What We Can Learn From the Navy SEALs

by Jen Barna MD | Podcast

“We can’t control what happens in our life, but we can control how we respond to it.” -Master Certified Coach, Jill Farmer


In today’s episode Master Certified Coach Jill Farmer talks with us about what we can learn from the Navy SEALs. We know that being a Navy SEAL is an extremely difficult job, we know that it is a highly stressful career. But did you know that researchers have found that they handle that stress extremely well? So what qualities do the Navy SEALs possess that help them move through these highly stressful and pressurized situations so well? Jill breaks it down for us in hopes that we can use some of these tools in our own lives to manage stress and become more resilient. 


Books and other resources mentioned in the show:

There’s Not Enough Time:…and other lies we tell ourselves by Jill Farmer

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder (Incerto) by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

Stress Management: Enhance your well-being by reducing stress and building resilience Prepared by the editors of Harvard Health Publishing in consultation with Gregory Fricchione, MD, Director, Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and Mind Body Medical Institute Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School. 53 pages. (2020)



Excerpts from the show:


“It’s common when you’re reading articles about things like resilience and the ability to work under pressure, people keep talking about the Navy SEALs. And I was always like, ‘What is it with the Navy SEALs that seems to be so interesting to organizational psychologists and people that talk about performance?’ It’s really interesting to research it just a little bit. So I’m going to share a little bit about what I learned and give you some practical, tactical, tangible ways that you can take some of the things that work well for the Navy SEALs into your practice and your life as well. For those of you that are not military experts, as I am not, a Navy SEAL is an elite special ops force that’s within the Navy and it stands for sea, air and land. It’s a special operations training that’s very very hard to even be considered for, and for the thousands of recruits who actually meet these really astronomically challenging standards of physical and intellectual ability, you have to be really smart and in incredible physical shape, exceptional in your athletic ability. Only 250 people out of those thousand who get into training actually complete it because the training is really beyond grueling. So I’m not asking you to become superhuman or go through any superhuman training like what we see in the Navy SEALs, it’s just to notice one of the things that has been shown as they’ve been researched time and time again is that they’re in highly stressful and pressurized situations but they seem to be able to handle it extremely well.” -Master Certified Coach, Jill Farmer 


“So it’s something that I’ve said for years and I think I even wrote about this in my book, There’s Not Enough Time and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves : We can’t control what happens in our life but we can control how we respond to it. What I discovered when I was researching this and writing my book about ten years ago, is that a lot of what I was doing in life was reacting, which was the amygdala kind of hijacking my brain and causing me to react without thinking. It was that split-second reaction which can be helpful, but what I wanted to learn how to do better was to respond. To not let my most primitive brain center that can only hear danger and alert signals make fight or flight based decisions for me, but to be able to pause just long enough to respond in a way that was going to create better outcomes, better results. Things are going to turn out better and that’s something that the Navy SEALs seem to be really able to do in research that I found that was highlighted recently in a stress management special health report written by Harvard Medical School on enhancing your well-being by reducing stress and building resilience.” –Master Certified Coach, Jill Farmer



“Nassim Nicholas Taleb, coined the term anti-fragile and he even wrote a book about being antifragile (Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder). He defines fragility as the tendency to be damaged by volatility, uncertainty, the kind of things that often create that chronic stress response. He says an anti-fragile person realizes that stress is just the price we pay for being alive. Being antifragile helps us use our strengths to overcome challenges and become stronger in the process which is kind of the definition of resilience. So in this post-Covid year, we’re hearing a lot about resilience and it can feel really hard because we’re in what people like organizational psychologist Adam Grant are calling this languishing state where it’s like, ‘Okay we survived it, not necessarily in full burnout mode where I’m paralyzed or not doing anything, but I’m not feeling a lot of juice, mojo or motivation;’ what is described in psychology as languishing. So resilience is that trait where we’re able to kind of dig deep a little bit and move through these challenging situations and move on to a position where we’re not just sort of surviving or languishing, but we’re actually able to get into what I would describe as thriving mode again.” -Master Certified Coach, Jill Farmer


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