An Evening Practice

Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL training, or BUD/S, is a 6-month course intended to select only the best, most well-rounded candidates from a group of physical studs that show up to take on the toughest military training in the world.  After just a few weeks of learning the basics comes the infamous Hell Week – a constant barrage of day and night physical training that leads to the most attrition in the whole course.  After a weekend to recuperate the trainees are back in action, and now they know that they can withstand anything that the instructors throw at them, so the training gets harder.  4-mile soft sand runs at first had to be completed in 32 minutes.  Now it’s 30 minutes, and by the end of training it will be 28.  2-mile ocean swim times in the cold Pacific are also ratcheted down.  Every phase of training gets more physically demanding, so that at the end only the strongest, fastest, toughest men are left.

Throughout training, the BUD/S instructors have a saying that dates back to the origins of the SEAL teams that they will repeat to the class, to remind them of their old-school frogman heritage but also to help the candidates, to keep them hyper-focused on the here and now.

“The Only Easy Day was Yesterday.”

This was probably originally a response to a question that we hear a lot in CrossFit too:  “When does this training get easier?”

But what does “The Only Easy Day was Yesterday” mean?  That yesterday was actually easy?  Because it sure as hell wasn’t.  That tomorrow is going to be that much harder?  Maybe, but you really don’t know until you’re in it.

I think maybe what it means – and where this has value for our non-SEAL lives as well – is that yesterday is easy because IT’S OVER.  Yesterday is behind us and we have no chance to do it over.  We can rest easy in the fact that whatever hardships we had to endure yesterday are now safely in the past.  All we can effectively focus on is what we’re doing right now, and of course making sure that what we’re doing right now is the right thing to be doing!

I’ve written a lot before about my morning practice, centered on beginning with gratitude and then focusing on how I can take steps today toward fulfilling my purpose.  “The Only Easy Day was Yesterday” leads me to another powerful tool to add to your day – an Evening Practice to identify the lessons learned and big wins at the end of the day, and then to move on in a positive way toward tomorrow.  Try this to add some structure to your bedtime routine and allow yourself to go to sleep having put the past to bed as well.

An Evening Practice

  • First, spend a few minutes box breathing or just in quiet “breath awareness” – notice your breathing and try to direct your focus to it, letting go for now of all the other thoughts racing through your head.
  • Recap your entire day, starting from the beginning and going all the way up to the present.  What went very well for you today?  Where were you “on point” and winning?  Grab your journal and note these wins, as a way of creating positive momentum coming into the next day.  On the other hand, what didn’t go so well?  Where did you fall short today?  Rather than dwelling on the negativity that is possible here, reframe these experiences as lessons learned.  What can you do better next time?  Where can you be more prepared, or act with more integrity, or be more flexible?  Note your lessons learned and your plan for improvement the next time these situations show up.  Eradicate any regrets or bad feelings with this positive recapitulation of your day, internalizing the wins and lessons learned and then leaving the past behind you.
  • Finish by thinking of any open questions that are on your mind.  Maybe it’s something as simple as “how can I be mentally stronger next time this situation comes up?”  Maybe it’s one of the big ones – “what am I supposed to be doing with my life?” …yep, that’s probably the biggest one!  After removing the stressors of the day with your Evening Practice, your mind will be free to focus more on these questions that you need help on, instead of the negative chatter that usually occupies it.  Spend some time breathing and focusing on that question, and the answer may become a bit more clear.  Don’t be surprised if you wake up with even more clarity as your subconscious mind delved deeper into it overnight as you rested.

With a consistent Evening Practice, you’ll fall asleep at night with the contentment that the day is over and now in the past, and you were able to experience successes and failures and learn about yourself, where you’re strong and where you can improve.  When you wake up in the morning you’ll feel that positive charge, and be ready for a gratitude- and purpose-filled Morning Practice where you lay out your plan for the day and get ready to crush it.  Today’s gonna be another Easy Day!