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May 2012 Issue
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The will to survive

When faced with a survival situation, stay calm, elect a leader and make a plan. Photo: Stu Gilbert

If you were unexpectedly forced into a wilderness survival situation could you survive?

Your survival may not be dependent on the equipment or practical skills you have, but on your ability to maintain a positive attitude when faced with adversity.

Don’t get me wrong, equipment makes things more comfortable and survival training will give you confidence to make sound decisions, but this alone does not guarantee a successful outcome.

A survivor who maintains a positive attitude and a strong determination to live – the will to survive – will be able to achieve almost anything.

Survivors will achieve this by recounting amazing survival stories and possess an immense desire to want to see family and friends again. Dallas Reedy who was swept off the fishing boat Easy Rider used such techniques to maintain the will to survive after spending 16 hours in icy cold water.

Thinking of something close to you that motivates you to keep going is referred to as a psychological hook. What’s yours?

Discourage negative thoughts. Set goals as this ensures that people look towards the future and as goals are achieved the progress will build moral.

Take control of the situation early because your actions in the initial stages and the decisions you make could mean the difference between life and death.

Stop, stay calm, control your fears, come up with a plan of action and execute this plan. Don’t make hasty decisions, as poor decisions will have major consequences. Remain flexible; you will have setbacks, it’s how you overcome them that will determine your outcome.

If you’re in a group, someone must establish command and control of the situation to make sure everyone stays calm, safe and focused on the task at hand: collectively working towards the needs of survival and rescue. Negative thoughts will only splinter the group and halt progress.

It’s very difficult to know how you will react in an actual survival situation unless you have experienced one or have received extremely realistic training. Most people, unfortunately, will experience survival situations for the first time without any prior warning and without any time to prepare.

A positive attitude coupled with an immense determination to keep living will put you in a strong position to achieve a successful survival outcome.

Do you have the right attitude to survive?

Stu Gilbert is a former Air Force survival instructor now running SOS Survival Training