“Know Thyself”

In the personal protection field, the idea of mindset often is a part of the training. A recent study called Rethinking stress: the role of mindsets in determining the stress response, defined mindset as a lens to orient the mind to a particular set of associations or expectations (Crum, Salovey, & Achor, 2013). While we often apply that concept to violent criminal actors, it occurred to me; we should also use this concept on ourselves. The soft skills of pre-need decision making, associations, and expectations should be how we observe ourselves during training.

As we shoot, we use the senses of sight, feel, and to a lesser degree, hearing (mostly for the pace of shooting). All three are essential to create interlocking feedback during performance. Visualization with an associated sense of feeling (such as exhaling) creates the expectations and associations of proper implementation, which allows us to correct when something is out of place. Defensively (external threat), we use mindset to recognize danger, avoid, deter, and fight back. Proactively during training (internal goal), we use mindset to visualize the correct technique or tactic to execute or correct and then execute while connecting to breathe or relaxation. The commonality is observation, but the difference is applying it to an external threat or internal pressure.

The only real control we have is over ourselves. How we act and think should be a known quantity allowing only binary decisions under stress. We must observe ourselves during training continuously and replay our mistakes while applying a correction. What did I see? What did I feel? are the questions that allow us to replay, correct, decide, and visualize the skill needed. Now we are merely watching the execution as acceptable or performing a correction, putting us ahead of the skill. This process moves our minds from reaction to response, allowing for a quicker and efficient decisional process.

Always be ahead of the process, recognizing the two critical problems in decision making, impatience (too soon) or indecisiveness (too late). Suppose we can overcome these sensations of either doing or deciding and move directly to identifying the acceptable response. In that case, we can make better decisions in a shorter time, allowing the shooting to become more intuitive. Logic has its place in training, measuring, recording, and reasoning, but unfortunately, it is much too slow for shooting speed. If we develop the confidence and trust to recognize the pattern, we can perform at a high level. Gary Klein referred to this as recognition primed decision making and fusing experience and visualization into proper execution.

Apply the skills of a proactive mindset to your external environment to see possible threats or opportunities and observe yourself to improve your performance under pressure. As the ancient Greek amorphism commanded, “Know thyself.”