Ranger School - The Mental Game

In 2020 with my face in the mud, freezing cold, hungry and running on about an hour of sleep in the last 2 days, I began to question what I was doing at Ranger School.

I had just come from a comfortable staff position sitting behind a computer in an air conditioned room with every one of life’s comforts at my convenience. Now here I was in the most uncomfortable and painful conditions I had ever experienced. To put it plainly: It sucked.

I began to question If I could really go another day, let alone another several months of this.

The United States Army Ranger School is the US Army’s premier leadership school meant to push students to their breaking point physically and mentally, while continually assessing their leadership ability under extreme mental and physical stress.

It had been a goal of mine to attend and graduate for years. I finally seized the opportunity and here I was questioning my decision on why I even wanted to attend in the first place.

It was at my lowest point physically and mentally that I told myself: “I'll quit….tomorrow” I began to say it day after day. It became the greatest mental game I ever played. It became a mantra I say to this day.

When I told myself this, it did 3 things:

It gave me immediate relief and a sense of joy. Tomorrow I could go home! Tomorrow I could take a warm shower and eat a big juicy burger and drink an ice cold beer. Tomorrow I could sleep in a nice comfy bed, all I had to do was get through today. It elevated my morale.

While a lot of other students held their head down thinking about the next several months of pain they had to endure, little did they know I was excited because I got to go home tomorrow!

The second thing this mental game did was forced me to focus on the present. Since I didn’t have to worry about the future days of Ranger School, I could fully focus and invest myself into the here and now.

The third thing it did, in my mind, it gave me the mental edge over the instructors. One of the jobs of the Ranger instructors is to push the students to their edge, to constantly stress them and assess them. They do an excellent job at this! When I told myself, I’m going to quit…tomorrow” It instilled in me a confidence that no instructor could break me. Since I was going home tomorrow and only had to survive the next several hours, there was nothing that they could throw at me that I couldn’t handle.

Now the truth is: was I ever actually going to Quit? ABSOLUTELY NOT.

But what you learn is no matter how hard or challenging your day is, it's going to get better. The pain and discomfort experienced in Ranger School or in life is only temporary. It may last an hour, a day, or longer, but it will subside. It will get better.

The world and others may give you your hardest times, but it's nothing you can't handle.

So you can quit….tomorrow. But right now, you have to get off your ass, quit feeling sorry for yourself, and get to work.

About the Author:

David Winne is a United States Army Officer and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Technician. He has combat deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. He was the Distinguished Honor Graduate of the United States Army Ranger School and is currently an instructor at the joint service EOD school in Florida. You can find him on instagram at @Winnesworld

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