We humans are capable of doing amazing things. A large brain that is adept at manipulating its surroundings can be credited with many technological marvels in our world today. This powerful tool so-called brain can and should be at our disposal when catastrophe threatens the livelihood of our well-being. Especially during survival conditions, harnessing/exploiting the power of our brain is similar to limitless possibilities. In any case, the ability to use this power starts by having a proper survival mindset; the same mindset taught to Special Forces soldiers across the globe.

Often, we hear the news reports stories of people stranded in the outdoors with no gear and minimum in any survival training, yet somehow many of these people triumph all the odds and survive. How is this possible? Well, these people possess a strong will to survive and that mindset has been proven over time and again appears to be more useful than any other single trait when survival is questioned. The military realizes this and tries to instill this very mindset into the soldiers who are being trained.


According to studies, 95 percent of people who perish from psychological trauma are likely to die within the first three days. It is truly the mind over matter situation. Losing the ability to think clearly, for instance, will be more harmful/detrimental to our chances of survival than any number of other factors. Still according to studies, one survivor was reported to have eaten his own belt when no other food sources were available. There were others who have lost as much as 25 percent of their body mass due to dehydration and still did not perish. It is almost as common are stories of well-prepared individuals who yield or give up when the situation becomes difficult and succumb to death as a result. Some even take their own lives rather than fight for their own survival. It is no wonder at all if we look at the fact that all military survival guides begin with chapters about the survival mindset before detailing actual survival techniques. Nonetheless, the message conveyed is clear – “Mindset is The Key to Our Safety Well-Being”.

Furthermore, the human brain will go through a series of processes and emotions during a survival circumstance. Understanding these basic stages of thoughts in advance is actually the first step to achieving the appropriate mindset. The exact series of emotions will vary from situation to situation and from person to person but whatever it is, the basic stages will always be or remain the same.

When initially confronted with a survival situation, most people including us will experience a mental shock. This form of shock, known as psychogenic shock, occurs as a result of extreme emotional stress. If not controlled properly, the crisis stage can immediately lead to irrational thoughts and panic both of which are crucial to survival. The crisis stage is when most people suffer from temporary symptoms which imitate psychosis as it can quickly lead to death from psychological trauma for the unprepared individuals.


A coping period ensues (occurs later) after the initial situation onset. Survivors are now confronted with the gravity of their situation and must begin to take imminent actions. The importance of creating a plan during the crisis stage should now be apparent. Not only did creating the plan help deter feelings of desperation, but it could also render the transition to action much easier and less stressful.

Staying calm and adhering to the plan ensures that logical, rational decisions are made consistently. Decisions to take action based on emotion are usually not favorable to survival and can even be dangerous. Learning from the Navy SEALS Training Program, many prospective recruits attempt to become part of the elite squad but as many as 75 percent of them unfortunately fail to complete the intensive training regimen. Consequently, The Navy wanted to find out why so many physically capable candidates were failing and commissioned a team of psychologists to figure out afterwards.

Actually, physical ability was not the issue why the above so many candidates did not succeed. Intelligence was also not the issue either as most of the Navy SEAL candidates tends to score above average on IQ tests. The psychologists determined that the sole reason for failure was that the candidates were not mentally prepared for the emotional and psychological stress they faced during training. Because of this, The Navy SEAL has since added psychological training to its curriculum and failure rates have been reduced drastically. These same survival mindset tactics can be used by anyone and can truly mean the difference between life and death.

Meanwhile, most of us know the importance of setting goals in life. They intrinsically help us achieve the things we desire the most. Goal setting is even more pivotal during a moment of crisis. Short term, medium, and long term goals are all critical aspects of a proper survival mindset. The logic is simple. Instead of thinking about the long term consequences of survival, short term goals are much easier to attain and will build the confidence we need.

A short term goal might be as simple as surviving the next five minutes. A medium or mid-term goal could be something like locating and securing shelter for the evening or procuring some food. A long term goal may be as simple as surviving until the next day. The timeline for what is considered a short, medium, or long amount of time are transformed during a survival situation. Living in this limited focus manner, consequently, will keep our brain healthy even when we are faced with unimaginable situations.

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