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Our Mindset Is Our Most Important Asset 19 August 2015

In 1989 I was on kayaking trip around Abel Tasman National Park at the top of the South Island of New Zealand with my best friend and kindred adventuring spirit. We of course being young men believed we were indestructible and of course were hopelessly under prepared. It was an extraordinary trip filled with amazing sea life and undisturbed beaches. It was also mid winder with very cold water and the potential for bad weather. We were paddling white water kayaks, completely unsuitable for a long sea journeys and we wore shorts, t-shirts and water proof jackets (it was long before Goretex and even if it wasn’t, we couldn’t of afforded it anyway!). The constant paddling would keep us warm during the day, and our sleeping bags would do the trick at night.

On the final day, we awoke to a huge storm and a large ocean swell. Our emotional bookmarks said big swell = big fun. So off we headed. The problem was it was way bigger than we thought, way colder than we hoped and I was way more unstable than I had anticipated. The only way I could stay remotely stable was to head out to see, into the prevailing swell. Great short term plan, but long term not so smart. I was long before I was anticipating a trip to Australia. Once I got about 500 meters out to sea I realised that if I tipped out…there was no one coming to save me (hmmmm….still writing about that concept 26 years later but from a different perspective) . Sure I could roll my kayak but I was fooling myself if I thought I could do it in those conditions. It was hard not to panic. Very hard. My most important asset? My mind set. I know I had to somehow turn around and head back to shore where we could lash our kayaks together to crate a more stable raft and let the wind take us to calmer waters.

I didn’t know how to do it then, but it’s a skill I would later recognise and refine working in some of the worlds largest trauma centres. I now still use that skill in my work, in my drive to stay healthy and in my wilderness survival training.

Everyone thinks its easy but it’s not. Everyone thinks it comes naturally but it doesn’t. It has to be practiced and trained. Emergency doctors practice it, the military practices it, pilots practice it. How we respond in an emergency- whether that be a health crisis, in day to day life or in the wilderness- our number one asset is our mindset. It’s also our number one priority in our health programme- the thoughts in our heads.
Watch the video to see the process that we all train in. Seem easy? Yes. In practice- only if you have practiced it continuously.

Click here to watch my video

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Dr Emerson was recently interviewed on ‘Know the Cause’, the most popular health television programme in the US.

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