Inner Survival: Character, Wits, Worldview

by: admin
March 16, 2010

Adventure traveler and journalist Laurence Gonzales opened a great article for National Geographic  this way:   “Most survival guides fail to consider some very useful tools: an individual’s character, wits, and worldview.”

Glacier Valley National ParkHe goes on to say that he once believed that survival was a matter of packing the right gear, and learning the right skills, until he started reading more and more accounts of people who had survived terrible odds without any gear, training, or skill – while others, who had everything the experts said they might need, perished.

“Obviously,” he wrote, “something else was at work here. After more than three decades of analyzing who lives, who dies, and why, I realized that character, emotion, personality, styles of thinking, and ways of viewing the world had more to do with how well people cope with adversity than any type of equipment or training. Although I still believe that equipment and training are good to have, most survival writing leaves out the essential human element in the equation.”

We couldn’t agree more! The original article is a must-read, not just for world travelers and adventurers, but for anyone who wants to make every day a better one. His list of the 14 “inner survival” traits that make a difference in a crisis or everyday life is amazing.

Here are a few of our favorites:

DENY DENIAL:”It is in our nature to believe that the weather will improve, that we’ll find our way again, or that night won’t fall on schedule. Denial, which psychologists call the ,incredulity response,’ is almost universal, even among individuals with excellent training.” A hiker in denial will continue walking even after losing the trail, assuming he’ll regain it eventually. He’ll press on, and become increasingly lost. But the sooner he accepts reality and stops wandering aimlessly, the sooner his brain kicks into gear and training and good sense take over.

DON’T GET TOO COMFORTABLE: “Every new challenge you face actually causes your brain to rewire itself and to become more adaptable.” This bears repeating, Laurence wrote: Survival is not about equipment and training alone. It’s about what’s in your mind and your emotional system. Living in a low-risk environment dulls our abilities. We must make a conscious effort to learn new things, to force ourselves out of our comfort zones.

TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS: “Be careful who you go into the backcountry with. Some people just have it stamped on their foreheads: ‘I am going to die in a wilderness accident.’ But to recognize this stamp, you must pay attention to some very subtle signals.” Most people will respond to such signals by feeling either comfortable or ill at ease with someone for no known reason. Pay attention.”

HELP OTHERS: “In a survival situation, tending to others transforms you from a victim into a rescuer and improves your chances.” Enough said , read the whole article! It just might change the way you approach each new day, and it could definitely save your life.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kenlund/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

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