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What does a Navy Seal do when he knows his next decision might be life or death….

All of this starts with one tough mother…….. Mark Divine.

He’s one of those guys you can see is hardcore to the bone:

  • Ranked the #1 trainee of SEAL BUDS/class number 170
  • Served 9 years on active duty,
  • 11 years as a Reserve Seal,
  • Retiring as Commander in 2011,
  • NYT Best seller, WSJ Best seller and #1 Amazon for books

This is a guy you can probably learn a few things from……

What makes Mark really impressive is the fact that he isn’t just a Navy Seal that pushes through the pain and does insane things physically. He also has a degree in economics, an MBA in Finance and he is a CPA (I think all of you know why I like him now).

I was first introduced to Mark Devine when I did his Hell Week course presented with Ramit Sethi.

Hell week is 5 ½ days of cold, wet, brutally difficult operational training on fewer than four hours of sleep. This is where most guys quit. The course I did wasn’t anything close to this. But I learned A LOT.  Out of everything I learned in the course, there was one lesson I never forgot, that I still use to this day……..

Box breathing

What does a Navy Seal do when he is in the middle of a fire fight and he knows the next decision he has to make is going to be a life or death decision? He takes a tactical breath.

Mark calls controlling your breath the center post in the storm. When stuff is coming at you from all directions, your mind is racing and you don’t know what to do…  You need something to pull you back down to earth so you can make cool and calm decisions. This is exactly the same for a Navy Seal who is in the middle of a fire fight.

This is called the Tactical breath and the practice, when you are not in a shit storm (that’s the technical term), is called box breathing.

So why is this important?

The reason this is so important is because most people forget to breathe when they are in an intense situation. Your whole body tenses up, you hold your breath and you can’t think of what to do next. This is normal. What you also do is to breathe through your mouth. You do this when you are exasperated. You only get a little bit of air into your upper lungs and leave all that extra capacity on the table.

Every breathing pattern has a corresponding emotional pattern. If you are breathing short and choppy into the chest, your emotion is going to be anxiety. When you breathe in deep and through the nose, that feeling is calmness.

Go ahead, try it…. Take four or five quick breaths through your mouth and see how you feel…..  Not feeling calm and relaxed are you?

Breathing in through your nose pulls in more oxygen. So you use the full capacity of your lungs. There are also trace amounts of nitric oxide that are developed when you breathe in through your nose that improves your lung function.

Breathing slowly also triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the shut off switch for the fight or flight response.

So not only are you sending a strong emotional signal to your body but also a physical signal, that everything is ok and you are in control.

Ok so how do I do it?

I know. You must be wondering how you do this by now. Well here it is:

Box breathing is just a deep breath in through your nose for a count of four. Hold that breath for four seconds. Exhale for four seconds. Hold for four seconds and then start again.

It’s that easy.

If you practice this for 5 minutes a day for 90 days it will also help you with any anxiety that you experience.

As Mark says this is a game changer.

But I’m not a Navy Seal

Yes I know and neither am I. But we all face stressful situations every day where we have to perform at our best. Maybe you have to go to a meeting where you know you are going to be coming under fire, or someone confronts you with something you weren’t expecting. Maybe it’s just one of those day where everything turns into a shitstorm (once again the technical term).

If you have practiced this before, you will have the presence of mind to take that one breath, get yourself ready and then respond. You won’t just have a knee jerk reaction like everyone else, you will be cool, calm and collected and everyone will be wondering how you do it.

I’ve used it a lot in meetings where I know things are going to get hairy. Mark even has clients, who are doctors, who use this when they are doing surgery. It increases their focus and concentration and decreases their stress.  

Take a breath

Breathing is really the first thing you can control when you are out of control, but you have to consciously take control and you only get this through practice. So go out there and start doing some box breathing exercises daily. It can be in your car on the way to work, just sitting at your desk, wherever…..

Deep in though the nose, hold, deep out, hold. Repeat.

Take back the control and make sure you perform at your best.