"...What a great time to be born, what a great time to be alive, because this generation gets to essentially completely change the world."-Paul Hawken "Blessed Unrest"

Friday, November 11, 2011

Facing & Surviving Climate Change with Honest Hope

“It will be a dark time, but for those who survive, I suspect it will be rather exciting.” -James Lovelock 


  Lawrence Gonzales’ 12 Rules of Survival Skills

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. Survivors don’t candy-coat the truth, but they also don’t give in to hopelessness in the face of it.  Survivors see opportunity, even good, in their situation, however grim.

The phases of the survival journey roughly parallel the five stages of death once described by Elizabeth Kubler Ross in her book On Death and Dying: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  In dire circumstances, a survivor moves through those stages rapidly to acceptance of his situation, then resolves to do something to save himself.  Survival depends on telling yourself, “Okay, I’m here.  This is really happening.  Now I’m going to do the next right thing to get myself out.” Whether you succeed or not ultimately becomes irrelevant.  It is in acting well – even suffering well – that you give meaning to whatever life you have to live.

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. Survivors also manage pain well.

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.

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.  t also provides relief from the unspeakable strain of a life-threatening situation.

6. Be a rescuer, not a victim. Survivors are always doing what they do for someone else, even if that someone is thousands of miles away.

7. Enjoy the survival journey. It may seem counter-intuitive, 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.  Survivors use the intellect to stimulate, calm, and entertain the mind.  Singing, playing mind games, reciting poetry, counting anything, and doing mathematical problems in your head can make waiting possible and even pleasant, even while heightening perception and quieting fear. Survivors engage their crisis almost as an athlete engages a sport.  They cling to talismans.  They discover the sense of flow of the expert performer, the “zone” in which emotion and thought balance each other in producing fluid action.  A playful approach to a critical situation also leads to invention, and invention may lead to a new technique, strategy, or design that could save you.

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. 

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.  Fear of dying falls away, and a new strength fills them with the power to go on.

10. Surrender. Yes you might die.  In fact, you will die – we all do.  But perhaps it doesn’t have to be today.  Don’t let it worry you.  Forget about rescue.  Everything you need is inside you already.

11. Do whatever is necessary. Survivors have a reason to live and are willing to bet everything on themselves.  They have what psychologists call meta-knowledge:  They know their abilities and do not over– or underestimate them.  They believe that anything is possible and act accordingly.

12. Never give up! Survivors are not easily discouraged by setbacks.  They accept that the environment is constantly changing and know that they must adapt.  When they fall, they pick themselves up and start the entire process over again, breaking it down into manageable bits.  Survivors always have a clear reason for going on.  They keep their spirits up by developing an alternate world, created from rich memories, into which they can escape.  They see opportunity in adversity.  In the aftermath, survivors learn from and are grateful for the experiences that they’ve had.

Those who would survive the hazards of our world, whether at play or in business or at war, through illness or financial calamity, will do so through a journey of transformation.  But that transcendent state doesn’t miraculously appear when it is needed.  It wells up from a lifetime of experiences, attitudes, and practices form one’s personality, a core from which the necessary strength is drawn.  

A survival experience is an incomparable gift: It will tell you who you really are.

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