Positive thinking is the key to success in dealing with dangerous or frightening situations. We have to be positive in our approach to life; we have to believe in ourselves. In order to achieve these aims, we have to work to eliminate weaknesses within ourselves and practise those skills at which we do not excel. Life in a competitive world is hard and it has a way of exploiting flaws in our characters. Be aware of your limitations and resolve to do something about them.
To even embark on a fitness programme requires motivation. Poor health may supply the necessary motivation. You can easily become fed up with shortness of breath or constantly feeling tired. We can all improve ourselves, our lifestyles and our jobs and it starts with recognising our weaknesses and problems in our lives.
Compare yourself with other people of the same age and sex. Are they healthier and happier than you? Select a person who you admire greatly and ask yourself what it is that you admire about them. You will have many of the same qualities although, perhaps, somewhat less developed. If this was not true, you would not admire these qualities; other people are mirrors in which we can see ourselves.
However, do not merely copy other people, analyse what it is that you like about them and concentrate on developing these qualities in your own life. Equally, analyse the weaknesses of others and ask yourself if you have these weaknesses too.
Study the mistakes that happen in life and ask why they happened. Common problems occur commonly. If you learn what has gone wrong now, you may be able to put it right in the future. It is human to make mistakes but incredibly foolish to go through life repeating the same mistakes! The world only ever seems to remember the winners. Nobody likes to be in second place, but to be a winner you first have to be a loser. People who have been training hard for most of their lives will be fitter, stronger and faster than you. Learn from them. Study their training routines, seek their advice on diets and talk to them about how they motivate themselves.
Once you have begun your training programme, you can start to experiment with different diets and exercise routines to suit you. We are all different and we all have individual needs. Think hard about your goals and then go for them! Use your training programme and your job to help structure your life. Set yourself sensible goals and celebrate when you achieve them. Seek an independent assessment of your training programme. It is all too easy to get stuck in the rut of doing only those activities at which you excel. Ask your best friend or a training companion to comment on your standard. Ask their advice on how they would modify your training programme. Share your life experiences and problems with them.
Criticism can be painful but, providing that it is constructive criticism, it can enable you to see yourself as other people see you. There will be times when you will be tested by life. Things will go wrong and you must be prepared for this to happen. Always have contingency plans. Try to imagine the very worst that could happen to you and force yourself to imagine coping with this situation. When you are doing the endurance walks, imagine being lost on the hills or sustaining a broken leg. How would you then cope with bad weather?
You will never need many of these contingencies, but in simply imagining how you would cope, you are preparing yourself to meet this eventuality. Other people can be invaluable in helping you to motivate yourself. In laundering your kit, or in cooking a special meal for you, your partner can help motivate you. Friends provide that much-needed boost by simply providing the occasional lift to the gym or taking an interest in what you are trying to accomplish. Your coach at the gym will be used to working with sportsmen and women. He or she should offer encouragement, advice and the occasional compliment. They should also be prepared to offer constructive criticism when appropriate.
While nobody enjoys being criticised, think about what they are saying and see if you can use the criticism to improve your training programme. If the advice is good, it should help you to improve your performance. Success is the other great motivator; it is so easy to concentrate on the training when things are going well, but you must also be able to remain motivated and focused when the training is not going well.
The person with a well-developed character will always be able to bounce back from defeat. After a set-back, your motivation should become even stronger! The final key to motivation is enjoyment. It may not always seem possible to look forward to a hard training session, but once the session is over you should be left with that warm glow of satisfaction.
Fitness training will make you more confident. It should leave you very much fitter and with a more pleasing self-image. Energy will appear to radiate from you! Knowing that you can project a self-confident image can be useful in many situations. It may enable you to control an encounter with a mugger or to deal with a tough interview with the Inland Revenue. You may well be experiencing anxiety and fear. We cannot help how we feel but we can help what we do about these feelings. Fear must be controlled and this is an important part of projecting a confident self-image. Although the real changes must take place inside you, other things can help develop a positive self-image.
The way you dress makes a statement about you. Business suits project an air of assertiveness and reliability, while less formal clothes are seen as recreational, more approachable but perhaps less reliable. Dark, loose clothing may be seen as a sign of insecurity, while people wearing bright clothing are often perceived to be confident. The way that you walk projects a particular image. An upright, purposeful stride is associated with confidence and a sense of direction. In contrast, a stooped, shuffling gait is associated with weakness, insecurity and a lack of confidence.
Tattoos and jewellery all contribute to the projected image since these often show conformity to the dress code of a minority group. Body language is something else which provides a lot of information about a person. The smiling whistler may be serenely happy or this may simply be a mask for unhappiness and a lack of confidence. It is human to advertise happiness and hide sorrow.
Fidgeting, stuttering and exaggerated movements all betray underlying feelings of disquiet and lack of self-assurance.
Eye contact, or the lack of it, can also provide interesting information about a person. A person determined to dominate the person to whom he or she is speaking will steadfastly refuse to break eye contact. Steady eye contact is invariably associated with control, aggressiveness, honesty and self-confidence, whereas the lack of eye contact is identified with a lack of confidence and dishonesty.
Body language can determine how much hassle and aggressiveness comes your way in life. Muggers and thugs learn to search for those victims less likely to put up a fight, and this type of person is often controlled and dominated by his or her partner and those in authority such as bosses, bank managers and civil servants. Be careful not to hand over control of your life to these people.
Projecting the Right Image
Real confidence must come from within. The sense of ease which comes with real self-confidence and fulfilment will determine body language and will radiate through a suit of clothes. On the other hand, no self-advertisement, no matter how well practised, will ever fully disguise a lack of confidence. Confidence springs from happiness and a sense of well-being. It is also dependent upon body image and a fitness programme can only alter your body image for the better. A diet as part of this training will also help to trim and shape your body. Feel good about your job, or work to get a better one. Strive to gain a thorough knowledge about what you do for a living. Never use bluff to disguise ignorance. Work is a central foundation of our lives; the more knowledge and experience you gain, the stronger the image you will project.
We must be mentally strong and able to focus all of our energy on what we want to achieve. Success is a mental exercise. It starts with the assertion, ‘I will!’ and ends with the effective projection of that willpower, directed by a good plan with realistic, achievable goals. Life is not just about succeeding; sometimes it is enough simply to overcome and survive the disappointments and set-backs. Effective survival also depends upon willpower. A long period of unemployment, for example, will demand much the same mental toughness and determination to succeed as that required by a castaway on a desert island.
The Will to Succeed
We are all born with the instinct to survive, but it can become dulled by the often monotonous routine of everyday life in a developed country.
Consequently, it becomes a skill that must be constantly re-learnt and practised. A lot of hard manual labour has been taken out of life by our modern houses, public health services and the many and various labour-saving devices which clutter our homes. Unfortunately, our comfortable lives do not prepare us for hardship; they do not necessarily make us healthier or mentally tough. Hard physical exercise within a total fitness programme goes a long way towards redressing the balance. Success, survival and sheer determination is born of willpower.
As the Irish poet Emmerson reminds us, ‘Be careful about what you dream, for surely it will be yours’. Your hopes and dreams can become reality. All you have to do is provide the willpower.
Luck may favour the brave; it will certainly favour the highly motivated. If we are honest with ourselves, much ‘luck’ in our lives has resulted from seizing opportunities. We make our own luck. Hard work brings success and success breeds more success. There are no fairy godmothers and no point in waiting for an opportunity to walk in the door. You will be waiting a long time! You have to make it all happen.
A Sense of Humour
A sense of humour is vital to success. We all suffer many set-backs, and it is often just when you think that you are winning that disaster strikes. Humour acts as a safety valve and it helps us to put our disappointments into perspective. An Army patrol up to their necks in swamp water and leeches will look at each other and laugh. Why not? What is the alternative? No amount of cursing or whining will alter their situation. You just have to make light of it and push on. If you can develop the ability to laugh at yourself, you will never become so angry that you blow a fuse. Remember, it is as easy to be happy in this world as it is to be miserable. If you can think positively, keep on moving forward and laugh when disaster strikes, you will eventually attain your goals.
How to Focus Your Mind
You must have a clear picture in your mind of what you want to achieve. Aim high but be realistic. If fitness is your primary goal, ask yourself why you want to become fit. If your aim is to be in an Olympic team, you will have a clear idea of the competition that you will face and the standard required to reach your goal. Make sure that all of your goals are attainable. Chart a course that will get you what you want and divide it into phases, taking one step at a time. Expect set-backs and always have contingency plans. Do not rely on other people; they will most likely let you down. Only you can help realise your ambitions. Do not make excuses for not doing things. Never leave jobs until tomorrow.
To be as good as a military soldier, you must be dedicated and be prepared to put in the time and effort. Nothing that is really worthwhile comes easy. If you want it badly enough, you can get it.
REMEMBER: When the going gets tough, the ‘tough’ get going.
Setting Your Goals
The best way to monitor your achievements is to use a progress chart. If you are training to achieve the very highest levels in the military training programme, measure your progress week by week, noting the total mileage you have covered, best personal times, average speeds and weight losses or gains. Link each challenge to some sort of reward. Recently I had an operation on my knee and I promised myself a new car when I had returned to my normal fitness. This gave me something to look forward to and helped speed my recovery. If your aim is to lose weight, try to lose H kg (1 lb) per week. This will get harder as you shed that excess weight, so have a clear idea of your target weight. If you are running to build up speed, run against your stop-watch. Time yourself over a set distance. Record your best time over the week and try to better this time next week. If your aim was, say, to run 5 km (three miles) in 18 minutes, try to maintain the same speed throughout the run. Do not run the first 1.5 km (one mile) in six minutes, the next in eight minutes and the last 1.5 km (one mile) in ten minutes. If you cover a 5-km (three-mile) course in 24 minutes, aim to run each 1.5 km (one mile) in eight minutes. Now try to shave a minute off each 1.5 km (one mile). Your next target will be to run each 1.5 km (one mile) in seven minutes and 30 seconds. This is by far the easiest way to attain your objective.
If body-building is your aim, then take my advice and do not try to keep up with your companions in the gym. Do not worry if they are lifting heavier weights than you. They may have bigger builds and may need the heavier weights just to gain the same benefits.
Some days are definitely better than others. You can feel terrific on Monday, but by Wednesday everything seems to be an effort. There can be many reasons for your change of mood. You may be sleeping badly, there may be problems at work or you may have picked up a mild dose of the flu. The weather can be responsible for our mood swings. We always feel better when the sun is shining. Many people become a little depressed in winter or during long spells of bad weather.
A change in pace or lifestyle can help restore our sense of humour and our positive outlook on life. Exercise is another potent defence against depression, but even your training programme can become a struggle. Do not despair or give up! Change your programme and place the emphasis on different activities. A change can be as good as a rest. When you return to the original programme after a week or so, you will see remarkable progress.
Above all, do not stop training. Hard physical training can alter the body chemistry responsible for depression and can offer a sense of achievement and fulfilment. Your Army training programme should become part of your overall effort to achieve your goals. Realistic, attainable goals in life are another potent defence against depression.
Finally, always try to look on the bright side of life and count your blessings. There are many, many people worse off than yourself.
Fear is another obstacle we must all face and overcome. It can take many forms, ranging from the mild anxiety we all feel before an important interview, to an overwhelming sense of panic which can cripple your life. Firstly, do not be ashamed of fear. It is a natural ‘fight or flight’ response that comes into play when we perceive a threat, be it real or imagined. It is just unfortunate that, while the sudden jolt of adrenalin was a real life-saver for our prehistoric ancestors, it may have outlived its usefulness.
In much of everyday life, this primitive defence reaction is both inconvenient and inappropriate. Here is some advice for overcoming fear.
Try to put your problems into perspective. It has been said that ‘nothing matters much and very little matters much at air. This may seem very negative but, if you reflect on your life, you will see that it is true. Very few incidents or decisions have a lasting effect on our lives.
Become philosophical about life. We cannot double-guess life. It is a constant cycle of joy and sorrow, success and defeat, frustration and achievement. We worry needlessly about a whole range of life problems. We may worry about getting a particular job but, even if we are unsuccessful, another job will come along. With hindsight, we can remember many instances, perceived at the time as defeats, that actually changed our lives for the better. Several years ago, a friend of mine was crushed when he lost his job. He worked in a large financial institution in London which was taken over by Arab interests. The bank was to move to the Gulf and he was not selected to join the new ‘stream-lined team’. At the time it seemed to be the end of all of his hopes and aspirations and the future looked very uncertain. After eight months’ unemployment, he found another job which, in providing much more leisure time, changed his life for the better. One morning he opened the paper to discover that his friends who had kept their jobs with the bank and had moved to Kuwait had been taken prisoner by the Iraqi Army.
Imagine yourself confronting a situation that makes you feel anxious. Play it through in your mind and imagine getting the better of the situation. We all experience fear; some of us are just more practised at coping with it or disguising it.
Be a professional. Both the professional entertainer waiting to go on stage and the novice faced with delivering a talk in front of an audience will experience anxiety. The major difference is that the professional says to him or herself, This is my job, it is how I want to spend my life. I will master my fear because it is part of the job. We can all strive for professionalism in everything that we try to accomplish.
Learn to control the urge to panic. Panic is the most destructive of our emotions. It should never be tolerated. Breathing exercises can help switch off the effects of that dreadful surge of adrenalin. A Japanese psychiatrist found the following exercise very successful in helping his patients cope with panic. It can be used in every situation. 1Stand or sit upright. 2Take a deep breath through the mouth, filling your lungs. 3Exhale very slowly through the nose. Imagine that you are holding a feather in front of your nose and exhale so gently that the ‘feather’ remains perfectly still.
Confidence is the greatest enemy of fear and panic. Use your Army training programme to help attain your goals and develop that wonderful sense of achievement. Achievement, fulfilment and inner happiness are the well-spring of confidence.