Saturday, July 14, 2007

Survival Techniques

You will probably think that I spend all my time reading magazines in waiting rooms lately, but I recently read another article that has been swimming around in my brain ever since I read it. This article was in the August 2007 National Geographic Adventure Magazine, and was titled, "Why Smart People Do Dumb Things." This article looked in to the reasons that we sometimes make dumb decisions that cost us our lives in survival situations. It also had a test to take to see how "survival savvy" you are. I used to really be in to survival techniques and living in the wild, so thought I was pretty survival smart, but I missed half the questions. I have to admit that some were a little tricky, but even then, I pretty much failed. You can do a google search and read the article take the test if you are interested.

Just a run down of the focus of the article:

--Mental Models

We all create mental models that shape the way we look at the world. In one of my previous posts I talked about how I pitted half a bag of apricots before I realized they were peaches. In my mental model, my friend had told me they were apricots, and I had set out that day to make apricot jam, so my mental model ignored for about an hour that the apricots were in fact peaches. This kind of mental model usage can work against us in an extreme survival situation if we don't keep our head and remember to look at things in a different way.

--Success can spoil us

We live in such a comfortable world, where we are unaccustomed to not having our basic needs met, that we forget that in a wilderness situation, all of that can be taken away in an instant. The article talked about a group that had compasses, GPS devices, and food and water, but when they got stuck up on a mountain during a storm, chose to wait for help rather than to do their best to find their way down. They had all the tools, but laziness caused them to wait for help to come to them. I can't remember, but I think they didn't survive.

--We need to learn to STOP

The author told about a technique he learned in survival school called S.T.O.P which stands for, "Stop, Think, Observe, Plan." So many times we are so upset and afraid that we lose the ability to think calmly. The first rule of survival is to stop and think through the situation and think about what options you have.

I really think these are good lessons. I hope I'm never in a situation to need survival techniques, but I hope that if I am I can keep my head about me. In fact, the whole article seemed to basically be saying that those who survive are those who are determined, and who use their head.

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