How To Use Survival Skills For Resilience

Life is full of unexpected twists and turns that can throw you off your game. The ability to adapt and be flexible in the face of change is what separates those who thrive from those who struggle. Adapting to changes in plans and embracing spontaneity can be challenging, but it is a skill that can you can develop with practice.

The Fight Or Flight Response

When plans get flipped upside down and threaten your well-being, it is common for the brain to activate the fight-or-flight response. Your body has a natural and automatic physiological response to perceived threats or danger called the fight-or-flight response, which helps you respond quickly and effectively to potential harm.

The fight-or-flight response can include various physical and psychological changes. These can be increased heart rate, rapid breathing, heightened awareness, and a surge of adrenaline. In some cases, these changes can lead to feelings of panic or anxiety. This is the case if the situation is particularly stressful or if you feel like you don’t have control over what’s happening.

However, it’s important to note that not everyone will respond the same way to unexpected situations or dangers. Some people may be more prone to panic or anxiety. Others may be able to remain calm and focused under pressure.

Many Faces Of Survival Situations

Fortunately, situations where there’s an imminent threat to your life or safety in general, are quite rare. This can’t be said about life throwing unexpected changes your way. Such events can turn even the best plans upside down and become a threat to the goal you’re working towards.

Because of the similarities to a life-threatening event unexpected turn of events can trigger the same fight-or-flight response. For some, it may be a natural response to panic and start acting without thinking to undo the situation. Some freeze in such moments because all their focus has been on the original plan and how it should play out. Not having a backup plan only adds to that. And then there are those who keep their head cool in these moments. Such people evaluate the new circumstances and reorganize to continue the progress without stress.

How can you become the one who stays calm when their dreams and goals are under threat?

With practice and training, it is possible to improve our ability to respond to unexpected situations. Cultivate a sense of calm and resilience in the face of stress and adversity. Techniques like mindfulness, deep breathing, and visualization can help to regulate your physiological and psychological responses to stress. Training in emergency preparedness, first aid, and survival skills can help to build overall confidence and competence in handling unexpected situations.

Concepts such as emergency preparedness, first aid, and survival skills may seem like they belong to only physical accidents, wilderness incidents, and natural disasters. But what if you tried to develop systems and skills that correspond to the same concepts in your personal life?

Starting with preparedness to make yourself ready for emergency situations both physically and mentally. This can be developing a philosophy and a mindset that makes you flexible and resilient to changes. Physical preparedness can mean anticipating such events and having a Plan B ready and having skills to come up with a Plan C as well if needed. Knowing First Aid means you can stop further damage and remain functional in the case of unexpected events. Survival skills mean you have knowledge of how to overcome obstacles and challenges and still reach your goals.

Here are some methods and approaches that may inspire you when developing your own system for survival

The Kaizen Philosophy

Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy and approach to continuous improvement that focuses on making small, incremental changes to processes and systems over time to increase efficiency and effectiveness. The word “Kaizen” is derived from two Japanese characters: “Kai,” which means change, and “Zen,” which means good.

The Kaizen Philosophy applies in a wide range of industries and contexts, from manufacturing to healthcare to education. Organizations can achieve greater efficiency, quality, and safety over time by using the valuable approach of continuous improvement. Kaizen emphasizes the involvement of all employees in the process of continuous improvement. It encourages a culture of ongoing learning and improvement, where employees are encouraged to identify and suggest changes to processes and systems that can improve efficiency, quality, and safety.

Being based on the idea of continuous improvement in small, incremental changes that accumulate over time, Kaizen can be applied to our personal and professional lives to helping us become more adaptable. By making small changes to your habits, routines, and mindset, you can become more resilient and better equipped to handle unexpected challenges.

The Key Principles Of Kaizen

  1. Focus on continuous improvement. Kaizen emphasizes the importance of making small, continuous improvements to processes and systems over time. This involves setting goals, measuring progress, and making ongoing adjustments.
  2. Respect for people. Kaizen recognizes the importance of treating people with respect and involving them in the process of continuous improvement. It emphasizes the importance of collaboration and teamwork to achieve common goals.
  3. Elimination of waste. Kaizen encourages the elimination of waste in all forms, including excess inventory, unnecessary steps in a process, and defects in products or services. By eliminating waste, organizations can improve efficiency and reduce costs.
  4. Standardization. Kaizen emphasizes the importance of standardizing processes and systems to ensure consistency and reliability. Standardization helps to reduce variability and increase efficiency.
  5. Continuous training and education. Kaizen encourages ongoing learning and development for all employees. This includes training on new processes and systems, as well as opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Resilience Engineering

Resilience engineering is another approach that can help you become more adaptable to change. It is the study of how to adapt and recover from unexpected events. By applying this approach to your personal life, you can learn how to bounce back from setbacks and become more resilient. This can involve developing a strong support system, building emotional resilience, and cultivating a growth mindset.

Resilience engineering is a relatively new approach to system design and management. It’s more widely used in the processes and systems of big companies to increase their preparedness for unexpected events.

  1. Boeing has been practicing resilience engineering for several years. It has developed a “Resilience Management System” that is designed to help the company anticipate and respond to unexpected events in its operations. The system includes processes for identifying potential vulnerabilities, developing resilience strategies, and continuous learning and improvement.
  2. Toyota is known for its production system that emphasizes efficiency, quality, and continuous improvement. The company’s production system includes many elements of resilience engineering, such as built-in redundancies and the ability to quickly adapt to changing conditions.
  3. Google has been practicing resilience engineering in its data centers for several years. The company has developed processes and systems that are designed to anticipate and respond to unexpected events, such as power outages or equipment failures. It also emphasizes the importance of continuous learning and improvement to increase resilience.
  4. NASA is known for its focus on safety and reliability in its operations. The agency has developed many processes and systems that are designed to anticipate and respond to unexpected events, such as equipment failures or changes in mission requirements. It also emphasizes the importance of continuous learning and improvement to increase resilience.

How To Apply Principles Of Resilience Engineering To Your Personal Life

Overall, resilience engineering is a valuable approach to system design and management. It can help organizations anticipate and respond to unexpected events in their operations. As unexpected events are not just part of everyday-life in a big company, you can also learn from the same principles. Just as a big company, you too benefit from systems that can cope with unexpected events and maintain function in the face of disturbances.

Acknowledging the many variables in your own process and the inevitability of unexpected events is the start. By doing that you increase your readiness to adapt and recover quickly. You will learn to anticipate potential failures and design systems that are resilient to them. It also involves learning from such events and continuously improving system design and management to increase resilience.

Key Principles Of Resilience Engineering

  1. Redundancy by building backups into systems to provide alternative options when things go wrong. For example, in aviation, redundant systems are built into planes to provide backup options in case of equipment failures.
  2. Diversity focuses on building teams and systems that are composed of individuals with different skills, experiences, and backgrounds. This diversity helps to increase problem-solving capacity and flexibility.
  3. Robustness in systems that can withstand unexpected events and still function effectively. For example, in healthcare, robust systems might involve having backup power supplies or other emergency equipment on hand to maintain critical functions
  4. Flexibility to create systems that are able to adapt quickly to changing conditions. For example, in transportation, flexible systems might involve re-routing buses or trains to avoid unexpected road closures or other disruptions.
  5. Learning involves using unexpected events as opportunities to learn and improve system design and management. For example, in healthcare, learning might involve analyzing near-miss events to identify potential vulnerabilities and improve safety.

The S.T.O.P method

When plans get turned upside down I see similarities to things going sideways in the wilderness. What was supposed to be an easy walk in the forest can quickly turn into a case of survival when you discover that you’re lost or encounter some other danger that’s beyond your control.

Wilderness experts suggest the S.T.O.P method as the first priority in any wilderness survival situation. S.T.O.P is actually an acronym for how you should react when something goes wrong. It stands for Stop, Think, Observe, and Plan. The same method can also be applied to other unexpected situations that require quick adaptation for the best outcome. When faced with unexpected challenges, you should take a step back, assess the situation, and come up with a plan of action. By taking the time to think things through, you can make better decisions and avoid making rash choices.

S – Stop

You may feel tempted to rush into action immediately. This can lead to making impulsive decisions that cause further issues. When you first realize that the plans have been flipped and the goal is in danger, take a moment to stop and pause. Give yourself time to collect yourself.

T – Think

When the initial rush of adrenaline has gone over determine the reasons behind the change of plans and the options available to you. What is the core problem for this happening? Are there any alternative approaches or solutions to overcome those obstacles?

O – Observe

Assess the progress made so far and the potential impact of the unexpected situation. There’s a good chance that despite the curveball of the new situation, the impact of it isn’t as big as it seems at first glance. Gather and organize all the new information that came with the switch in plans

P – Plan

Don’t stay caught in ruminating on what happened. Once you have a clear overview of the new situation, develop a plan of action that includes specific steps to address the obstacles that have arisen. The sooner you get back on track and focus on the solutions, the better

By following the STOP method, you can approach unexpected situations with a clear and focused mindset, which will help you to make better decisions and achieve your goals despite the obstacles that arise. It may be tricky to remember the STOP method if you’re not used to applying it to such situations, but in time it will become your natural response. In the long run, you will train yourself to be more flexible and adaptable and approach the unexpected with a growth mindset


In order to become more adaptable, it’s important to embrace a growth mindset. This means being open to new experiences, learning from failures, and being willing to try new things. It also means being willing to take risks and step outside of our comfort zone. By adopting a growth mindset, we can become more adaptable and better equipped to handle unexpected challenges.

In conclusion, adaptability is essential for success in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world. With the Kaizen, Resilience Engineering, and the STOP method, you can develop the skills and mindset needed to become more adaptable. Whether it’s in your personal or professional life, being flexible and able to change your action plan fast can help you overcome unexpected challenges and achieve your goals.