Harnessing the Power of Mindsets: Lessons from Navy SEALs Training

Navy SEALs Training Mental Fortitude

In the realm of elite military training, such as that of the Navy SEALs, the mental fortitude of candidates is as crucial as their physical prowess.

Read more: Harnessing the Power of Mindsets: Lessons from Navy SEALs Training

A study, “Stress, Mindsets, and Success in Navy SEALs Special Warfare Training” by Eric N. Smith, Michael D. Young, and Alia J. Crum, published in Frontiers in Psychology in 2020, delves into the pivotal role of mindsets in environments of extreme stress.

Understanding the Impact of Mindsets in High-Stress Environments

The study explores how different mindsets influence performance in highly stressful situations. Specifically, it examines the notoriously challenging Navy SEALs training, a domain characterized by extreme physical and mental stress, to understand if and how mindsets contribute to success in such environments.

The Power of Stress-Is-Enhancing Mindsets

The research hypothesized that candidates with stress-is-enhancing mindsets – those who view stress as beneficial to their health, performance, and wellbeing – would outperform those with stress-is-debilitating mindsets. Tracking 174 Navy SEALs candidates, the study found that indeed, those who perceived stress positively showed greater persistence, faster obstacle course completion times, and received fewer negative evaluations from peers and instructors.

Exploring Additional Mindsets: Willpower and Failure

The study also investigated the influence of other mindsets, such as beliefs about willpower and failure. Interestingly, it was found that failure-is-enhancing mindsets might be detrimental to candidates’ success. Additionally, possessing a non-limited willpower mindset appeared to prompt negative evaluations from others. This complex relationship between various mindsets and performance outcomes highlights the nuanced nature of mindset effects in extreme environments.

Robustness of Findings and Implications for Organizations

To ensure the robustness of their findings, the researchers conducted multiverse analyses, which confirmed the consistency of the results across different analytical decisions. This strengthens the argument for the significant role of mindsets in determining success in challenging environments. The study’s findings offer valuable insights for organizations and individuals operating in high-stress contexts, emphasizing the need to cultivate positive stress and failure mindsets for enhanced performance and resilience.

Why This Research Matters

Understanding how mindsets shape responses to stress and failure is vital in fields where physical and mental endurance are constantly tested. This research provides a framework for developing training programs and support systems that foster beneficial mindsets, potentially transforming the way individuals cope with and excel in demanding situations.


“Stress, Mindsets, and Success in Navy SEALs Special Warfare Training” by Smith, Young, and Crum offers a unique perspective on the impact of mindsets in one of the most challenging training environments. It underscores the power of positive perceptions of stress and the complex role of mindsets related to willpower and failure. For military organizations, sports teams, and high-pressure workplaces, this study provides crucial lessons on the mental strategies that can lead to success, resilience, and exceptional performance.


Photo by Alexander Jawfox on Unsplash

Smith, E. N., Young, M. D., & Crum, A. J. (2020). Stress, Mindsets, and Success in Navy SEALs Special Warfare Training. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 115. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02962.

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