Why is being “mindful” and/or practicing mindfulness beneficial for First Responders? For months, I have struggled with coming up with an answer that made sense to me and/or something I truly believe in. I have MY answer. It may not apply to everyone, but I think it applies to most.
Mindfulness gives First Responders the ability to make an informed and rational decision. Whether it be: to use force or not, to have another beer, to engage in a pursuit, buy that expensive car, etc. Based on my experience, professionally (5 years in Internal Affairs) and personally, I noticed that most First Responders get in a bind because they make poor choices. Mindfulness gives them the option to make a more thoughtful choice, lessening the chance of them getting in a bind that could affect them personally and professionally.
While discussing the topic with my wife, it occurred to me that Ken Murray’s book, Training at the Speed of Light is applicable from this standpoint: In his book, Ken discusses the 4 levels of competence. For simplicity, I will provide a police example and a Mindfulness example:
- Unconscious Incompetence
- Police: An officer starts at the police academy, but has never fired a handgun. He / she is unaware that they have no competence in the effective use of a handgun.
- Mindfulness: The First Responder is not aware of Mindfulness practices and/or its benefits.
- Conscious Incompetence
- Police: The officer fires his/her handgun for the first time and is made aware that they have no competence.
- Mindfulness: The First Responder is aware of Mindfulness practices, but has little knowledge.
- Conscious Competence
- Police: The officer had fired several hundred rounds and is now competent, but has to focus on the process of firing the handgun.
- Mindfulness: The First Responder is aware of Mindfulness practices and its benefits, but has to make a conscious effort to reap the benefits.
- Unconscious Competence
- Police: The officer is so competent with his/her handgun that without thought, they perform at a high level.
- Mindfulness: The First Responder is so versed at Mindfulness practices, that they automatically reap the benefits. In order to reach and maintain this level of competence, the task, whether it be firearms proficiency or Mindfulness, must be practiced on a regular basis (2-3 times per week – minimum investment).
**Mindfulness Training is Reality Based Training**
Final thoughts: Mindfulness practices give First Responders the ability to make better personal choices and the ability to choose how to deal with critical incident type stress.