By Michael Donahue
One of the biggest problems I’ve come across is the mentality that there’s only one way do something. In my experience, individuals that have this mentality severely limit themselves in whatever discipline they happen to be performing. The worst part of individuals who think like that is they tend to shut down anybody that presents alternate ways of performing the same skill or task.
What causes a mentality such as this? I like to refer to it as “one-dimensional training.” This refers to when someone learns how to perform a skill and that method used to teach it becomes the only way to perform it. Because the individual learned and practiced it that way, it becomes a comfort zone.
In the world firefighters operate in, we should have a comfort zone that spans a wide spectrum of methods to accomplish the same skill or task. Your atmosphere and conditions will dictate how you can perform your operation. Our job as rescuers is to have the skills, vision, and ability to operate wherever, whenever and handle whatever is thrown at us.
Uncertainty and doubt in your ability will create high levels of stress when you are asked to perform. This level of stress will severely hamper your ability to operate successfully. It’s a neurological fact that under high levels of stress in high-stress operations, our IQ will actually decrease, further hindering our ability to perform a given task.
So how do we avoid such an outcome? The answer is simple–learn several ways to effectively perform the same skill and keep an open mind to new ways presented to you. Maintain a dynamic mindset, not a static one.
MIKE DONAHUE is a 17-year veteran of the fire service. He has been a volunteer and a federal firefighter and has been a career firefighter in the Elizabeth (NJ) Fire Department for the past 14 years. He is assigned to Rescue Company 1. He is a rescue specialist with NJ-TF1. He is an instructor at Middlesex Fire Academy and Middlesex County College, where he is an adjunct professor and fire science program coordinator.