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The path to becoming a member of the Special Forces is not an easy one. The faint-hearted should avoid it, for qualifying for a place in a Special Forces unit requires more than just physical strength and endurance; it takes mental toughness, resilience, and an unwavering mindset. If you seek to successfully navigate the gruelling selection process, you must prepare yourself mentally for the challenges that lie ahead. There is no other way.

In this blog post:

In this blog, we will delve into the key elements of the mindset you must possess in order to develop the mental fortitude required to excel as a candidate for Special Forces selection.

Cultivate Your Inner Drive

The foundation of preparing for Special Forces selection begins with knowing your "why" and understanding your purpose. Gain those insights by reflecting upon what exactly it is that motivates you to want to join the Special Forces. Is it a desire to serve your country? Perhaps it’s a willingness to protect others? Maybe you want nothing so much as a chance to challenge yourself to the limits of your capabilities? Identifying your personal motivations will provide you with a deep-rooted drive and determination that will fuel your commitment throughout the selection process. Write down your "why" and keep it in a place where you can see it every day as a reminder of your purpose. And, while you’re at it, spend some time thinking about—and putting to paper (or to pixels, if you prefer)—the mark you hope to make in life as a Special Forces member.Cultivate Your Inner Drive

Embrace Discomfort and Overcome Obstacles

Special Forces selection is designed to push you to your limits physically, mentally, and emotionally. Embracing discomfort and being able to face challenges head-on are facets of a mindset that is essential to cultivate. Recognise that growth and progress often come from stepping outside your comfort zone. Embrace the difficult moments, knowing that each one is an opportunity to develop resilience, determination, and mental toughness. When faced with physical or mental discomfort, remind yourself that the unpleasantness is temporary and that the sense of accomplishment and growth that comes from pushing through far outweighs any short-lived agony.Embrace Discomfort and Overcome Obstacles

Set Goals and Celebrate Progress

Setting clear goals is crucial for maintaining focus. They’re also necessary for tracking your progress throughout the preparation process. Start by defining your overarching goal. What is that topmost goal? It’s to qualify to become a member of the Special Forces. Next, break that goal down into smaller, measurable micro-goals that will act as milestones along your journey to Special Forces induction. These micro-goals can include specific physical fitness targets, training benchmarks, or mental milestones. Celebrate your progress each time you achieve a micro-goal. A good way to celebrate is by treating yourself to a reward—but make sure the reward is both enjoyable and meaningful. At a minimum, pause to appreciate how far you've come since starting out in pursuit of this goal.Set Goals and Celebrate Progress

Visualise Success and Build Confidence

Visualisation is a powerful tool for developing a winning mindset. It involves setting aside time each day to mentally “see” yourself successfully completing the tasks and challenges you will face during Special Forces selection. Close your eyes and imagine the details: the sights, sounds, and sensations of overcoming each obstacle with precision and confidence. As you visualise, engage all your senses and immerse yourself in the experience. This practice builds self-confidence by training your mind to believe in your abilities. Combine visualisation with positive self-talk in which you remind yourself of your strengths, capabilities, and past accomplishments. This combination of visualisation and positive self-talk can powerfully boost your confidence and reinforce a budding, success-centric mindset.Visualise Success and Build Confidence

Master Self-Talk and Mental Resilience

The way you speak to yourself can greatly influence your mindset and performance. Cultivate positive self-talk by consciously replacing negative thoughts or self-doubt with encouraging and empowering statements. When faced with a challenge or setback, consciously choose to frame it as an opportunity for growth and learning. Use phrases like "I am capable," "I can do this," and "I embrace challenges." Stand tall—good posture not only projects confidence but also influences your internal state of mind. Consistently practice positive self-talk and, in time, it will become a habit that eventually morphs into second nature. Bit by bit, positive self-talk strengthens your mental resilience and helps you muster determination and confidence you’ll need to successfully navigate the demanding moments of Special Forces selection.Master Self-Talk and Mental Resilience

Find Calmness in Chaos

The high-stress nature of the Special Forces selection process necessitates development of an ability to find moments of calm amidst chaos. Incorporating mindfulness or meditation practices to your daily routine can help you cultivate a sense of inner peace and clarity. This entails finding a quiet space where you can sit comfortably. Once there and seated, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Observe your thoughts without judgment, allowing them to come and go. Through regular meditation practice, you develop the ability to remain centred, calm, and focussed—even in high-pressure situations. This mental clarity will help you make better decisions, stay composed, and maintain peak performance when it matters most.Find Calmness in Chaos

Reframe Challenges as Opportunities

Reframing challenges involves shifting your perspective from seeing them as obstacles to viewing them as opportunities for growth. When faced with a difficult task or setback, tell yourself that it is an opportunity to test and strengthen your skills and character. Embrace the discomfort and view it as a necessary step toward becoming a Special Forces operator. If you feel frustration or anger, channel it into motivation which you can then use to push through barriers and exceed your own expectations. Reframing challenges is key to developing a resilient mindset that allows you to thrive in adversity.Reframe Challenges as Opportunities

Master Your Reactions and Stay Confident

The ability to manage your physiological and mental responses to stress and intense situations is vitally important for passage of the Special Forces selection exams. Begin by practicing deep-breathing techniques, such as diaphragmatic breathing, to regulate your body's stress response. Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your belly to expand, then exhale fully through your mouth. This type of breathing activates the body's relaxation response and helps maintain calmness and focus. Also crucial is maintenance of self-confidence. One way to do this is continuously remind yourself of your capabilities, skills, and past accomplishments. Recognize that you have prepared diligently and possess the qualities necessary to succeed as a Special Forces selection candidate. Cultivating self-confidence and staying composed under pressure helps you perform at your best when it matters most.Master Your Reactions and Stay Confident

Foster Teamwork and Unity

Special Forces operations rely heavily on teamwork and camaraderie. So, throughout your preparation, work on developing strong bonds with your teammates and—in the course of that—shift the focus from your and their individual struggles to the collective goals of the team. Provide emotional uplift to the other candidates when they face challenges. Help cultivate an environment of shared resilience by engaging in team-building exercises and challenges that foster unity and cooperation. Support one another and, in that way, you’ll build mutual trust. As well, by leaning on each other for support, motivation, and inspiration, you also create a network of individuals who can help you navigate the demanding journey of Special Forces selection.Foster Teamwork and Unity

Put Theory into Practice

To truly prepare for Special Forces selection, you must put theory into practice. Engage in tough, realistic training exercises and activities that simulate the physical and mental demands of selection. Seek out opportunities to expose yourself to challenging situations so that you can force yourself out of your comfort zone. Participate in events that test your physical stamina, mental resilience, and ability to perform under pressure. Additionally, augment your training regimen by incorporating activities like ice baths to help further develop your mental toughness and ability to adapt to adverse conditions. By exposing yourself to real challenges, you gain the practical skills, mental fortitude, and adaptability necessary to excel in Special Forces selection.Put Theory into Practice


In the world of Special Forces, mindset is everything. It is the key to achieving seemingly impossible goals and fulfilling even the wildest of dreams. As you embark on the journey to become a member of an elite warrior/peacekeeping group , make it a priority to cultivate a mindset of resilience, determination, and unwavering focus. Understand that the challenges you will face are not insurmountable obstacles but opportunities for growth and self-discovery. Prepare your mind as rigorously as you train your body and you will emerge as a stronger, more capable individual. Where your mind leads, your body follows. Now, at the beginning of your ascent up the mountain, embrace the extraordinary and unlock your true potential.

Mike Strauch

About the author:

Mike Strauch

Mike is a German army reserve officer with a masters degree in psychology. He previously was a private security contractor in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa. Mike founded Project Archangel, through which he shares his knowledge and experience of “the Way of the Warrior”.

Published: 10-06-2023