The insertion to our target was going to take three days, over the icy Norweigian terrain. We carried enough equipment to sustain ourselves for two weeks; towing pulks weighing 140kg, carrying our backpacks (Bergans), each weighing about 70kg, and our personal fighting order including a veriety of weapons. All this would be moved by our small 6 man team, not on foot but skies.
Though this was an exercise, and no enemy threat was present, we were facing the toughest environmental enemy, with winds dropping the temparature to -30 C. We were trained well, but without our ingrained and practiced resilience to call upon, we would certainly succumb to the immense pressure.
At the end of each days march, we would have to establish a tactical “harbour” or stronghold that would provide us the tactical strength needed to be able to get some rest, eat and thaw out. These moments were all very tough, and you could not sit still for longer than a minute before the sweat froze and your temperature began to plummet.
For me the worst part of it all, was being woken up by the outgoing sentry Marine, shaking me from my cocoon, and informing me with that endearing wit, that it was my lucky day and my turn to stand in the icy night for 30 minutes and protect our position.
It gets worse. Not only do you have to leave the warmth of your sleeping bag and dry clothes, but you now have to change in to the moist and dirty uniform that you were in during the march, so as to not compromise your spare set of dry clothes. This right here is were the trained resilience every Marine has, kicks in.
Thats right, I said trained. Resilience is a trained skill like any other. This skill is what I have dedicated my life to honing and teaching others. As a resilience and relationship coach, I have taken the principles and extended the concept of resilience to permeate in every aspect of life.
For now, I want to give you three guiding principles that you can begin applying to your life today, that will support you in facing lifes toughest challenges.
Guiding principle #1: Shit Happens
Life is no walk in the park. If you haven’t encountered trajedy, heartbreak, divorce, death, illness or know someone close to you who has, you simply are not human. The human experience is peppered with struggle. No getting away with it.
“Way to inspire there Adam!” I hear you say. Well the first step in facing any challange or problem is to admit there is one. Burying your head in the sand, or deluding yourself that life is one big picnic and rainbow fest, is not going to serve you.
For years I have practiced and coached Krav Maga, and one of the first things we teach is awareness. Awareness of the threats. The Marines prepare for this, during the planning phase of any mission. They will be meticulous about what things could go wrong, put in a contingency and reherse. A lot. This way they are all prepared in advance for the shit to go down, so when it does, the body and mind is ready, the adrenaline supports your efforts, rather that leaving you shaking and a snotty mess on the floor.
This mindset also empowers you to receive lifes curve balls in a way that doesn’t leave you the victim of curcustamnce. Life doesn’t happen to you. Take full responsibility for your current reality. It’s happened, accept it and move forward.
Guiding principle #2: Choose what to focus on
This is a key trait of a a fully empowered human being. It is your choice what you allow your attention to focus on. Do you focus on the excruciating pain in your ice cold feet, or do you take in the immense beauty of the Aurora Borealis, dancing above your head?
Where we choose to focus, the energy will flow. If all you are looking at is the tragedy that has befallen upon you, or the injustice you have received, you will loose immense amounts of power and energy. In turn this will diminish your resilience to continue to take on life fully.
This is not just choosing to be positive, this is an active engagement of choosing to see the good in everything, if you try hard enough you will find it.
Guiding principle #3: Is this serving me or not?
This one is less of a concern for the soldier, as after all “it is for us to do and die not ask why”, but this pertains more to the rest of us, and we can ask ourselves “Is this thing that I am doing serving me or harming me?” Just taking the time to ask yourself this simple question can have profound impact in your life. I cannot overstate the power of this process. It can be applied to what you eat, drink, watch, read and who you even spend time with.
If we are not aware, or concious of the things we engage in or why we engage in them, we can easily begin to errode our resilience. The activities could be draining you power without you even realising, And when one of life’s little surprises shows its ugly face, with your resilience supply low, you succombe and crash, rather than continue to move forward.
Strategy #4: Humour in the face of adversity
Nothing epitomises this, in my opinion, as well as the image of a Viking Berserker facing his own death with a smile, as he knows he is heading for a noble death in brave fashion and on the express highway to Valhalla.
Okay so that may be a bit dramatic but I hope you get the idea. In the Marines, this is possibly the most used “technique” that ensures we remain resilient in the face of increased and incessant preassure. To find the humour in the darkest of times, is a trait that has served me well over the years since leaving the service. It also helps us to not take ourselves too seriously from time to time.
I will however, add a caviat on this last one. Humour can be a double edged sword. It often masks a deeper truth that maybe needing to be expressed and discussed further. This will be the topic for another article, where we will look into the importance of full expression when in the right setting.
I hope these strategies are useful to you, and you are able to implement them in your life from this day forth. Remember, life happens, in all kinds of ways. Wouldn’t you want to expand your experience of it? live with more courage, explore far and wide, and go on epic adventures? I know I do. So build up that resilience today, and give this thing we call life a bloody good go!
Adam Gornall is a father, author, resilience & relationship coach and former Royal Marine Commando. He spends his days walking his dog Leo, taking ice baths, working from home, surrounded by nature and friends. He plans to build a huge Viking Hall were he will host mens retreats to help them find their Peace, Power and Purpose