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?
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.
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.
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.