Sniper taking aim illustrating an article on how to think like a sniper

We all have bad days at work. We all experience times when things go wrong and then keep on going wrong and the whole construct of our working day kinda crashes down around us. When that happens most of us react the same way: 

  • We get stressed
  • We get depressed
  • We think of ditching our jobs
  • We want to just go somewhere and hide

All of these are natural reactions. A mind under extreme stress tries to find an escape first. It wants to revert back to a time when the world seemed kinder and there were other people around taking care of everything for us. 

What separates the winners of the world from the quitters however is not the response that the mind gives but what happens afterwards. Arguably some of the hardest tasks in the world are faced by snipers and special forces operatives. They operate in life-and-death situations with conditions they don’t control, fluid scenarios that can change at a moment’s notice and problems they need to solve with whatever resources they have at hand.  

Faced with the realization that a problem ignored is not a problem solved snipers have developed very specific techniques for dealing with them: 

Technique #1: Divide the Task – create small, manageable steps that are easier to achieve and lead you towards the greater outcome you want to achieve. 

Technique #2: Visualize Success – Don’t listen to the inner voice that tells you how you are failing. Learn to pep-talk yourself into seeing the success you’re going to achieve, tasting it, savoring it, because it is necessary and it is your job and you can do it. 

Technique #3: Emotional Control – Getting emotional is the surest way to lose control of yourself and waste time and energy in doing the wrong things. Always take a step back, breathe deeply a few times and then analyze what it is that you are looking at exactly. Understand its dynamics at a conceptual level. Break the problem down into its component tasks. 

Technique #4: Stay Focused – This is the hardest thing to do. It is almost impossible to keep working a process when everything around us appears to be falling apart. Yet, it is the process that gets us where we need to get to. It requires discipline to stay on track and focus to keep on working like nothing is happening. 

Technique #5: Gain Small Victories – No big problem has ever been solved without some small victory along the way to encourage us. Break down the problem you’re facing into small manageable steps. Each one is required to give you a sense of your own ability and encourage you to move onto the next step. Take the small victories you need in order to get to the larger ones.

Technique #6: Don’t Be A Loner – No one can last long without some kind of support network. The SAS, the UK’s secretive special forces, are directly linked to their HQs in Hereford, England, via satellite wherever they may be in the world. The stereotypical picture of snipers as loners could not be further from the truth. They are part of a closely-knit community of highly-trained professionals who use their knowledge and expertise to support each other. Create the special support network you need to help you out when you’re in trouble with knowledge, experience, fresh perspectives or simply a listening ear. 

That’s how every problem can be reduced to a manageable set of tasks. 

Just how to train your brain to do this without putting your name to the Official Secrets Act and signing up for the MI6 is the subject of my latest book: The Sniper Mind: Eliminate Fear, Deal with Uncertainty, and Make Better Decisions. You are here. You know what to do. 

Get the eBook version using this country-specific link.

Intentional: How to Live, Love, Work and Play Meaningfully by David Amerland   The Sniper Mind by David Amerland