Survival mindset: What it really means to be a tough character
The formula of dedication combined with flexibility is what maximizes mental toughness and the survival mindset
In a September 2012 column, Dr. Joel Shults penned an eye-opening critique concerning the survival mindset that he feared would reap ire from gung-ho cops trying to make their bones.
Basically, he pointed out what the survival mindset is not:
• Cavalier disregard for physical health
Since I’ve previously written about what I call mental toughness, and what others have termed the warrior mindset, or battlemind, I’d like to add some information — gleaned from numerous researchers studying extreme performance in the military, law enforcement, first responders, and sports training — that sheds further light on what it truly means to be a consistent high performer.
ITTS (It’s the Training, Stupid)
After years of such integrated experience, you begin to utilize recognition primed decision making (RPDM), the ability to size up a situation almost instantaneously and know what to do. This principle underlies all the others, because the day you stop learning is the day your skills start to rot on the vine.
As experience with phenomena like tunnel-vision and weapon-focus demonstrate, it is the ability to flexibly broaden and narrow the attentional beam as needed that enables you to fully account for and respond to all the variables in a life-or-death scenario.
In the critical situation itself, this imagery is often utilized as part of the RPDM process to quickly figure out the right strategies for resolving the crisis.
Thought and Language
Well, this is a skill that can be trained and utilized systematically to “put your training on your shoulder” when you encounter a crisis scenario.
Emotional Range and Resilience
Remember: in a hurricane, the tough, rigid tree resists the wind for a while, but eventually goes down, while the slim reed next door bends and survives. One of the qualities of mature resilience is the ability to experience and express a range of emotions without getting overwhelmed by them.
If you’re always wrapped too tight, sooner or later you’re going to snap.
Openness to Advice
Of course, if you’re good at what you do and have been doing it successfully for a long time, you’re probably smarter in your domain than most of the people around you. But that doesn’t mean you can’t always learn something. And that last little nugget just may be the one that saves your life in the next critical encounter.
A person with a mature sense of humor appreciates the ironies in life and can laugh at him/herself, because self-criticism or any criticism is viewed as a learning tool, not an assault on one’s ego. But mature humor avoids the kinds of demeaning, cruel mockery that is designed only to lacerate another person and which, paradoxically, only reveals the jokester’s own insecurity.
We sometimes laugh to diffuse the horror of some critical life-and-death situations, and that’s okay, as long as it’s not done gratuitously at someone else’s expense.
The Whole System
Like all of the principles described in this column, the formula of dedication combined with flexibility is what maximizes mental toughness and the survival mindset, and having a full life reminds you what you’re surviving for
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