Mental Toughness is the Best Survival Tool
April 12th, 2019
3 minute read
Any quick Google search can bring up thousands of articles and tips on survival. There’s a great deal to learn, from medical skills to communications, food to sanitation and of course defense. The tools to help accomplish your survival goals are limitless as well. The most important tool you have, however, is your own brain, which can bring a whole host of things to the table—things you can’t buy anywhere but that you’ll desperately need.
We often don’t like to engage in the kind of soul-searching that mental toughness requires, but we all have weaknesses, fears, and other nasty things that can keep us from being where we need to be in our mental game.
We can’t mitigate a threat we refuse to believe exists. Before we can claim mental toughness—or even get started on the process of developing it—first we must find and admit where we’re mentally weak. That can be an uncomfortable thing to do, but the sooner you get to a place where you can point to your own weaknesses, name them, and recognize when they’re having an effect, the sooner you can get to work mitigating those effects. That means if you’re ever in a survival situation you’ll be able to recognize when those weaknesses are cropping up and do what’s necessary to get them under control.
Calm During the Crisis
The mental skill of being able to perform in a stressful situation is something that must be learned, practiced, and maintained. It won’t matter how big your medical bag is or how extensive your tools are if you cannot think clearly enough to use them when someone is severely injured or sick. All the things you’ve stocked to prepare for various types of emergencies will not help you if you fall apart under pressure.
The hard truth is that the only thing that prepares you to perform when you’re stressed is to simulate performing under stress. Instead of calmly shooting targets at the range, try doing jumping jacks until you’re out of breath and then see how accurate you are. Try telling your family members that any one of them can call a fire drill at any time so you’re surprised too. Look for ways to force yourself to practice doing what needs to be done when you’re afraid, tired, or caught off guard.
This is another skill you need to learn and practice. Part of being prepared for anything means understanding how and when your environment could change, and already understanding what those changes might look like and how you may need to respond to them.
You can get your family involved too—make it a game. Look around; notice things that are “off” or seem out of place for the location, activity, or time of day. A man wearing a heavy coat in summertime, a woman furtively glancing around, or even your child being watched too closely by someone across a room are just a few examples of things that you should not miss going on around you.
Pay attention to people and what they’re doing, or what they’re looking at. There is literally an entire world out there and being able to notice what’s going on in it is critical to staying safe and prepared. That holds true whether you’re in a noisy mall with thousands of other people or the only person in the middle of a silent forest.
There is a lot of fluff out there about positive thinking, but in a survival situation it can truly save your life. If you’re feeling sorry for yourself because you’re lost, or cold and wet, or in an unpleasant and even dangerous situation, that’s what you’ll focus on—not using the tools or skills you have that can keep you alive. We humans can talk ourselves into (or out of) anything; that includes being able to talk ourselves into giving up. Instead, practice using your powers of self-persuasion to control your fears, recognize fatigue, understand your situation, and focus on what needs to be done to make it out.
Your brain truly is the best survival tool you have. Train it, use it, survive with it.