It takes a lot more than superior athletic ability to make it through the grueling nine-month qualification course to become a Navy SEAL. It's a severe trial of mental and physical stress meant to forge fearlessness in the middle of chaos and uncertainty. Business owners can apply SEAL training to build the mental discipline to survive and thrive during the coronavirus crisis. 

For insight, I held a zoom interview with former Navy SEAL Mark Divine, who wrote a new book called Staring Down the Wolf. The "wolf" is a metaphor for fear, all of the deeply engrained negative emotions that hold you back. Overcoming your fear--staring down the wolf--is the only way to unlock your massive potential. Divine told me about four skills SEALs learn during "Hell Week" and in their training that have a profound impact on their leadership potential.

1. Box breathing

Controlled breathing calms your mind and reduces stress.

On our call, Divine gave me a short class on what he calls box breathing. It's simply taking a slow, deep breath--holding it for four or five seconds--and exhaling slowly through the nose for a count of four or five. Divine starts each day with 20 minutes of breathing, but he suggested that five repetitions is a good start. Done daily, box breathing lowers stress hormones, sharpens your focus, and deepens your ability to concentrate on your tasks. 

2. Positivity

The fear wolf has a counterpart--the courage wolf. Which one you feed will grow bigger and stronger.

The SEALs call positive thinking "attention control." In other words, where you focus your attention is crucial to the success of a mission. A Navy SEAL can't allow his mind to go negative in battle. "If you say to yourself, 'Holy cow, that enemy looks stronger than me,' then you're toast," says Divine.

Negative thoughts "degrade your performance," because they weaken the mind and, eventually, weaken the body, according to Divine. We're bombarded by negative news during the coronavirus pandemic. Every day seems to bring more bad news of unemployment and company failures. Guarding your mind and staying positive is crucial for making smart decisions. 

3. Visualization

We're all familiar with great athletes who visualize a successful outcome. Divine says visualization is a secret mental weapon for the Navy SEALs, too. "The only place where you'll get perfect practice is in your mind," Divine told me. "Studies show that if you just practice--in your mind's eye--perfect form and a perfect outcome, you are training your neurobiology to actually perform better ... I've had profound outcomes with visualization." Visualization exerts a strong gravitational pull. Picturing a bright post-Covid future in your mind's eye will turn it into a destiny instead of a wish.

4. Front-sight focus

Front-sight focus is a fundamental shooting tactic perfected in SEAL training. If a marksman focuses on the target, the front sight of the weapon will be out of focus. If you focus on the front sight, the target will still be visible in the distance. Divine says front-sight focus is a metaphor for focusing on your most crucial goals that are aligned to the target--your vision and mission. 

A radical focus means you should tackle your most urgent goal that needs to be accomplished today or this week. Your long-term target is further ahead, but today you do what you can control. 

SEAL training is intended to show students that they are capable for 20 times more than they ever thought possible. Use their training tactics to move beyond your self-imposed limits and create a powerful future for yourself, your business, and your life.