(Part 1) The Small Wins Phenomenon


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I recently put together this free 3-Part series titled “3 Powerful Mental Toughness Strategies”.


Over the course of the next 3 days I’ll be covering what I believe are the three most crucial strategies to developing a stronger, more resilient mindset. Strategies that once known, understood and implemented will dramatically increase your chances of reaching your desired end goal – whatever that may be.


As you know, I served in the Military for over 12 years in total. I was a Sniper within the 2nd Commando Regiment and completed a number of operational tours overseas. While I loved my time within Special Forces, getting there certainly wasn’t easy. It took toughness, determination, drive and motivation. It also took the willingness to learn and discover personal weaknesses and the commitment to overcome and improve these shortcomings to ultimately give myself the best chance of succeeding.


All personal attributes that can be learned…by you!


You may recall this I wrote previously…


“Before I joined the Army and attempted Special Forces Selection I always thought there must be some kind of black art, or hidden ninja talent, or special meditation strategies that Special Forces guys knew and that’s why they were so mentally tough. I remember meeting some Special Forces soldiers early on in my career and thinking: “Geez, they definitely know something that I don’t about mental toughness.” I looked up to them and wanted to be them.


So I decide to do it and go for Special Forces Selection. It took me 4 attempts to finally make it.


The one thing I discovered when I finally made it through Selection and all the training to get my green beret, that one secret I finally figured out, is this…


There is no black art to mental toughness. There’s no special skill or hidden ninja talent or warrior rituals to learn. All there is is your wants and desires and simple, actionable strategies that anyone, in any field that has any kind of dreams or wants or goals, can easily and effectively implement.”


Strategies I’m going to teach you right now, starting with Part 1…




The Small Wins Phenomenon


First, let’s define mental toughness.


What is mental toughness?


  • Is it running a marathon?
  • Is it completing an Ironman?
  • Is it passing a Special Forces Selection Course?
  • Is it competing at the Olympics?
  • Is it surviving a dire situation?


I think generally people understand and define mental toughness as completing an extreme physical task. The above examples are certainly feats of mental toughness, but there is so much more to mental strength than just accomplishing monumental physical tasks.


Using physicality to test and grow your mental toughness is a tool that has been used by many, including the Military, for millennia and to great effect. We know it works, as thrusting yourself into tough situations forces you to employ mental toughness strategies to overcome the adversity and complete the mission.


But what if you’re not ready for those tough situations and haven’t practiced or learned any mental toughness strategies to employ? Your odds of success are certainly diminished.


So how can we set ourselves up for success?


Consider this…


Why and how do some Soldiers make it through Special Forces Selection and some don’t? In the regular Army I certainly didn’t receive any form of specific mental toughness training to help me cope with the extreme environment of Selection. This just wasn’t practiced within the Military. All you simply did was submit your papers for Special Forces Selection, received the yes or no from your Commanding Officer, trained as hard as possible and threw your hat in the ring to see if you made the grade.


So again, why did I and other successful candidates make the cut and others didn’t? And more importantly, how can we increase those odds of success?


The answer is confidence, or rather one of the answers is confidence. Now obviously there are many aspects to why a Soldier passes Special Forces Selection and others don’t. Preparation, planning, training, resolve, persistence, motivation, personal drive and so forth.


However confidence will play an undeniable and decisive factor in whether or not you win. Confidence will give you belief in yourself. It will keep you motivated and constantly pushing forward. It will ensure you bounce back from setbacks and remain focused and committed to reaching your target.


So how do we build confidence?


Through small wins.


Small wins create a winning attitude and build a solid platform of success from which you can launch to greater heights and achieve greater wins.


I’ve spoken to many current and former serving Special Forces members about this and they tend to agree. Small wins build your confidence slowly and allow you to build massive amounts of momentum with the more wins you get.


As I like to say, mental toughness is like a muscle. The more you work that muscle, the more it will develop and grow in strength.


But, like working any muscle, you must start slow.


We had a saying in the Military: You must crawl before you walk and you must walk before you run.


This was particularly apparent in Special Forces.


When learning the technicalities of room floor combat, it was done in stages. Stages that allowed the Soldier to learn the skills in a safe environment, before really ramping up the training.


This accomplished 2 things:


1. Safety - Safety was paramount and of particular concern when conducting floor room combat drills, especially when live bullets were involved. You needed to practice in small stages to ensure that you learned and retained the information in a benign environment, before adding stressors and making it more dangerous.


2. It built confidence - Confidence is such a huge factor in accomplishing any task. By crawling first and learning the ropes, you were instilled with confidence that allowed you to move forward to the next stage of greater difficulty and pressure with the knowledge that you were ready and capable.


By the time every Commando finishes their Advanced Close Quarter Battle Course, they are running, literally. Running through the room floor combat range doing an extremely dangerous task with speed, accuracy, devastating ability and above all… confidence.


Confidence that has been built up over weeks and weeks of training. Crawling before walking and walking before running. Slowly, but surely, securing small wins each and every run through of the room floor combat range and building momentum into an unstoppable force.


So what’s the take away from this?


Build your mental toughness by crawling before walking and walking before running.


You do this by creating small wins each and every day. By making it a part of your daily routine until it becomes a habit. A habit that builds tremendous amounts of momentum and confidence.


Once you have built up that confidence, you can move onto applying your newly found strength and momentum into a greater physical task, i.e. running a marathon, attempting Special Forces Selection, climbing Mt. Everest.


But, you can also use it in other, less physical ways, i.e. asking for that promotion or raise at work, starting a new project, taking the leap into a completely new job etc.


With enough confidence and mental strength, you’ll achieve whatever it is you set as your mission.




1. What can you start incorporating into your daily routines immediately to get those small wins? Make you bed, wash the dishes before work, iron your shirt, brush your teeth.


These all seem small and insignificant tasks, but trust me when I say they are setting patterns of success. They are creating small wins and building momentum. You will be gaining more and more confidence in your ability to complete large tasks simply by completing these small tasks. From there you can move onto larger, more difficult tasks.


2. Check out the YouTube video by a Navy SEAL Commander on the important task of making your bed!


3. How many wins can you line up before lunch?


4. Set this as your daily routine and complete them regardless of your mental and emotional state at the time. This will instil discipline.


I believe this small wins strategy is the number 1 strategy you need to employ and start utilising today to begin building your mental toughness. As I said above, gaining small wins each and every day will create a pattern of success, build your confidence, keep you motivated and focused and have you continually moving forward in life.


If you couple this daily small wins strategy with a clear mission, actually set clear and defined goals, lay out a step by step path to reach those goals, and bulletproof your mission by ensuring you can counteract any hurdles or roadblocks you may encounter…


... well, then you will have increased your chances of reaching your goals by factor of 23.8!


Alright, so I just made that number up 🙂


However, you will definitely have a significantly greater chance of hitting your targets, reaching your goals and getting back on track when you experience setbacks, than if you just employ what I call “hope planning.”


Hope planning is what most people do. They think of something they want and really, really hope it will happen without actually setting detailed goals and tasks to complete along a pre-defined path.


Hope planning doesn’t work.


So tomorrow in Part 2 of this series I’m going to show you how to actually set clear and defined goals using a classic Military mission planning process that’s highly effectively and easily implemented.


After reading tomorrow’s blog post, you’ll have a clear and actionable process you can utilize immediately to write your specific mission and create a step-by-step process to complete that mission and reach your desired goals…


..and have the confidence to actually get it done!


So just before I go, I’d like you to do two things…


1. Start incorporating the ‘small wins’ strategy today and begin building your pattern of success.


2. Comment below and let me know what small wins you are going to implement or are currently using, and also tell me what you’ve thought of this article.


Until tomorrow,


Rhys Dowden

Operator Edge