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Developing a Warrior Mindset

To survive and win you must prepare, commit, believe, and never give up.

May 24, 2012  |  by Amaury Murgado - Also by this author

Photo courtesy of Amaury Murgado.
Photo courtesy of Amaury Murgado.

You probably hear about needing to have a warrior mindset almost daily. Books are published about it, motivational speakers make money speaking of it, and while attending in-service training, we shake our heads in obvious agreement when someone lectures about it. But what do you really think? Are your attitude and mindset real tools or are you just buying into the hype? Do you even know what a true warrior is, let alone the mindset of such a person?

Some Definitions

Let's first define what a warrior is. In general, a conventional definition for warrior is "someone who is engaged in or experienced in battle." But this definition goes only so far, as it relates to those fighting in a war. A more encompassing definition of a warrior for law enforcement is "one who is engaged aggressively or energetically in an activity, cause, or conflict." I believe this to be a better working definition because it broadens the scope and therefore who can be involved with it.

Certainly those in law enforcement are put in harm’s way and experience their own form of battle. And you can be considered a warrior if you completely commit yourself, mind, body, and soul. In order to do that, however, a warrior must make daily sacrifices for his or her cause. These sacrifices include developing a set of attitudes that will reign above all others. Everything a warrior does will revolve around them.

An attitude generally means a state of mind, feeling, and disposition. It also means how a person views something or tends to behave toward it. This is why attitude is always such an important topic in law enforcement; it speaks to your behavior. The behavior that is created from these attitudes therefore becomes your mindset.

A mindset is developed when you employ a fixed mental attitude that predetermines your response to a given situation. For example, your attitudes toward something help develop your response or approach. Your mindset becomes your approach.

Say for example you hate coming in on a day off for in-service training. You then form the mindset that you don't want to be there so you sit in the back and play with your smartphone the whole time. Your mindset guides what you do and how you do it. Therefore, having a warrior mindset means having a positive focus about your mission and demonstrating the appropriate behavior to back it up.

Understanding Mindsets

If you are looking for a good all-in-one reference on the topic, I suggest reading "Warrior Mindset," cowritten by Dr. Michael J. Asken. I had the privilege of hearing him speak at the first South East Warrior Symposium held in Orlando, Fla., this past February. In the book, Asken writes, "…experience shows that up to 90% of successful performance is attributed to psychological skills. Rarely is that number reported to be less than 40%. This comes from talking to military personnel, police officers, including SWAT tactical team members, and other emergency responders who engage in life and death situations."

That's huge when you consider how little training we receive in the psychological aspects of performing our jobs. Think about your own training; how much time does your agency spend on molding mindset?

Most agencies will shoot, punch, and drive consistently. Administrators use this type of training to keep their agency’s liability down and help meet with accreditation standards. But if your agency focuses solely on liability, what does that say about the brass' mindset? Are decision makers concerned about your safety and survival or are they more worried about being sued? I would hope that agency leaders are worried about both.

In my opinion, of all the tools a police officer has at his or her disposal, the mind is the most important, and yet it's the least understood. In contrast, sports organizations have incorporated psychological training into their performance training for decades. It hasn't been until recently that we in law enforcement have realized how important a role the mind plays in our day-to-day operations and are finally giving it some attention.

Warrior Mindset

In the book "Warrior Mindset," Lt. Col. Dave Grossman says, "In the end, it's not about the 'hardware,' it's about the software. Amateurs talk about hardware or equipment, professionals talk about software or training and mental readiness." In other words, another way of looking at warrior mindset is with mental readiness.

Everyone knows what it feels like doing something for the first time. You are unsure of yourself and you overthink it. You sometimes second guess yourself to the point of inaction. A big part of your success depends on your mental readiness to see it through. You have to be prepared for the difficulties that lie ahead and drive on.

Former Navy Seal and author of "Unleash the Warrior Within" Richard Machowicz says it clearly: "Being a warrior is not about the act of fighting. It’s about being so prepared to face a challenge and believing so strongly in the cause you are fighting for that you refuse to quit." In those few words lie not only a great definition for being a warrior, but also what I feel are the keys to having a successful warrior mindset: preparation and believing.

Comments (8)

Displaying 1 - 8 of 8

eD cAFERTY @ 5/31/2012 5:26 PM

I am writing a book on this general topic and word like permission to use material from the article. I will identify the source and add the article to my bibliography.

Amaury Murgado @ 6/1/2012 3:10 AM

Ed: I have forwarded your comment to the web editor to pass on. You can contact me directly via Facebook if you want. Good luck on the book!

Hank @ 6/30/2014 7:22 AM

How about developing a peacekeeper mindset instead? Who do you think you're at war with, the citizenry?

Jeff F. @ 8/2/2014 1:14 PM

Hank, the war is with people who will do you harm. Having the warrior mindset is not about confronting everyone as if they are a criminal but in making every approach in a safe and tactical manner for all involved. It in no way means you will be any less courteous to the citizenry but professional and vigilant at all times. Going home safe to your family every night is the name of the game.

Tom @ 11/3/2014 9:51 PM

I think I understand where hank is coming from at least to a degree. I not due to criminal activity of my own have had numerous contacts with law enforcement. In my experience it is a rare officer who doesn't treat all civilians as if they are criminals including victims of crime. In my experience I have met few who seem to be able to speak to and treat the average citizen with respect, courtesy, and as their equals and over the years this has gotten worse. This inability or unwillingness only be adversarial when needed is just as dangerous as not being mentally prepared for battle when needed.

Kirk @ 4/13/2015 2:43 PM

The problem with many of the "Warriors" is that there is no off switch and that they march to their own mission statement and not that of the department for which they work for. Sure, tactically, they are the ones you want but when it comes to the things that they deem not important, then it is "Too hip, gotta go". Their little problems ultimately become big ones.

John Sabotta @ 9/30/2016 5:59 PM

It's shameful that a pervert like Grossman is actually a respected figure in law enforcement circles.

"In the class recorded for “Do Not Resist,” Grossman at one point tells his students that the sex they have after they kill another human being will be the best sex of their lives. The room chuckles. But he’s clearly serious. “Both partners are very invested in some very intense sex,” he says. “There’s not a whole lot of perks that come with this job. You find one, relax and enjoy it.”

What a lot of fun this bastard would have had in Nanking, 1933.

You people ought to be ashamed of yourselves. But you won 't be.

Shawn @ 8/31/2017 2:31 AM

@John Sabotta

No sir, YOU should be ashamed of yourself. You assume one police officer determines the actions and words of all police. That is a mistake. YOU must LEARN to discern the good from the bad, and realize that no one is perfect, and that those who truly care about their ARE doing the BEST they can.

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