Resilience is a dish best served cold...to be truly resilient, one must thank one's enemies.
When you look up the definition of an oxymoron in the dictionary, you get: "a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction." Thanking your enemy is as ludicrous as hating your loved ones; but, that is exactly what I am proposing that you do in this article. As a Navy SEAL, this may sound completely ludicrous and weak. But let me propose this: by thanking your enemies you make yourself stronger and more powerful, both psychologically and physically. Here is the secret.
Your enemy is any threat in combat. But enemies don't always have to be people trying to kill you. Off the battlefield, they can be people that want to see you fail or that you perceive as wanting to see you fail. Sometimes, the biggest enemy that you will face will be yourself. This internal enemy is the most powerful and dangerous of all. This enemy can kill you much faster than any external enemy can even dream of doing. That is where the line in the sand must be drawn. By seeing your enemy (and your own negative thoughts) as a challenge and not an overpowering force, you begin to gain control over them.
Seeing a threat as a challenge and ACTING on that challenge is one of the most effective coping mechanisms that you possess.
It is very empowering. You change the way you perceive your "enemy." Your enemy becomes something to be learned, analyzed, and defeated. Taking action will most certainly make you feel better. Taking calculated and planned action will make you feel better AND increase the likelihood of success. Think back to high school when your "enemy" was that super difficult professor that did not give you an inch on an assignment. Or how about that rival school in football that was always taunting your team and made you feel like crap? They were most certainly the "enemy." Think back to how you felt about both of the above situations. Did you feel helpless, angry, or frustrated? Feeling this way is OK if it drives you to action. Sometimes, we NEED to feel this way in order to drive us to a new level. Using anger as fuel is OK, as long as you know what you are doing and don't burn yourself with it...
As long as we recognize these negative feelings as a transition point or call to action; that is OK.
Embrace those feelings. Let them fuel your challenge hormones and plan a countermove. Train harder. Study more effectively. That is the only way to succeed in those situations. Complaining about your teacher or lashing back at the rival team will not help you. In fact, it may even damage you and sink you further into the self fulfilling prophecy of failure.
In 1985 I decided that I wanted to go into the Navy to pay for my college. Neither of my parents had been in the military, and I had no relatives or friends that had been in the military. I had never fired a gun and couldn't run, swim, or do pull-ups to save my own life. But something inside of me said that I should join the a Navy and become a SEAL. Maybe it was BECAUSE I was so opposite of what I would eventually become. I think it started with my own internal enemy telling me that I was not going to make it. The "enemy" inside of me said that I was crazy. All of my relatives said that I was crazy. Even my own father said that I did not have "what it takes" to be a SEAL. And yet, I still wanted to be one, bad. The final straw came years later when my Marine Instructor in college brought me into his office and alluded to the fact that I would not make it through SEAL Training. That was the last straw. My anger swelled inside of me and I left his office knowing that I would make it through training, or die trying.
All those "enemies" (and I use the term loosely here when mentioning my father) did not accomplish what they set out to accomplish because of my internal passion and relentless stubbornness to achieve my objective. That is the secret to success in any endeavor. Using the doubters (including your own self doubts) to activate your internal passion and finding a way to success. It is not going to be easy; but it is well worth it in the end.
In conclusion then, It makes sense that we should thank our enemies. Without their catalytic attempts to stop us, they fuel us to go on. Any obstacle, whether internal or external, should be viewed in this manner if you want to succeed. Don't run away from your enemies. Face them, embrace them, and thank them. Thank them. Without enemies, it would be more difficult to train and be ready. Without enemies, we would not feel the call to action. Without enemies, we would not strive for excellence. So the next time someone doubts you or worse you doubt yourself and feel the enemy within rearing its ugly head; think about embracing your doubts and finding a logical solution that involves action, passion, and direction.
"Lean into it!"
Remember to check out our Resilience Video of the Day HERE!
Ed Naggiar is a retired Navy SEAL with a PhD in I/O Psychology with a specialty in training high risk professionals to perform at optimal levels before, during, and after a stressful situation.