Much has been said about what survival is or isn’t, but it seems there are some basic principles of survival. We would argue that skill sets and principlss are different sides of the same coin. SKILL SETS help survive specific scenarios. While PRINCIPALS are ideas or philosophies that can be applied to almost all scenarios.
Let’s start in a way that focuses on the things we can control the most, and go from there.
The Basic Principles of Survival
1. Control of your emotions.
This is probably THE most important basic principles of survival, but also the one principle we should control first and foremost. When you let you emotions get the best of you, your judgement is clouded, and your actions will reflect. People don’t survive situations by freaking out and making irrational decisions. Now, while this may be the one we have the most personal influence on, it can often be the one that is the most difficult to get a handle on. We are, after all, only human. Because of this, controlling your emotions can literally be a daily exercise.
Ask any first responder, combat veteran or special operator of elite units like SEALs, MARSOC, Delta/CAG, or Special Forces. Going toe to toe with adverse conditions with very real, very harrowing circumstances requires having your emotions in check. Can you imagine an ER surgeon who was an emotion wreck trying to operate on a patient who has been shot? They are human, but they work on maintaining emotional control daily. When the crisis time has passed, you can, and probably will deal with a wide range of emotions (just like they do). This is normal.
2. Control of your ethos.
This may be a new one to you, but my first responder and military family will definitely acknowledge this as one of the basic principles of survival. You need a “code”. What code do you live by? Do you live by a warrior ethos (train, fight, survive, train more, seek knowledge), or do you live by a gardeners ethos (plant, nurture, harmonize, work). Is it a combination of both? Neither are wrong. Everyone has their own spirit.
Personally, I tend to be somewhere in the middle and live by a mantra of “Better to be a warrior in a garden, than a gardener in a war”. You can easily be skilled in a discipline of war, and appreciate and excel at the lessons of peace. Does your ethos accept failure? Will it let you take failure and learn from it? Grow from it? Can your ethos turn that failure into a WIN? Know thyself. Ne te quaesiveris extra. Look not outside yourself.
3. Control of your body.
Some are not going to like this one. Survival is USUALLY a physical undertaking once you resolve mentally to survive at all. Make an effort to be physically capable of using your skill sets, defending yourself and those you love or your property. Be a formidable force to be reckoned with. Train for the crisis you anticipate. You may not BE a Marine, Soldier, Police Officer, Firefighter, or Paramedic, but train like one. I’m in NO way saying that every member of those groups is an impressive physical specimen (I’ve seen some in ALL those groups that are insanely unfit). However, overall I see most in those groups in somewhat decent to excellent shape. Why? Because they know their chosen professions require certain levels of readiness. Some of those professions require more fitness than others, and you WILL see that difference often.
Remember, do NOT expect to perform at a physical level much above that which you NORMALLY operate at. Those who respond to crisis for a living practice what they do day in and day out. Till it becomes muscle memory (which we will over in the next principal). Your mental conditioning has as much to do with survival as your physical conditioning.
4. Control of your mind.
You might ask “didn’t we already cover this basic principle of survival in step one? No. That was your emotion, your “heart”. This is your cerebral mind. Your attitude, your mental toughness, your intellect, your knowledge. It’s very simple, learn things, do things. Part of “physical toughness is pushing past pain or discomfort till it’s not longer much of either. At that point you seek new levels of both to conquer. This is the ONLY way to breed mental toughness, change perception/attitude. You will get 50% back of what you feed this “muscle”. The other 50% is locked away in physical ability and muscle memory.
Let me explain. A Navy SEAL can read the training manual on how to clear a room. He can LEARN and memorize the procedure. When given his first chance, he may perform it HALF way decent, if he’s lucky. It’s not until he DOES it repeatedly that he commits that knowledge to action, and thus, muscle memory (covered in the previous principal). He has to teach his body to perform that task, often in adverse conditions, and improve each time till he does it at a level that almost guarantees success. There is no room for failure in his profession. But without mentally absorbing the knowledge in the first place, nothing else matters. In the military/first responder game, we call this “getting your head right“. Training your mind to go beyond it’s comfort zone to achieve growth is paramount.
5. Control of your tools & gear.
The last, but maybe one of the most result obvious basic principles of survival. You have your emotions in check. Your ethos is defined. You are physically training to be capable, and you are taking in knowledge. What’s left? Your tools, your gear. A Samurai can train for years before ever touching a real sword. A MARSOC scout sniper will train for months before ever touching a bolt action rifle. However, when they do, they work with quality gear, or as good as they are afforded by the U.S. Military (which, contrary to popular belief, isn’t always the “cream of the crop”). Of course, as civilians, we are subject to similar restrictions in way, but we also have some personal liberty that civil servants may not always have.
We too, must work with what we are afforded. Or rather, can afford. We all have different budgets, but it crucial to make wise decisions based on good intel. Our advice: make a list of types of gear you need. Then write down various options for each item. Furthermore, take some time to review each of those options and eliminate options one at a time until you are left with one or two. Be smart. Buy the best you can afford. I always say: “buy once, cry once”.
Once you have secured your tools & gear, it is then a matter of mastery of it. Obviously, buying it is not enough. You need to work with it, experience it, learn it, train with it and know it.
This list of basic principles of survival may work for you, it may not. As a person who has DEALT with survival scenarios professionally, this is my list. I’m always evolving, always growing. I’m always open to new thoughts, or ideas. If you would like to add something, leave a comment. Otherwise, I hope this helps you on your own personal journey.
Ne te quaesiveris extra.