Fix Your Mindset Before You Step Into Each Day
Some days you open your eyes and wonder if you have enough strength to make it through the day. Your eyes open with energy already waning for the day ahead. Your resolve is low, and you wonder if you have enough strength to put your feet on the floor and take the next steps to do anything productive. Do you have enough stamina to survive today? Harvard Health says you’re drained because you’ve lived in a perpetually heightened state of anxiety, causing fatigue.
You’re probably familiar with the “survival of the fittest” thinking attributed to the naturalist Charles Darwin. The Darwinian thoughts gave rise to the term natural selection. But, the groundwork for the thoughts had nothing to do with the selection of genes or the strongest genomes overpowering weaker ones. Fish, tadpoles, and pond scum often come to mind when considering the term, but they weren’t on the mind of the man who conjured up the idea. Perhaps we should step back and see what he was thinking at the time.
Herbert Spencer is the man of the Victorian hour. That’s right, the setting is Victoria, England, in the mid-1800s, around a time of social unrest. Some of the great minds of the time have all but faded into obscurity. Spencer’s early writings on the subject were released in The Synthetic Philosophy of Herbert Spencer, before Darwin’s writing. It was Spencer, not Darwin, who gave us “survival of the fittest” in his 1864 book entitled Principles of Biology:
“This survival of the fittest, which I have here sought to express in mechanical terms, is that which Mr. Darwin has called ‘natural selection,’ or the preservation of favored races in the struggle for life.”
Within the quote is the difference. Darwin focused on biology, but Spencer focused on evolution. Smithsonian says it like this:
Today, when Spencer is remembered at all, it is usually for inspiring the ideology known as “social Darwinism”: roughly, the idea that the successful deserve their success while those who fail deserve their failure.
Harsh words for people who experience tough times. With terms that are largely misunderstood by today’s standards, we can try to sort out the confusion.
The sacrifice the weak thinking comes under fire, especially in modern times when people are distancing themselves to preserve their health.
Put on Survival Instincts
Survival means different things to different people. While some are concerned about health and safety, others are concerned about continuing to earn revenue. Some are more cautious, and others are more bold.
The American Institute of Stress defines stress as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change.” When your body detects a threat, your autonomic nervous system sounds like an alarm telling you something is wrong.
If Mama Bear is in attack mode, you may find yourself able to run faster than ever before. Survival mode makes us capable of doing things that aren’t otherwise possible.
Harness Action for Survival
Emotions and hormones run high when you fight for survival. You want to tame the bear if you can. Often, this involves a fight or flight response. You have to choose to fight or leave the situation. The National Park Service supports the rhyme I remember hearing as a child:
If the bear is brown, lay down. If the bear is black, fight back.
Take the temperature of your environment by analyzing what’s going on around you to help determine your best course, otherwise known as situational awareness. You have to know what’s going on around you, and choose your best approach for survival. Take reasonable precautions, but don’t go overboard unless you have extenuating circumstances or are in imminent danger. You don’t want to poke the bear unnecessarily. “Mama bear” can be difficult financial situations, hurt or broken relationships, or looming deadlines.
Choose the Best Mindset
Attitude is critical. Be a good friend to yourself. Mental attitude can make the most significant difference in survival. The world can be dog eat dog, but your chances for survival increase when you put on the best attitude. You’re probably doing the best you can and feeling like you’re falling short of everything that’s required. You’re working, being a homework helper, and a cook. Viktor Frankl, a holocaust survivor, in Man’s Search for Meaning, reminds us that attitude is everything:
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
No one promises an easy life, just that you get to choose how to live it. Choose wisely.