Warrior Mindset 1 – Goal setting and self belief by Andrew Curtiss

How can you know where you are going if you don’t know where you have been?

This quote a variant of George Santayana’s quote on history “Those who are unaware of history are destined to repeat it.” The greatest warriors in history from Sun Tzu, Alexander the Great, Musashi to George Washington, General Eisenhower, General Schwarzkopf, Mohammed Ali, Dan Severn or Randy Couture and Georges Saint-Pierre all have one thing in common. They knew where they wanted to be in life and what they wanted to do. They were all able to extract the lessons from their past experiences to help formulate how they would exact future ones. They were all meticulous and ardent goal setters and achievers. If one knows where they have been and what they have already achieved; then they can decide who they want to be and where they want to go.

[pullquote]Goal setting is fundamental in being successful in life.[/pullquote]

Goal setting is fundamental in being successful in life. This writer learned from an early age that anything was possible if one set their mind to the task. Many however do not know how to goal set. As a certified fitness trainer conventional teachings preach that you should always advise clients to set “realistic goals” because they are easier and more likely to achieve. There are a couple ways that one can view this perspective.

  1. Setting smaller more achievable goals favors success and is more likely to be achieved than setting larger goals. Setting easy to achieve goals are more likely to attain longevity in the areas that the goals pertain. For example; an overweight client wants to lose 100 pounds and the trainer tells them to set a smaller more attainable goal like 25 pounds over the next three months.
  2. Setting just small goals only limits one’s potential. For example; the same overweight client limits themselves to losing 25 pounds at a time and thus hits a plateau. Instead set lots of small goals as stepping stones along the way to your final goal. “I will lose one-hundred pounds twenty-five pounds at a time.”
Defining realistic and attainable

What is realistic? Was it realistic that Columbus would ever find the “New World” across the ocean in 1492? Was it realistic that one would ever attempt walking on the moon? Realistic is a subjective term. When this writer was a child, I was told by certain friends and family, that I would never do anything with my martial arts training and that any goal I had of doing anything with my training was unrealistic. Over 20 years later I have won a National championship, become a professional athlete, written a book on it and make a living teaching government and police agencies Defensive Tactics.

[pullquote]One thing that all of the greats have in common is that they believed that we are limitless. [/pullquote]

One thing that all of the greats have in common is that they believed that we are limitless. Another expression that has always been influential in this writer’s life is “If you think you can; you’re right. If you think you can’t you’re right.” We are only limited by our mind. Once one comes to this realization they accept that anything is attainable; if one sets their mind to it and has the discipline and determination to see it through. Technology is a prime example of realism and attainability. Today we have the technology to travel to the moon and back, reach unheard of depths in the ocean, replace and even grow body parts and do other things that only ten years prior would have been thought not possible. In combat shooting there is an expression; “Aim big, miss big. Aim small miss small.” That basically means that if you want to shoot a pin point, you aim at the smallest possible point on the target that you wish to hit. Goals are the same but kind of in reverse. Set your goals high, shoot for the top and don’t stop until you achieve them.

Small victories

The term small victory is used quite often in the US military’s Survival Evasion, Resistance and Escape school. What it refers to is that although Aiming high and shooting for the “Big Picture” is great; if one solely sees only the overall picture and ignores each small victory, they grow frustrated and mentally exhausted. The key is to see each small or minor accomplishment one achieves as a small victory that leads one closer to overall mission accomplishment. Each small victory is a celebration and helps to keep hope and morale high. After all everyone needs hope.

Believe in yourself

All the greats share a belief in themselves. Self belief is so fundamental in achieving success. It is impossible to achieve victory in any endeavor if one does not believe in themselves. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a famous speech in which he talks about the six rules to success. In this speech one of the rules is self trust; “Believe in yourself”. Self belief is absolutely necessary if one is going to have self confidence that is so crucial in success.

Failure is not an option

In 1999, this writer was a candidate in the US Army Special Forces Selection at Fort Bragg North Carolina. In selection candidates are subjected to a plethora of unconventional situations designed to test them mentally and physically and push them to their limits. This process of forced physical exertion, mental, emotional and physical stress and sensory deprivation is designed to weed out candidates that are not cut out for Special Operations training. Each day those of us who made it would continually remind ourselves that quitting and failure were not options. The key to this is that without failure in the picture the only option was success and victory.

Never Quit

Members of the world’s most elite warrior groups such as Special Operations and top professional athletes keep true to the motto of “Never Quit”. It is a way of life for these warriors to give one-hundred percent dedication and conviction to the task at hand regardless of the odds or circumstances. This level of Dedication and conviction is necessary for any success or victory.

Short term and long term goals

Aiming for the top can be a difficult but worthwhile endeavor. One just needs to remember that the road will be filled with ups and downs; rises and falls. On a training mission once in Montana; my Special Forces Team Sergeant and I were to set up an observation post overlooking a target to be hit the following morning. This same mission was given to every other Operational Detachment Alpha in the battalion and each team tasked with this operation failed by never making their time on target. The movement was several kilometers, up and over two mountains in the dead of winter; wet and cold and in the black of night. The mountain was a muddy scag full of loose gravel difficult to climb, especially at night with snow and ice as additional obstacles. The movement was hard and fast with no rests.

Throughout the trek I was point man and it seemed that we were constantly climbing but not getting anywhere; as if we were on a treadmill at over 6500 feet altitude. At one point my Team Sergeant began to complain about the hazard of the operation under the conditions and how this was a foolish idea for a training operation. Although I had to agree; I knew that negativity is contagious. So instead of feeding his fire, I continued to propagate positivity. Instead of just looking at the top; I would pick out nearby ledges and tell myself and him that we were “Almost there”. Each new ledge was a small victory that led us one step closer to the top. I made each ledge a short term goal along the way of achieving the bigger goal of making it to the top.

Each time I would tell my Team Sergeant that we were almost there he would snap at me, “No we’re not!” The problem was that he only had one goal and that was to make it to the top; missing each of the other small victories along the way. At one point during the climb I scuttled ahead quickly maybe more than 150 meters above him, where I found the top. There I dropped my pack and went back down to deliver the good news to my boss. When I got down to him he was at the point of breaking when I told him that I had already made it to the top. He didn’t believe me; but when I led him to the top, his excitement was priceless. We were successful in making our objective hit time and were the only team in the battalion to successfully complete that mission. The importance of setting lots of short term goals along the way to your ultimate success is vital to any victory.


In this first segment in the “Warrior Mindset” series we have covered the fundamentals of goal setting and self belief. Knowing where you have been and establishing where you want to be. Defining what’s realistic and attainable; realizing that you are only limited by your desires. Understanding the importance of both short term and long term goals and realizing that each time one meets a short term goal it is another victory on the way to the top. We discussed the importance of self belief and never quitting until you have attained your goal and knowing that failure is not an option and that only success is. Whether you are an elite soldier, professional athlete or even a weekend warrior these tips if applied to your own challenge will help you come one step closer to success.


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