How To Crush Your New Year’s Resolutions Like A Navy SEAL

Trevor Woods
5 min readJan 1, 2021
Screenshot of Ex-Navy SEAL Jocko Willink’s Instagram post | https://www.instagram.com/jockowillink/ | December 17, 2020, | Jocko Willink doing his daily morning workout

It’s That Time Of Year Again

Brace yourselves. You’re about to be inundated with hundreds of Medium.com stories on how to accomplish your New Year’s resolutions, why people fail to achieve them, how to break a bad habit…blah, blah, blah.

It’s really not complicated why folks don’t maintain their resolution-efforts throughout the entire year. The predominant reasons for failure are habits are hard to break, and good habits are hard to start. Bad habits, coping mechanisms, and emotional dependency are all vital factors that prevent us from making productive and healthy choices.

But, we all are very capable of change. It’s hard but possible.

According to Joseph J. Luciani, Ph.D., 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by mid-February. Dr. Luciani illustrates the emotional connection tied to our successes and failures, particularly with self-improvement goals (New Year’s resolutions). We justify our actions that lead to failure; self-sabotaging. The only way to overcome this is self-discipline.

Essentially, you build self-discipline by willfully enduring the transient discomfort of changing who and what you are. You’re not born with self-discipline; you acquire it. Like a muscle, you need to develop your self-discipline muscle, one challenge at a time. Starting today, instead of reflexively feeling a need to minimize or escape the friction involved in change, recognize instead the need to endure it. Bottom line: Don’t bail!

— Joseph J. Luciani, Ph.D.

In the spirit of Dr. Luciani’s research, I advocate for a helpful learning tool; studying and observing people who are extremely self-disciplined and mimic their behaviors.

Success breeds success. Excellence breeds excellence.

Some of the most disciplined people on the planet are elite athletes, military special ops, and successful business people. I’ve been around some of the most disciplined people in the country because I’ve spent 19.5 years in the Army as an Infantryman. The Infantry is the fittest branch of the Army. It makes sense; in times of war, we are the tip of the spear. We may have to climb mountains, carry heavy packs several miles, or pull a man with 100+ pounds of gear to safety.

I also served time as a U.S. Army Ranger Instructor —one of the most elite leadership schools globally — where I worked with the best the Army had to offer — it was a place that bred excellence. Inherent in excellence, however, is self-discipline. Success and excellence require consistency, repetition, failure, and suffering. All of that requires self-discipline to get back on the horse every day — it’s about the long game.

The words of Dr. Luciani, “…willfully enduring the transient discomfort of changing who and what you are…,” Sounds like something Jocko Willink would say — the ex-SEAL that wakes up every morning at 4 a.m. to “get after it,” as he puts it. The self-discipline it takes to wake up at 4 a.m. and suffer through the types of workouts he does is astounding.

Check out Jocko’s Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/jockowillink/

Elite military units like the SEAL teams are a cut above the rest. They are the fittest, intelligent, highly trained, and hard-working members of our military. If anybody is adept at enduring transient discomfort, it’s these guys.

So, this is how the SEALs integrate self-discipline to crush their New Year’s resolutions (If they actually have any).

1. They Change The Way They View Discomfort

If you have watched any interviews of ex-SEALs, you’d be delighted by the fact that they welcome discomfort. They understand that the grueling training, adverse weather conditions, and suffering they endure all lead to performing at an elite level.

There seems to be some intimate relationship between SEALs and pain. 100-mile races, Ironman triathlons, or legendary workouts, pain is sought out. In fact, there’s an unspoken competition on who can suffer the most. Just look at David Goggins, who’s run numerous 100+ mile races, sometimes multiple races in the same month.

The point? SEALs have a positive relationship with discomfort.

2. Repetition And Consistency Are Pillars Of SEAL Training

Repetition and consistency breed habits — albeit good and bad. SEAL teams are so good at what they do because the basics are ingrained in them to such a degree that it becomes muscle memory. They train, train again, and train some more. They train so much on their military competencies that it becomes second-nature. It’s important because in a time of chaos, especially in combat situations, they may not have time to think. They have to execute.

The Point? Habits are formed by repetition and consistency (make sure your forming good habits).

3. They Have A “Why” Behind Everything They Do

Along with most military personnel , SEALs have a strong sense of purpose, or “why,” behind what they do. In the military profession, it isn’t hard to find passion and purpose. Serving our country is a selfless act. We’re essentially signing a blank check to Uncle Sam. It’s not about money or recognition. It’s about preserving the freedoms all free Americans enjoy every day.

The overarching sense of purpose spills over to every small SEAL endeavor. Whether that’s eating healthy, getting enough sleep, or grueling workouts. Every facet of a SEAL’s life is seen as just a small part of a larger body of work. They see each aspect of their lifestyle as an opportunity for growth.

The point? Find your “why” when planning your goals.

4. Teamwork Is Paramount For SEAL Team Success

I’m going to echo repetition, consistency, and training here. Like the muscle-memory training I just mentioned, they have to work together as a team so fluidly and cohesively that it becomes second-nature. The same can be said for the training in my career. I have had to rely on the guy on my right and left, especially in combat situations. Sometimes, how well a team works well together is the difference between life and death.

An essential element of effective teams is trust between the team members. Team members must know each other’s strengths, weaknesses, quirks, and personalities. We support each other to ensure we are improving individually and as a team. The more efficient, capable, strong, or resilient each team member is, the more capacity is created for the team to get better.

The point? We need support from others to improve.

5. They Set VERY High Standards For Themselves

Jocko Willink and David Goggins are just a couple of ex-SEALs that have seemingly impossible goals. They’ve reached the edges of what’s possible for human beings. They want to reach the limits of what they’re capable of.

This has resulted in ex-SEALs accomplishing amazing things. It’s just not physical feats; most ex-SEALs are wildly successful in business after they transition from the service. They’ve built multi-million dollar businesses, authored books, and inspired thousands of people. Once they’ve realized wild success, it doesn’t make sense to set easy goals.

The point? Aim high.

Conclusion

It’s human nature to search for the easy way out. What’s the fastest way to lose 20 pounds? How to put on 20 pounds of muscle mass in 30 days?

I can go on and on, but success comes with discomfort. Part of the challenge is changing the relationship we have with pain and discomfort — it takes self-discipline to encounter the pain and discomfort with glee! Every day.

Embrace the suck! Crush your New Year’s resolutions like a Navy SEAL!

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Trevor Woods

I’m a Father, Husband, and Veteran. I write about Personal Growth, Mental Health, and Careers!