Mental Toughness – (4) Resiliency

“In Honor of Army Sgt. First Class David Metzger” Nov 23,2011 post, I talked about the mental toughness of Watertribers. In that post I stated that there were fours areas of mental toughness. As I have stated in past post I am not a psychologist and the thoughts I am sharing are strictly from my prospective. Dr. Nick Hall, who is an accomplished Watertriber, has probably done the most work in studying the mental side of Watertriber . The four areas of mental toughness that I have targeted are: (1) Fear management, (2) Pain management, (3) Decision making while fatigued and (4) Resiliency. In my post ” In Honor of  Navy SEAL Senior Chief Petty Officer Theodore Fitzhenry” Nov 25, 2011 post I addressed fear management.  I explained what I go through with pain management in my post “Mental Toughness – (2) Pain management” Dec 04, 2011 post. In my December 17, 2011 post I explored decision-making while fatigued. In this post I will explore resiliency. In the military I often heard the phase ” No plan survives first contact with the enemy”. I kind of viewed that the purpose of this phrase was to get folks to think about contingencies. I had an old salt give me a different prospective. His opinion was that yes we should be thinking about contingencies but even with multiple contingencies there will be some thing that will happen that no one had thought of. That was the real environment to prepare for. In my civilian job I have observed a similar phenomena when we are trying to restore power after a hurricane. We have restoration plans that have been perfected over the years. We train, drill and come up with improvements to the plans each year. But it is uncanny that each new storm throws us something unique that was not in the plan. In both the military and in my civilian job the level of success in dealing with these unique situations hinged on the ability of people in the field to absorb the fact that things are not working according to plan, to assess the new situation and then change tactics to address the issue.   I think the US Marine Corps was the originator of the phase that goes  ” Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome”. That for me means resiliency. For myself I have yet to complete a Watertribe event where my original plan worked. Stuff happens, gear breaks, things get lost, injuries occur and the weather just doesn’t cooperate. Throughout my life I have observed folks that when things did not go their way they got upset and spent a whole lot of energy on things that did not help the situation. For a Watertriber yelling and being pissed off at a piece of gear that failed will not repair the gear. Staying angry at yourself for not packing a piece of gear will not make the gear appear. Screaming at the wind and giving the sky the finger will not make the weather change. Might be a good way to have a lighten bolt hit you. Sitting on the beach having a pity party because things are not working out will not get you to the finish. There are multiple stories of Watertribers overcoming some unbelievable situations to finish races.  For myself I have found that approaching a challenge with the mind-set that one of the many satisfactions of completing a challenge is the number of problems that I found a solution for. In fact I have tried to view it as a game. The other thing that I try to do is to remember a principle Stephen Covey explain in his book ” The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People“. This principle is to concentrate on the circle of influence versus the circle of concern. So for a piece of gear that failed, that is in my circle of concern, being pissed off at it is not in my circle of influence to fix the situation. Figuring out a way to repair the gear or to do without it is in my circle of influence. For bad weather, that is in my circle of concern, but screaming at it is not in my circle of influence. Figuring out a different course to get me out of the weather, or getting different paddle clothes, or deciding to stay on the beach until the weather passes are all in my circle of influence. What is neat about this concept is that it can be used for everyday problems and in fact I view that work and everyday life give me plenty of opportunities to test my mental abilities in this area. I think about Wizard, a Watertriber who has completed multiple events, and the problem he encountered in the UFC that he completed. He had a flat tie on his 40 mile portage that could not be fixed. He could have spent time being angry about what damaged his tire, he could have been upset about his bad luck and that there wasn’t a store close by, he could have just sat down, had a pity party and said it is hopeless. Nope not Wizard he took the old tire off, found a piece of rope and with a hose clamp made a rope tire and finished the portage. Now that is staying in the circle of influence and being resilient. I am kind of amazed that he isn’t half nuts after hearing that hose clamp go click click every time the wheel complete a revolution. In my past post I have tried to touch on the four areas that I feel make up strengthening my mental toughness for this event. I am sure for others they might have a different viewpoint.  Please consider a donation to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation to help reduce the burden that the families of our Special Operations Warriors are carrying. That act will help them have resiliency to face life.