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Seven Survivor Lessons That Can Help in Any Situation

Survivors of disasters, especially those who overcame long odds in their quest for life, have much to teach us. Over the past eight years, I’ve interviewed and researched more than one hundred survivors and learned that techniques and a certain mindset are not only useful in life and death situations, but also in difficulties we face in day to day living. These insights were gleaned from research into my books Overboard!Fatal Forecast, and The Finest Hours. Whether it’s an overwhelming situation or a goal that seems unattainable, the following tips can help us all:

  1. Do not project past outcomes to current situations. Our minds automatically size up a situation compared to something similar in our pasts. We then project the prior outcome into the new situation, and determine that if we follow a similar course of action everything will be fine. But every situation is different, and we must force ourselves to look at each important event on its own merits. There could be a variable that might dictate success or failure.
  2. Adrenaline can be the enemy. When adrenaline kicks in, it often prompts us to take quick action. Fight that urge for just a short period, and instead pause. Often times, the simple act of pausing gives us time to think of several options, rather than leaping into action.
  3. Sticking to “the plan” can get you in over your head. So many people force the situation to meet their plan or their schedule, and end up causing a high-pressure situation. It's better to let the situation form your plan, even if it means abandoning the schedule entirely, and trying again down the road.
  4. Suspend the past and future and instead do “the next right thing.” One survivor trait that surfaces time and time again is that true survivors do not waste time thinking about how they got into such a position or who to blame, nor do they waste time thinking about the distant future, which might lead to the “what's the use” syndrome. Instead, they look at what they need to do now, to move them one step closer to their goal.
  5. The power of little steps is the way to go. Even the smallest bit of action can get the ball rolling toward fulfillment. Noteworthy accomplishments are rarely gained without behind-the-scenes preparation that might feel insignificant at the time, but taken together with other little steps, sends you toward your goal.
  6. When given the option, choose the decision that is reversible. Successful decision-makers are not afraid to make a U-turn. They never say, “I've put so much time into this, I might as well keep going.” Instead, they take a cold look at their decision and are not afraid to make modifications according to the situation unfolding before them.
  7. Celebrate the little achievements. Every true survivor takes the time to acknowledge little victories. They give themselves a pat on the back. We should do the same in our own life, and abolish the detrimental thinking that says, “I'll be happy when...” Enjoy the challenge of the process, not just the outcome.

I personally have used these tips in the last two years to leave my corporate job and open a full-time speaking and writing business, and to help me successfully navigate a divorce!

Michael Tougias is the author of 19 books. He drew on several of his Simon and Schuster titles for these lessons but especially from Fatal Forecast,which was praised by the Los Angeles Times as “a breathtaking book, both marvelous and terrifying.” Tougias has expanded on the seven tips reviewed above and he has prepared a presentation for businesses which is titled“Survivor Lessons.” To learn more about the program and his earlier book involving survivors visit