I call the strategy for dealing with this: Manage the moment, NOT the mountain.

When dealing with uncertainty—or most any complex undertaking, for that matter—we must manage for the moment. If we let our minds focus on the mountain, we can quickly get overwhelmed, which is not helpful in making decisions, much less trying to be productive. Here are two strategies to ensure that you don’t fall victim to a mountain of unnecessary (and unproductive) stress.

Focus on the Task at Hand

The point is, one can’t get through Hell Week in a day, and you can’t accomplish your goal in a day. Folks ask me all the time, “How did you make it through SEAL training?” My first response is always: The only way to make it through training is to focus on the task at hand—the next step, the next breath.

If you can’t complete a small portion of your goal in a day, you’ve made the goal too big. One day at a time—that’s how to accomplish your goal. Read Define It, Divide It, Do It Daily for my 3-part method for establishing measurable goals, initiating manageable steps, and committing to consistent actions.

Manage Your Mindset

Our mind is like a funnel that narrows our energy down to the point where we take action. That’s where it’s important to FOCUS on the following mindset management strategies:

Filter your thoughts: “Is this a helpful thought? Or, is this a hurtful thought? Is this going to help me get to the direction I want to go? Or, is this going to hold me back? We’ve got to filter our thoughts right up front, at the top of our funnel, and weed out all the unhelpful attitudes that can gum up the works.

Own your controllables: Zero in on just what you can control—your strengths, your abilities, your knowledge. Focus on the things you can influence, and forget about everything else because it’s just noise.

Concentrate on your next actions: When you’re stuck or feeling overwhelmed, often the only thing that brings about a desired outcome is focusing on what’s the next thing in the moment that you can do.

Understand the Consequences: Use my Outcome Accounts for any significant goal—this tool is especially helpful when you’re going after something that will require months, if not years, of persistence to attain.

Select what works and stay focused on it. Try and fail, grow and learn, and decide what’s working and what’s not working. It’s okay to try a different way and repeat only those steps that move you forward.

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