Survival should be thought of as a journey, a vision quest of the sort that Native Americans have had as a rite of passage for thousands of years. Once you're past the precipitating event–you're cast away at sea or told you have cancer–you have been enrolled in one of the oldest schools in history. Here are a few things I've learned that can help you pass the final exam.
1. Perceive and Believe. Don't fall into the deadly trap of denial or of immobilizing fear. Admit it: You're really in trouble and you're going to have to get yourself out.
2. Stay Calm – Use Your Anger In the initial crisis, survivors are not ruled by fear; instead, they make use of it. Their fear often feels like (and turns into) anger, which motivates them and makes them feel sharper.
3. Think, Analyze, and Plan. Survivors quickly organize, set up routines, and institute discipline.
4. Take Correct, Decisive Action. Survivors are willing to take risks to save themselves and others. But they are simultaneously bold and cautious in what they will do. They handle what is within their power to deal with from moment to moment, hour to hour, day to day.
5. Celebrate your success. Survivors take great joy from even their smallest successes. This helps keep motivation high and prevents a lethal plunge into hopelessness. Viktor Frankl put it this way: “Don't aim at success–the more you aim at it and make it a target,the more you are going to miss it.”
7. Enjoy the Survival Journey. It may seem counterintuitive, but even in the worst circumstances, survivors find something to enjoy, some way to play and laugh. Survival can be tedious, and waiting itself is an art.
8. See the Beauty. Survivors are attuned to the wonder of their world, especially in the face of mortal danger. The appreciation of beauty, the feeling of awe, opens the senses to the environment. (When you see something beautiful, your pupils actually dilate.) When Saint-Exupery's plane went down in the Lybian Desert, he was certain that he was doomed, but he carried on in this spirit: “Here we are, condemned to death, and still the certainty of dying cannot compare with the pleasure I am feeling. The joy I take from this half an orange which I am holding in my hand is one of the greatest joys I have ever known.” At no time did he stop to bemoan his fate, or if he did, it was only to laugh at himself.
9. Believe That You Will Succeed. It is at this point, following what I call “the vision,” that the survivor's will to live becomes firmly fixed.
10. Surrender. Yes you might die. In fact, you wil die–we all do. But perhaps it doesn't have to be today. Don't let it worry you.
11. Do Whatever Is Necessary
12. Never Give up If you're still alive, there is always one more thing that you can do.
Survivors are not easily discouraged by setbacks.