Mindset and Winning is About Much More than Words, Isn't It?

“It’s about mind over matter. I don’t mind and you don’t matter.” ~Marine Corps Drill Instructor, Parris Island 1980

Mind over matter are words I heard chanted in my ear over and over again as I made efforts to push out hundreds of pushups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, complete obstacle courses and various challenges while attending Marine Corps Boot Camp some 32 years ago. Mind over matter is a concept I have believed in for much of my adult life since. It helped me in all my efforts to persevere in both my personal and professional lives. It embellished the can or will do attitude. I have uttered to myself and out loud; I am, and I can accomplish what I think about. As a cop the mind over matter concept often came to surface over the years in the performance of my duties; “I will win, and I will run faster and further than the other guy. When I see the “PERP” running away, I will run him down and stop him. When he zigs I will zag. I will physically beat my opponent. When the “PERP” does not comply and wants to fight or kill me I will outmaneuver, outfight and outdraw and out shoot my opponent. I will win every encounter and go home to my family at the end of my shift!” Really I will! I mean it! I just said it, didn’t I, so it will be so? Or is there something more to mind over matter? What happens when the adversary you face does mind and suddenly you do matter? Isn’t there more substance to the winning mindset than mere words and does not mind have to connect with matter, the stuff you know (ideas, innovative and adaptive tactics, techniques and procedures) and are capable of applying if you are to win on the street?

Now before you get crazy on me and start going off on how important the winning mindset and positive self-talk is, to us winning on the street let me say this, I WHOLEHEARTIDLY AGREE! But it’s also about knowledge and skills. More importantly it’s about taking that same knowledge and skills and applying it to the street and the situation we find ourselves in. This takes conditioning the mind, subconscious mind and physical skills so they work in unison.

I have come to the conclusion that what we say, the words we use or think about often do not match our actions. In other words, we do not walk the self talk and practice what w e preach or tell ourselves. In order for mindset to work we must live and breathe it. We must take ownership enthusiastically and create and nurture the winning mindset so that it takes hold mentally in our decision making and transitions to the physical in our actions. Mindset has to synergistically connect to the physical and be part of us always. The winning mindset is not something you just turn on when things go bad. Mindset is always in the on position. This is why training must be realistic and constant.

Law enforcement officers who possess a winning mindset know that the only purpose for handling dynamic encounters is to win. Now we must keep in mind that winning as numerous definitions in the law enforcement world. We need to navigate ambiguous, uncertain and complex situations while exploiting opportunities and hence outcomes we seek often change. We may seek a resolution through negotiation and win voluntary compliance. We may win through physical force when negotiation efforts fail. We in a worst case scenario may win through the use of deadly force. Winning in any of these examples takes mindset, knowledge, skills and sound tactics.

“Most people have the will to win; few have the will to prepare to win.” ~Bobby Knight

Cops have to possess the winning mindset but they must also possess confidence in their skills and abilities and how they can apply them under the pressure of real time real world conditions. They must be committed and dedicated to their mission, and must be physically and mentally prepared to do whatever is reasonable and necessary to accomplish that objective. Their training allows them to understand that every situation is winnable, not because they will it to be so, but instead because they possess both the will and skill to win.

There is much misunderstanding at least in my mind about the true warrior spirit within law enforcement. There are many who think that the winning mindset is about machismo, about bravado. They think the winning mindset is about rushing pedal to the metal, to all the calls, or puffing up their chest, starting fights to show others how tough or how much of a man they are. They take rash actions and uncalculated risks. Professionals, however, do not need to start fights to show others how tough they are. They are confident in their skills and tactics, because they understand the connection and importance of mindset applied with skill. They understand that they must shape and reshape events with skill operationally and that there is a time to fight and a time to talk. They know when wait for reinforcements or when they must go it alone. When they have to fight, they fight to win. They fight with stubbornness and intensity combined with skill they have created and nurtured through training and learning from every experience. When it’s over they walk away with their heads held high with integrity and honor knowing they used tactical methods they decided on. A decision they were able to make because they understood that it’s the mindset and physical connection (will and skill) that had them ready and prepared. Mind (will) and matter (skill) make the difference, don’t you think?

“My troops are good and well disciplined, and the most important thing of all is that I have thoroughly habituated them to perform everything they are required to execute. You will do something more easily, to a higher standard, and more bravely when you know that you will do it well.” `~Frederick the Great

Stay Oriented!

Fred