I hated running in SEAL training. My knees would throb, my back would ache, and my lungs would burn. I always felt as though I was never getting enough air, even when I was on a “casual” jog. The idea of a “casual jog” didn’t exist in my mind; I was either walking or running, and there was no middle ground. Running was pure suffering for my 225-pound body in SEAL training. I know what you are thinking, “Wait a second, don’t SEALs do a lot of running?” Yes, this is true and you must pass a series of four-mile running tests every week. We even have a 14-mile timed run, and I dreaded every one of them until I reached the halfway point in training.

During a three-mile ocean swim, I started coughing up blood. It became so bad that I had to be pulled out of the water and sent to the hospital. Long story short (see my blog post on the “Methacholine Challenge”), I got rolled back—pulled from my current class, put in a remedial training group to recover, and then placed in a new class where I would have to repeat five weeks of SEAL training. No one wants to repeat one day let alone 30+ days. My attitude was in the proverbial dumpster. All I could do was think about how many more runs I would have to repeat. My body would ache JUST thinking about it.

We had this remedial instructor who looked like a modern version of Popeye—huge forearms, small waist, big chest, and runner’s legs. He even had his own version of a can of spinach with him at nearly all times of the day—a 64-ounce Big Gulp of 7/11 coffee and a can of Copenhagen tobacco. He was short, but what he lacked in height, he made up for in attitude. He would tell us every morning before we began one of his multi-hour workouts, “What attitude are you going to choose today gentlemen?” We would respond with a commensurate yelling of “HOOYAH Instructor Popeye!” He would then say, “Oh really, let's find out how Fired UP you really are today…dune run, follow me, and don’t fall behind!”

When you fall behind, you get “gooned,” which means you get picked up by the ambulance squad and receive additional attention (i.e., more pain and suffering for not keeping up—lunges, squats, tire pulls, etc.). I was the captain of the goon squad. I fell behind on nearly every run with Instructor Popeye until one sunny morning about three weeks into his “remediation” when I “decided” I am done with the goon squad. I guess I just got tired of dreading runs and falling behind and getting “gooned.” I decided to change how I looked at running. This particular morning, I embraced the run, or as we say in SEAL Team, “embrace the suck.” I decided that I was going to stay on his heels no matter how fast or how long he ran. And not only that, I was going to be a source of motivation for the squad. Truth be told, the yelling of encouragement such as “You can’t hurt us Instructor Popeye” – “We LOVE to run” – “We want more dunes” – “HOOYAH Running!” was really for me. I would shout out anything that popped into my mind. It felt like I was venting out of a sense of perverse motivation—although, some of my classmates didn't think it was funny because they were worried that my words would make Popeye punish us even more.

At first, I thought I won’t be able to keep this up—I needed my lungs for breathing, not for yelling. But a funny thing happened: The more I focused on staying Fired UP, the more Fired UP I became. And the more that happened, the more I was able to keep up. I finished the run invigorated, which is something that NEVER had happened to me before. Instructor Popeye turned around, dripping in sweat, and said with a half-cocked smile, “About time Mills. Way to flip the attitude switch.” From that moment on, I learned how to harness my attitude to help me achieve the outcome I desired. And in this case, I never got gooned again.  

Your attitude is your outlook on life.

It's how you see and interpret the world around you. And it's something that you have complete control over. You rarely can control what happens to you, but you can always control your attitude. You can choose to let things get you down, or you can choose to stay positive and see the good in every situation. So, who's in charge of your attitude? You are! You're the only one who can decide how you're going to react to what life throws your way. It's up to you to choose the attitude needed to accomplish your dream. One that will help you stay positive and focused on your goals, no matter what challenges you face.

Here are a few tips for owning your attitude:

  1. Be aware of your thoughts: Pay attention to the things you tell yourself daily. Are they positive or negative? If they're negative, start working on changing them to positive ones.
  2. Be mindful of your words: Choose your words carefully and be mindful of how they might affect others. Words have power, so use them wisely.
  3. Be intentional with your actions: Every action you take should be done with purpose. Think about what you're trying to accomplish and make sure your actions are in line with that.
  4. Be patient: Attitude adjustments don't happen overnight. Keep perspective - it takes time and effort to change the way you think and feel. But it's worth it!
  5. Be persistent: Once you've decided to own your attitude, stick with it. It won't always be easy, but it will be worth it in the end.

Here are four attitudes you need to have in life:

1) A positive outlook

Positivity is a prerequisite for a good life and has a direct relationship with possibilities. A positive outlook opens you up to new possibilities and creates opportunities where there may have been none before. Individuals with a negative outlook on life often have a fixed mindset and are unwilling to see any or all of the possibilities that exist. People who continuously think negatively usually also believe they're victims (ie living in fear, which is not healthy).

On the other hand, people with a positive outlook see themselves as being in charge of their lives and they're more likely to take risks. They tend to have a growth mindset, which means they're always learning and growing. These individuals are also more likely to be resilient in the face of setbacks. Your attitude affects the actions you take. When we achieve a goal, it reinforces our belief that anything is possible, making us more positive overall and giving us hope (a pre-requisite for thinking positively about the future).

2) A can-do attitude

A can-do attitude is an essential part of success. Individuals who have a can-do attitude can see the potential in every situation and they're not afraid to take risks. They're also incredibly resilient and know that failure is just a stepping stone to success. People with a can-do attitude are usually also very optimistic and have a positive outlook on life. Can-do attitudes, by definition, involve doing. Action is the key to success. You can't just sit around and wait for good things to happen, you have to make them happen. It's one thing to believe in positive things; it's another to do something about it. Positivity without action is just wishful thinking. But, action, powered by a can-do attitude, can change your life.

3) A willingness to learn and grow

No matter how old you are, it's never too late to learn and grow. A willingness to learn and grow shows that you're open to new ideas and experiences. It means that you're always looking for ways to improve yourself and your life. Individuals who are unwilling to learn and grow often get stuck in a rut and their lives become stagnant. On the other hand, people who are always learning and growing are constantly moving forward. They're never satisfied with where they're at and are always looking for ways to improve. This attitude is essential for success because the world is constantly changing and evolving. If you're not willing to change with it, you'll be left behind.

4) An attitude of gratitude

An attitude of gratitude is one of the most important attitudes you can have. Being grateful for what you have creates a positive mindset and allows you to see the good in every situation. It also helps to increase your overall happiness. People who are grateful for what they have are usually more successful than those who are not. This is because they're able to see all of the good in their lives, even when things are tough. They also tend to be more generous and compassionate. A grateful attitude is contagious and has a positive impact on those around you. When you're grateful, you not only improve your own life, but you also make the world a better place.

So, what are you waiting for? Make the choice and Take charge of your attitude to start living your best life!