Ever since I saw the 1990 action-flick Navy SEALs starring Charlie Sheen and Michael Biehn as a kid, I’ve had an interest in the SEAL teams and the missions they undertake.
In high school, I read first-hand accounts of Navy SEALs in Vietnam and pretty much absorbed every bit of information I could about them, starting with the autobiography of Rogue Warrior Richard Marcinko, the first commanding officer of Seal Team Six, what would later develop into the tier one unit Special Warfare Development Group.
For those that don’t know, Navy SEALs are American Navy commandos who gradually evolved from the Underwater Demolition Teams that cleared enemy beaches of mines in advance of landing ships during the Second World War. These combat swimmers would swim to the beaches wearing just swim trunks and masks, armed with just a combat knife and flashlight, and mark or disable obstacles allowing allied forces to more safely hit the beaches.
The SEAL teams were founded in the 1960s, and have served in Vietnam, Panama, Grenada, and both Iraq wars; and those are only the operations that have been declassified. Until a SEAL team was sent into Pakistan and killed Osama bin Laden during an early morning raid in May of 2011, not much information on the elite special forces units was ever released to the public and the information that was usually ended up being highly censored by the American military.
SEAL stands for Sea, Air, and Land, as these special operators operate in all these environments.
That changed following the raid.
Since that time, a number of SEAL stories have been declassified and told on the silver screen. Lone Survivor, the story of a fateful mission in the mountains of Afghanistan which had one member of a SEAL observation team make it out was released in 2013. American Sniper, the story of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, who is attributed as being the most successful sniper ever was released on the big screen in 2014.
Also, former team operators have stepped out of the shadows of special warfare and become motivational speakers and authors, taking what they’ve learned in the teams and passing it on to the average person to understand.
I’ve written before about my mental health struggles, and how the 2010s were a challenging time for me; I’m not going to rehash those times again.
I do believe, however, that one of the reasons for the success I have been having in my mental health recovery is because of my interest in the SEALs.
Jocko Willink, in his book Discipline Equals Freedom, discusses the concept of “Good,” which I’ve discussed previously in my last column.
However, there is another principle taken from the SEALs that has been a huge benefit to me, though this one does come from an unlikely source: the Paramount-plus television show S.E.A.L. Team.
The principle is one of retaining focus on a “three-foot world,” and this principle has its roots in rock climbing. Simply stated, for a climber, the three-foot world is everything within their sphere of influence; it is their next handhold, next foothold, next anchor point and so on.
That principle can easily be brought into play in one’s own life though.
With everything going on in the world today, it’s never been easier to let yourself feel anxiety, fear, stress or depression. Western Canada is burning, the war in Ukraine goes on, family health issues always seem to arise and most of the population is in what can only be described as an abusive relationship with the current cost of living.
But, bringing this principle into play helps to ease that anxiety or stress. Focusing on our own three-foot world allows us to cut through the noise around us.
What can we focus on?
Our families for sure, our jobs, and those who are able to can help those who are displaced due to the ongoing world tragedies.
As much as we want to, no single person can end the fires, influence the war, do anything but be supportive of family members’ health, or do anything about the cost crisis.
What we can do is be supportive and focus on ourselves and those close to us, thereby keeping ourselves healthy and in a position to help others.
Really, if we are unable to influence any of the other issues, why waste energy worrying about them? All these other issues are quite literally outside of our sphere of influence and worrying about them is dedicating energy that can be best directed elsewhere.
While I’ll never be a SEAL, or be in the military, there are definitely principles that have helped me over the last few years that I have been able to take away from them.
I know they may not help everyone, but for me, they have changed my life for the better.