Developing Your Psychological Hardiness

How you can apply The Military’s 7 Point Formula for Survival Situations

From the U.S. Army Survival Handbook:  “Your mission as a soldier in a survival situation is to stay alive…You are going to experience an assortment of thoughts and emotions.  These can work for you, or they can be your downfall.  Fear, anxiety, anger, frustration, guilt, depression and loneliness are all possible reactions to the many stresses common to survival.  When the survivor cannot control these reactions in a healthy way, they can bring him to a standstill.  This soldier experiences psychological defeat long before he physically succumbs.”

There is no doubt that our troops encounter an almost unimaginable stress level.  Accordingly, developing psychological hardiness in troops remains a core component of today’s military training.    The following 7 point formula for psychological survival have stress survival lessons for civilians as well.  Are you in psychological shape for handling life’s sometimes stressful situations?

  1. Know yourself.  Discover who you are on the inside.  The army notes the need to strengthen your stronger qualities and develop those areas that you know are necessary to survive.  In civilian language:  Maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.
  2. Anticipate Fears:  The Boy Scouts slogan “Be prepared” has never been more true.  Plan for life’s worse case scenarios.  Although an estimated 92% of our fears never come true and you don’t want to become a worry wart, anticipating your response can help you not only make better business and life decisions, it also prepares you for needed reaction under fire.
  3. Be Realistic:    While I’m a huge believer in “The law of positive expectation” aka “The Secret” I’ve also learned to temper my enthusiasm with a dose of reality or what the military calls an “Honest Environmental Assessment”.  This has many applications to both stress and time management.  It’s a good practice to get in the habit of “under-promising and over-delivering” when it comes to giving commitments.  Case in point:    In the old days when asked, I would have a project completed; I would jump right to that tight deadline.  Then unplanned interruptions would occur and poof I’m in crisis overload.  Be realistic in your situational assessment and commitments.
  4. Adopt a Positive Attitude:  In a survival situation people who most often perish say “Oh, NO, we’re all going to die” Whereas people who survive say what is the very next step I need to take to survive this situation?  Are you problem focused or solution oriented?  Do you exhibit the qualities of people who handle stress well, including enjoying moments of solitude each day, using humor and play to change moods and being able to tolerate frustration without falling apart?
  5. Remind Yourself What is at Stake:  In combat situations it’s your life and the lives of other depending on you to do your share.  Life is no different.  Among the qualities of those who handle stress well is they value life every day.
  6. Train:  The military has one of the best training programs in the world using realistic simulations to prepare troops for field reality.  View each day as a survival situation.  What did you do and or/handle well?  Where and how could you have improved your reactions to improve the outcome?
  7. Learn Stress Management Techniques:  The same training used in the military (relaxation, time management, assertiveness and cognitive restructuring (the ability to control your view of a situation) represent essential training for business and life.   If you have not yet participated in a “Stress Management Course” you are missing out on essential survival tools.