The Viking Mentality
“He who lives without discipline dies without honor.” – Icelandic Proverb
Viking Performance Training and being a Viking are about two distinctly different yet related attributes. One is the physical. That toughness, that grind; the ability to push through discomfort and strength, discomfort against weakness and to continue pushing your own limits to achieve a desired physical outcome – or to effect an outcome with physicality.
You can’t have that, however, without the Viking mindset to go with it, a true Viking mentality.
Any great success story, any person who’s overcome adversity and has a true story to tell will tell you that the mentality to create the life that they live or the outcome that they desired was key. It was more key than any physical tool. It was more key than any happenstance. It was more key than help they may have received. Mentality is going to play that number one role in big changes, in big occurrences, in your life.
So, if you’re going to try to create a better life for yourself, a better version of yourself, that Next Best You that we talk about frequently at VPT, then you need to have the constantly improving mindset to make yourself better, to create that better version and hold yourself to that higher standard on a regular basis… or else you just default back to your normal.
There are several great anecdotes and speakers on this type
of topic. Some are hundreds of years old being passed down, some are from relatively
new thought leaders. One of the most famous
of such quotes, often attributed to Albert Einstein: “The definition of insanity
is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
It shows where mentality comes into play. Whatever mentality you have, whether you feel like it’s weak or whether you feel that it’s strong or other people would tell you it’s one or the other, that mentality has gotten you to where you are RIGHT NOW. As you’re reading this, that mentality is what got you to this point. But if your goals involve getting to a higher point, then that means your mentality must also continue improving.
To be somewhere other than where you are now you must think different, you must act different; and you must be in a constant state of leveling up in order to keep improving.
And that’s a very big part of what we stress to our members, our athletes, the people we work with, our friends, and our community: You HAVE to continuously be pushing yourself to get better and think about being better and think in better ways. How can you hold yourself more accountable? How can you increase ownership of your own life? How can you take more responsibility for your actions and make yourself more prepared to be better on a regular basis? Constant improvement is going to be the name of that game.
But where do the Vikings come into this? In my opinion, a very big part of the Vikings’ strength came from the fact that, in Viking mythology, they believed their fate was sealed. They were a fatalistic religion when it came to their end of days. Vikings believed that there were three demigods named the Norns who were depicted as older than ancient women who would spin people’s destinies like thread. And when they decided that person’s life was going to be over, they would take scissors and cut the thread, ending it.
There were three demigods named the Norns… who would spin people’s destinies like thread… when they decided that person’s life was going to be over, they would take scissors and cut the thread – ending it.
And these Norns, these three wise women, even had domain above the gods. They decided even the gods’ fate. To Vikings, this was a very important aspect of their life, that their destiny was already decided.
A lot of people can’t grasp this is a POSITIVE concept; but it’s all about that perspective. In the modern day, this kind of determinism often gets a negative reaction. Some people argue that if that their destiny is already decided then they can that as a reason to sit back and do nothing or to do less, or to just be lazy, to just stop caring. Because why bother if it’s already decided?
The Vikings took an opposite perspective to this, which you can see throughout their culture. They felt that their destiny, the end of their life, was already decided. But to them, that meant that the entire moment until that happened was a timeframe that could be faced free of fear; they were going to MAKE THE GODS NOTICE THEM.
They believed their death may be decided but it was up to them to make history remember their presence. They wanted the people around them, their community, to remember their name. They wanted the gods to notice them and for Odin to come down and invite them to Valhalla or to Frey to come down and invite the shieldmaidens to her afterlife and her group of female warriors.
They wanted to be the biggest possible version of themselves and leave a legend that a god would notice in their place once they passed away.
If they did – then eternal life. On one hand, with Odin and the afterlife or Frigg, but also back on Earth among the living, as a Viking legend. Knowing that the Vikings were known to do everything to the biggest of their abilities. And they weren’t afraid to explore new territories and push their boundaries. And the best of the Vikings, they’re the ones we’ve heard of now.
Many historians agree the Viking culture is perhaps the single biggest influence of culture in the ancient ages, perhaps even until the age of the internet, because they went further than anybody else. They traveled, they sailed to new lands, and as they explored, either through trade or through conquering warfare, they were spreading culture. They were spreading ideas, they were introducing people who had never been introduced otherwise.
And it was through pushing their limits, pushing their boundaries. They always wanted to grow to something bigger. They always wanted to do something bigger. And if somebody said it couldn’t be done, chances are that somewhere along the line, a Viking would come up and try to do it. They are the ones who decided they could sail the open seas. They’re the ones that pushed those limits and found North America 500 years before Columbus.
They didn’t just find it though, they were the first ones who tried to settle there in Greenland and parts of Canada. They also sailed down into the Mediterranean. Take a look at a map; Scandinavia and the Mediterranean are not near each other at all. You had to go all the way around the coast from the North Sea to the Straits of Gibraltar between what are now the countries of Spain and Morocco.
And not only did they get down there and find it, but they tried to expand into it as well. They had an overall fearless mentality of pushing their own limits. And again, through that, not only would they get the most out of their life, but they would be remembered. And that’s the Viking mentality that we want people to embrace; pushing their limits and getting the most out of it.
It doesn’t matter what your own beliefs are, religious or nonreligious. If you can live your life in a way where you’re thinking about getting the gods to notice you, that’s going to take you places. The greater your goal, the greater you have to be. You have to do better. So embracing that mentality will create that sense of improvement and achievement and unlock versions of you that you didn’t even realize existed.
If you can live your life in a way where you’re thinking about getting the gods to notice you, that’s going to take you places.
What we have today is a culture fixated on tearing down greatness. People want to bring others down to their level of mediocrity. Society wants everybody to be average. People get mocked on social media for wanting to be exceptional or wanting to do something different, for wanting to be unique. And the verbiage out there is that everybody should fit in. But then if the same people aren’t “fitting in” by doing the exact same thing as everybody else, then they’re practically exiled.
And that’s something that needs to change. It needs to change in global culture but that’s going to happen one person at a time. We need people who don’t give a shit about what others think. You just can’t care. It’s your life and you get one shot at it. You to make the most out of it and you need to make those gods notice you. Push yourself so the world changes in a better way for the way you think it should be.
Because if you’re living your best life, then things you touch, the people around you, the lives around you, the community around you, will reflect that change.
There are so many stressors now, so many things, but most of them are stresses that didn’t even exist before. We now lead much more complicated lives, but lives full of more menial tasks.
Things that weren’t issues in the past and weren’t bogging down people’s minds. Take the phenomenon of decision fatigue, for instance. You can only make so many decisions per day. Your brain, being just like a muscle, gets more tired with the more decisions it makes. And the more you care about little things that really don’t matter, then the less you’ll be able to make decisions that actually improve your life; that actually help you achieve your bigger goals.
Alongside of that is worry. People worry all the time now. And 90 percent of what people worry about never happens. Think about that. 90 percent. Worrying takes a lot of energy. If there were other things that took as much energy as worrying, would you keep doing it if 90 percent of the time it failed? If less than 10 percent of the time, you actually had a return on the investment? I doubt it.
So focus on just living the biggest life you can, focusing on the big decisions, on the big actions and letting the small ones, the mundane, just fall to the wayside. Less worry about little things, less everyday stressors, less worrying about other people think and just focusing on you. Focus on you and you will create that better self exactly how everybody else has created it over time. Day by day, piece by piece. That’s how you’re going to make yourself bigger.
That’s how you’re going to get the better life, that’s how the gods will finally take notice of you. And when that time has come, then you can go to your rightful place in Valhalla. Regardless of what comes after life, you will have lived the best life that you think you can; by solving problems, facing your fears, and better enduring discomfort. If you can do those things on a daily basis, you will improve day by day. You will become stronger and you will become your Next Best Self.