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Maintaining your winning mindset

By Dave Smith

It has always been my contention that the primary asset every officer, deputy, trooper, detective, agent, (or whatever your title is) takes into any crisis is the right mental attitude...a sense of winning not just merely surviving any encounter.

Study the wisdom of the ancient martial arts, or today studies by cognitive psychologists and a common theme emerges as the central and essential set of mental, emotional, and moral, tools. We know the nature of combat has changed little in the time of recorded history. The sudden assault, the ambiguity of outcome and friction of fear and uncertainty are basic elements of combat.

The law enforcement officer rarely is as prepared for battle as the traditional soldier since none of us ever gets a call such as, "respond to 110 West Elm, and shoot the occupant." We need the mindset of constant awareness and Col Cooper's Condition YELLOW has always been a good reminder for our need to be aware...attend to the NOW!!!

While awareness is essential, we must also have a core base of emotional and mental skill long before we ever confront our crisis. Scientists studying survivors find they tend to have powerful beliefs such as strong self-esteem and optimism as well as faith in their God, families, and a sense of mission. Each of these is important as when combined within one individual they form the solid basis of a winner.

Look inside yourself to see how you feel about these things...do you have them...do you believe you control your own future? This is the essential "Locus of Control" optimists have to guide their lives and futures in positive directions. The term means simply that the center of control for your life is within you...not your spouse, department, or parents. Ask yourself who is responsible for your happiness. If the answer isn't you, then you need to reflect on why not!

After affirming your beliefs and core faiths we need to develop a faith in our skills. We need to absolutely know we will win a confrontation in the absence of proof...that is the essence of faith. Mentally rehearse over and over on and off the range winning armed confrontations not just "qualifying" with your weapon.

Picture yourself using all levels of your force options over and over and creating positive futures...and remember to resolve your core belief with that level of violence.

It is okay for good people (you) to kill evil people to defend your life or the life of an innocent third person...right? You MUST believe this. Greek warriors knew it was essential to have their "ethos" fully developed. Ethos meant moral order and is the root word of our popular topic "ethics" which are simply the symptoms of how well developed you moral order is. Today it is hard to teach such things, as all beliefs and actions must be held mutually of value and not judged good or bad...this makes developing a moral order a little harder!

You have the advantage of seeing evil manifest, daily in people's lives and thus can find basic truths easier than those who live protected and sheltered existences, never knowing the extremes of evil, courage, cowardice, selfishness or selflessness. You work daily among heroes and villains in a life that offers one the ability to know more living in five years than the average citizen could know in seventy...yours is a true adventure.

In our seminar we expand on the ideas above and I challenge you to practice the mental and physical skills to become a winner...you have already chosen the warrior's path or you would not be reading this. I invite you to keep learning and growing and understanding the keys to winning, not just confrontations, but ALL situations in your life.

Reinforce your faiths, in God, family, mission and skills. Practice positive self-talk and crisis rehearsal in your mind. Reflect on who is responsible for your life and future and read and grow all the time. Attend to the now, ready, anticipating, vigilant.

Finally, believe in truths, absolutes that form the framework of our souls, our futures, and our mission.


"Learned Optimism," by Martin Seligman
"The Art of Living," by Epictitus
"Carnage and Culture," by Victor Davis Hansen
"Psyched to Win," by Robt. Neidiffer
"Applied Sports Psychology," Edited by Williams
"The Tactical Edge," by Charles Remsberg

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