The Will to Live
If you study survival techniques, you will find in all forms of material the mention of the “Will to Live.” This is one of the most over looked essentials to survival than anything else. People tend to brush off that topic as if it were a given that they would have that will to live, and they move on to the skills and supplies they might need to survive. It is one thing to have the skills and supplies, but without the will to live, you will not survive.
Imagine yourself in a plane crash, or lost deep in the wilderness with a severe injury, or on a hunting trip with a loved one who has just fallen 300 feet into a mountain crevice and is seriously hurt. All of those situations bring emotions into the equation. You can have the best survival kit in the world, and the most knowledge about the environment you are in, but if you don’t have the mental strength to get through it, you won’t.
Being prepared with supplies and knowledge certainly helps support the will to live, but you have to know deep inside of you that you can, no matter what the circumstances. You must have confidence in your abilities to survive any situation so you can put that part of the equation behind you, the logistical and technical aspects. But when it comes to what is going on in your mind, that is where many people break down and lose the fight.
The first rule of survival is to tell someone where you are going to be, when you expect to be back, and when to send help if you are not back. I go elk hunting during the archery season, into very remote wilderness. I always tell someone who cares where I am going, when I expect to be back, and allow for a day or two extra in case I have to pack an elk out. That way I always know that if something happens I know when someone will start looking for me. That fact alone builds mental strength; if I am lying on a mountain side with a broken leg, it helps to know when someone might start looking for me. It lets me know when to start my signaling efforts, and it gives me hope.
But when you find yourself in a situation that seems hopeless, you have to find that inner strength to prevail. Think about what you are leaving behind if you don’t make it, turn to your religion, think about loved ones, think of all the reasons you need to make it out of there alive. Be patient and thoughtful, and apply the knowledge you have about survival, don’t give up on what you know, don’t let the logistical part of survival get in the way of your will to live.
One thing I stress as a survival item is a journal and something to write with. This is important in case you need to leave notes if you happen to move around, but is equally important as a place to write down your thoughts, your observations, and your emotions. Being able to express what you are experiencing will make it seem real, and will focus your thoughts. Being able to write about the experience will also give you some inner resolve; it will make you think about what has happened and what is going to happen. If you are alone, being able to write gives you someone to “talk to,” and if the situation is dire, it gives you the chance to say things to people that you won’t have the chance to otherwise.
When you are packing your survival kit and looking at the maps of where you are going, be sure to let someone know where you will be going and when you should be back. And take a journal, whether you need it in a survival situation or not, it’s always a good thing to capture your thoughts.