A Survival Mindset
To me, being prepared or preparedness is an attitude and a feeling of confidence in my own abilities. This confidence comes from the knowledge that I have practiced my skills, preparing for the worst but hoping for the best.
This is the survival kit you will always have with you. I can honestly say that I’ve ever been in a true survival situation, although I’m sure I’ve been in plenty of potential ones had I not been prepared beforehand. I have, however, been able to offer my help on more than one occasion to those who have been less prepared, and while I don’t pretend to have all the answers, here’s a list of tools that I carry in my ‘mental’ survival kit
Having a ‘can-do’ attitude
The word ‘can’t’ shouldn’t feature in your vocabulary. In any situation that arises, no matter how minor or horrendous, you should always look for a way around it, or through it. This is not blind optimism, though, more like a realization that there’s often a solution to most problems and you just need to find it.
Try to think of someone you know who seems to be good at making things happen and imagine what they would do in the same situation. ‘Find a way or make a way!’ is a good thing to mutter to yourself in these circumstances, no doubt through gritted teeth.
Don’t constantly look to others for help. Although there’s a lot to be said for teamwork, and in certain situations it can even be dangerous to stubbornly refuse assistance, possibly putting everyone else in danger as well as yourself, you should always try to take responsibility for your own actions.
A good example here is the hill walker who only carries a mobile phone as their ‘survival kit’, showing a total reliance on mountain rescue teams to carry them home to safety should anything go wrong. Much better to ensure that the chances of finding yourself in trouble are minimized by checking the weather reports before a trip and having a plan to follow one of several short cuts or escape routes back to safety.
Get used to noticing potential risks before they develop into life-threatening situations and aim to become experienced enough to decide on the correct course of action. (H.E.S.T.A)
Your own physical condition is important too. Not everyone can be an Olympic athlete, but you can aim to be as fit and physically capable as it is possible for you to be.
Being as fit and healthy as YOU can be is a useful tool and important in almost all of the following areas.
Keeping a clear head
If you are someone who collapses into screaming, fist-pounding hysterics when your friends forget your birthday, then perhaps now’s the time to think about getting things into perspective.
Stop! Think! Make a cup of tea! Develop an attitude of ‘Oh well, it could be worse’. Conversely, if you seem to remain completely calm and ultra-relaxed at all times to the point where you haven’t got the presence of mind to think on your feet and formulate a sensible plan fast, then you may want to give yourself a shake and develop a sense of urgency that can be called on if needed.
Mild panic, which lies in between these two extremes, is good as long as it acts as the trigger to ‘up your game’. People train to become better at making good decisions under pressure: it is a skill that can be developed.
Being adaptable and able to improvise
More often than not, things won’t go to plan. Based on my own experiences of life, I can say with confidence that nothing ever goes strictly to plan, so allow for this and try to make sure you always have a plan B.
There will be times when, faced with a task you just don’t want to do, you decide that you’ve had enough and the temptation to give up takes over.
What are you hoping for; that someone else will do it for you instead?
Other less capable people could be relying on your strength of character, so you must have the mental toughness to push yourself a little harder when all you really want to do is take it easy. Grit your teeth and break that mental barrier.
This is definitely a good attitude to develop and comes into play quite often in everyday life. I’m not going to pretend that my life is one great big ultra-disciplined episode (I frequently leave the washing up until the next morning!), but when it’s important I’ll put aside the lazy me, realizing that if I can’t be bothered to do a certain task it only means being uncomfortable later (I'm looking at you ironing pile!)
Often, by putting in the extra effort needed in certain situations, you’re actually making life easier for yourself in the long term. Fire lighting with natural materials is a prime example of this.
Being able to think several steps ahead raises a very important factor of survival success and that is never to waste precious energy. Every task we do requires a certain amount of energy expenditure, so if we’re going about things in a random and inefficient fashion we’re expending vital energy resources.
Carry out a little ‘time and motion’ study on yourself. In the wilds, resources are often spread far and wide, so plan ahead and think about gathering as many resources as possible whenever you need to move away from camp.
Also, be an opportunist: if you happen to come across a useful resource, such as good tinder, grab it when you see it rather than intending to come back for it later.
Develop your skills and have an understanding of the priorities of survival. Shelter, fire, water, and food are essential in the wild. Understanding and learning the skills and techniques necessary to obtain these important elements can be enjoyable and fun.
It’s possible to incorporate certain elements effortlessly into your life, with the added advantage of honing them for effective use if needed. Wilderness survival is a vast subject, splitting off at many different tangents and into many specialist areas. To begin with, aim to be multi-skilled, a ‘Jack of all trades’.
Work at developing your knowledge and practical experience, taking it right back to a base level wherever possible. You will then always have your most important survival tool with you wherever you go: the self-confidence that comes with fully understanding and mastering the basic skills necessary for survival.
After that, survival kits and equipment become less important and will just be seen as an added bonus in many situations.
As always, keep training and stay alert.
Luke has trained world over, honing his survival skills from the jungles of Borneo, to the Pacific Northwest in America. Luke's speciality lies within the bow drill and herbalism. Recently Luke has focused his main skills towards primitive first aid.