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Let me begin with an observation regarding life and how we will probably live it: Life is a journey, and each life has a beginning as well as an end. What happens between those two points in time constitutes your life.
Many people have taken to calling this period the â€œdash between the dates.â€ Far too many think of life as a never-ending commodity. Normally, people arrive at the end of their journey at a time not of their choosing. It comes upon them suddenly, and they are often left with questions that were not answered, goals that were never attained or words that were left unsaid.
I want to share some thoughts that offer a new way of living and thinking that may let you experience two great achievements within the confines of your life. On one hand, you might be able to garner the maximum amount of joy and success that life has to offer. On the other hand, you might be fortunate enough to leave a legacy for generations to come. Both are lofty goals.
Let me suggest that you pave the road of your life with a sturdy underpinning of solid, fact-based, usable knowledge. Many people have told me that life is great, if you donâ€™t weaken. Being human, of course, presumes a great deal of weakness. It is in your choice of the road to travel, the weakness you encounter and how you handle the weakness that will mark your consequence as a member of the human race.
I recall a TV show devoted to the U.S. Air Force para-rescue jumpers (PJs), focusing on the training, education and dedication of these brave people. The strictness with which their training was applied impressed me. An instructor spoke of the need to train the PJs to react, rather than pause to think, during moments of sudden stress and crisis.
Would you not think that this is something that leaders in the fire service should emulate? Are there not times when we need to react suddenly to an unexpected, emergent situation? The crisis we face may pop up years after we learned the skill needed to escape unscathed from the sudden emergency.
How often does your department conduct training drills? More important, how often do you drill on life-and-death skills and situations? These two questions can have an impact on your ability to survive. The key to this involves implanting your life-and-death skills within your memory bank.
My research indicates that there are a number of learning principles that can be used to explain the ability to react suddenly based on knowledge previously acquired in a training environment. Bizjak and Adams (1999) discuss the concept of memory in learning. They suggest that there are three levels of memory. The first is sensory memory. They state that sensory memory is â€œthe mental storage system for attention-getting sensory stimuli or input (such as smells, sight, sounds and sensations.â€)
They go on to address the fact that a sensory stimulus is either important enough to be remembered or it isnâ€™t. They further suggest that if we want to remember a stimulus, we need to devote enough time and attention to retain it. Each of us experiences a number of stimulus/response situations each day. Some we remember and some we forget.
Our day-to-day decision making is governed by what Bizjak and Adams call short-term or working memory. They state that short-term memory â€œholds information for about 20 seconds or so and is limited to about seven items or â€˜chunksâ€™ of information â€¦ this deals with a tiny slice of several sensory events occurring in the present, and therefore limits what we receive, process, and remember at the moment.â€
Here is where information overload can come into play. How many times have you heard someone tell you that they are suffering from information overload? This is a condition my kids refer to as TMI, or â€œtoo much information.â€ There have been times when I was getting signals so often that my brain would literally freeze up for a moment.