Battle Drills = A Fruitful Life
I discovered early in my stint as a U.S. Army officer, that the life of a military soldier is spent training and preparing. Fitness, maintenance, marksmanship, classes, safety awareness, and inspections were just a few of the regular recurring duties I had to manage as an officer, but one that always stood out to me and intrigued me the most were battle drills.
A battle drill is defined as, “a collective action rapidly executed without applying a deliberate decision-making process”. In short, a soldier could execute any battle drill so proficiently that he could do it in his sleep. Battle drills were hammered into the heads of my soldiers and we practiced them over and over again until they became second nature.
Battle drills are a military unit’s playbook for survival on the battle field. I knew, as an officer and leader of my platoon, that I could order any drill and my soldiers would respond flawlessly. One particular battle drill, for my Military Police platoon, was the action of dismounting a crew served weapon from the fixed position on top of a Humvee to a hasty fighting position on the ground. When I ordered the drill, a Military Police team of three soldiers would masterfully dismount the weapon, place it in the proper position on the ground, and would be ready to fire at my command in a matter of seconds. The deliberate motion and elegance of a professional soldier executing a battle drill is a beautiful sight, poetry in motion, and is a result of hours of meticulous practice and care.
The importance and the necessity of battle drills stayed with me after I left the military. I often consider how I can automate critical functions in my everyday life to ensure long term success. Life, is a constant battle with a continuous tension between time and resources. I know that if I don’t lean into life and fight for high ground, then I will be left behind in the friction of everyday conditions that can push me off track and left muddling in a sea of mediocrity and regret.
I’ve learned that I have a finite amount of decision making power every day. I must conserve my energy for the heavy decisions as I ponder my strategies and formulate my next moves. So, the more tasks that I can execute without “applying a deliberate decision making process”, the better. In short, I need to streamline my decisions.
What does this look like in my everyday life? It’s simple, I make an overall strategic decision and then manage that decision every day in the form of a battle drill. For example, I’ve decided that fitness is important to me. I’ve chosen to shape my body to be lean and fit. In order to achieve this goal I decided to strive to qualify for the Boston Marathon. This gives me something tangible to shoot for and motivates me to work out on a daily basis. I divide out my week like this: Monday and Wednesday are interval and tempo running days. Tuesday and Thursday are easy running days, Friday is a core strength day, and Saturday is set aside for a long run. I take Sunday off.
My shoes, socks, shorts, shirt and watch are stored in the exact same spot where I can easily reach them. I do my training runs at the exact same time each day so my body and mind is trained to switch into running mode when that time hits each day. I’ve removed the stress of deciding and turned it into a daily task that I complete without thinking.
I follow this same process in several areas of my life to include my work, finances, eating, relationships, education, etc. It cleanses my mind and allows me to think on critical areas of my life with energy and enthusiasm because I protect myself from the daily rigors of life with my own personal battle drills.
If you are interested in applying this concept in your own life, try these steps:
- Identify an area in your life you want to enhance;
- Identify tasks that you can automate, and if done consistently will improve that area in your life;
- Make the decision on what you plan to accomplish with that task, how you will accomplish it, and what resources you need;
- Plan this task into your schedule and then adamantly stick to that schedule.
- Review your progress after a couple months. You will be surprised at the results.
Have fun with the process and let me know what battle drills you’ve developed in your own life. I look forward to hearing how many of you are winning your own battles!