Seventeen Percent Principle

My friend is a law enforcement firearms instructor. He’s told me he consistently gets perfect scores at the shooting-range; 100% accuracy. During training, they add in factors to cause stress; they have to run, do sit-ups or push-ups to raise their heartbeat and increase breathing, or they run scenarios that limit their options and require fast decision-making.

He is a better shot than most with 100% accuracy in practice, but under elevated stressful conditions in training scenarios is around 17%.

This doesn’t mean he is at 17% in stressful situations on the street, serving and protecting. That’s why they train. They create situations to get use to the stress, hurried pace, and tunnel vision to practice dealing with and overcoming it.

The 17% Principle is a life and leadership strategy that tells us we can learn to deal with and overcome stress and see past the tunnel vision. This requires intentional shifts in perspective and repetition to accomplish.

Psychological research shows people perform better in life when they are in a positive or neutral mental/emotional state than a negative/stressed one. In business, productivity increases 30% and sales increases 37%. People at positive or neutral mental/emotional states have better relationships, less health problems and live longer.

Is all this research telling us to avoid stress? Should police officers read this and decide to avoid all stressful situations? Of course not! This is why they train. These studies aren’t about our circumstances, but about our state of mind. Self-training is about our state of mind.

When a stressful situation is dealing with us, instead of us dealing with it, our fight/flight/freeze response kicks in and the tunnel vision takes over. We only see the problem which prevents us from seeing our options to solve the problem. This is what we need to train to gain control.

First, identify the bad ways we respond, so we know to avoid them. Don’t rationalize why you should be overwhelmed by stress (fight) because you shouldn’t and don’t have to be. Don’t avoid these situations (flight) because that isn’t helping anything. Don’t do nothing (freeze) and dwell in the negative state.

Catch yourself doing these negative things and call it out. Challenge that way of responding and thinking as being bad and choose a better response.

Pause. Breath. Allow yourself to see stress, even failure as an opportunity to learn and grow. Choose to tell yourself that you aren’t facing a problem, but an option to move forward. Expect stress to happen and give yourself permission to move on so you don’t dwell on it. Most importantly, focus on others and serving and caring for them instead of fighting/fleeing/freezing because of the stress.

Our workplaces, homes and heads can either be dungeons of stress and anxiety or havens of peace and progress. Do the hard work of training yourself to serve and protect peace where you are so you can lead your coworkers, community and children to be able to do the same.

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