It’s what you decide

After my adventure getting lost overnight last year at Brainard lake (, someone asked me what I learned from it.  They didn’t ask quite that way, but that was the gist of it.  I’ve never taken time to write this down, but I think there were two things.

The first is that sometimes you have to focus on what you can control.  A lot of us focus on the things we don’t control.  I’ve had numerous people tell me they would have panicked in that situation.  I think that happens because we focus on what is out of our control (I’m lost) and not on what we do control.  In my situation, once I was lost, being unlost was out of my hands, at least until the next day.  When I was going to get back was out of my control; it if was in my control, I’d have just zapped myself back to the car and driven home.  What I did control was whether I spent the night where I was, where there was dry ground, or whether I tried to get back and end  up spending the night in 18 or so inches of snow.  I controlled what preparations I made for the night.

It wasn’t that I learned to do those things in that situation, but the situation brought out the importance of them.  Often our worries are about what we don’t control, and I think that focus keeps us from concentrating on the things we do control.

The second thing I learned is that a lot of the time, what you decide is what is important.  I’ve often said that what you want or what you believe is less important than what you are willing to do about it.  This is that same concept from a little different angle.  When I was lost, I decided that I was going home the next day.  Period.

One of  the rescue searchers was a retired Air Force F15 pilot.  He, of course, had been through the AF survival school and he said that the mental element is one of the most important factors in survival.

Of course, if you get swept away in a mudslide or hit by a car at 75mph while jogging, the mental element is of little relevance.  You are at the mercy of events in a situation like that.  But, as I said in the article, in a lost-hiker situation, unless you are running from a predator or trying to stop massive bleeding, you usually have a little time to stop and think about the situation.

I wonder how often our fears about the things we don’t control – fear of what others think, fear of bad outcomes – keep us from improving our situation by focusing on the elements we have control over.  We focus on what we’re afraid of instead of what we can actually do.

I wonder how often we try to tell ourselves things, and convince ourselves of things and even try to believe things, when what we really need to do is just make a decision and then carry it through.

Is this reality?  What do you think?