Daydreaming Won’t Turn Your Dream of Becoming an EMT, Firefighter, Paramedic, Police Officer, or Soldier Into Reality. This Article Might.
New research provides some insight into how some break past daydreams and reach professional and personal goals1. First responders need rigorous training to obtain skills that the public can trust. Not all who dream of becoming an EMT, Firefighter, Paramedic, Police Officer will succeed. Some people dream and never take steps to apply. Others start but do not finish training. How can you increase the likelihood that you will pass EMT, firefighter, paramedic, or police training and become part of a select few?
The research outlined in an excellent BBC article discusses that concept1. We can learn a few things to help us not just pass our EMT and other first responder training but truly succeed and have a career. Researchers identified that the old tale of positive thinking and visualizing success isn’t enough to overcome the challenges between our current self and who we want to become or what we want to achieve. Instead, try WOOP2 to formulate a plan to make becoming an EMT, Firefighter, Paramedic, or Police Officer a reality. Nothing replaces good old grit—the determination to get it done and persevere through the trials of success still rules.
WOOP is a means of moving from daydreaming to the hard work of reality. From the BBC article:
Remember the acronym ‘WOOP’: consider your Wish, imagine the Outcome, identify the Obstacle, and then make a PlanDavid Robson, 2020
The result of planning, anticipating, and working through obstacles is called Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions (MCII)2. The majority of people fail to spontaneously perform it and don’t achieve their goals. Mental contrasting can help you get past the reluctance to fully start the journey and the self-doubting spiral that can paralyze us. WOOP’s creators report on their website that the process is the culmination of decades of research in motivation2. They also point out that dreaming is still an important activity to be paired with planning to make dreams a reality2.
On your journey toward becoming a first responder, EMT, firefighter, paramedic, police officer, medical provider, or any similar profession, you will face many challenges. Here are some to consider with your WOOP analysis.
It feels great to sit, relax, watch TV, or other leisurely activities! We should take part in relaxing and enjoyable activities from time to time. If you want to achieve uncommon results, it will take discipline. If leisure is our primary focus, we might wake up a decade later, wondering why our dreams didn’t come true. It’s uncomfortable to do the hard and necessary work to improve ourselves and station in life. Yet, once we get through the temporary discomfort of training or working toward our goals, we will find a new comfort level and likely appreciate it more.
Self-Doubt and fear
Self-doubt and comfort go hand in hand. Self-doubt helps us seek comfort to relieve our constant doubt about our abilities and capabilities, or at least that what happens to me. We all have a range of barriers to overcome before we grow, and it’s hard to visualize us without self-doubt. Our brain can’t visualize our future success because our brain treats any future version of ourselves like a total stranger.3
To silence that doubt takes constant mental work. I spend a ridiculous amount of time thinking my goals will fail. It paralyzed me into choosing to stay in my current, safe, comfortable spot rather than prove myself wrong that I could do what I sought. If I used that mental energy to solve the obstacles to success, my goals might already be met. I move past doubt by deciding to tackle the next challenge in front of me rather than spiraling down the rabbit hole of all the challenges I face.
Time is our most precious commodity. How we use it is perhaps more important than how we use money or other resources. We can never get time back, and we can’t make more time. We can only use what we have as best we can. Self-doubt and comfort push us to avoid changing how we see and use time. Our internal enemy and external critics make it harder to use our time productively and prefer its waste to our hard work.
While a student, it’s especially important to manage time effectively. There are 1,400+ pages in the EMT book we use today, and we cover it in one semester! Homework, practice, reading and memorizing, all take time. To be successful in our obligations to family, friends, work, and school simultaneously, we need solid time management skills. That is a book all by itself!
Before starting the task of studying, take the time to plan your day and ensure you allocate enough time to classwork, work, family, and yourself (maybe not in that order). It will mean that some leisurely activities get put on hold until you graduate, but there will be room for some fun. Don’t forget to schedule a break for yourself. Not something you will do if you can get to it, but something on your calendar like the next quiz. If the tv is your thing, book time for a half-hour run of your Netflix show and not watching the entire season for 8 hours. Watch a movie in increments of half an hour over a few days. Make time for rest and exercise to maintain balance and improve your mental power. I love to watch a movie with my family, so breaking it up into a few days isn’t the most exciting way to do it, but its that discipline and grit that will help me achieve new goals.
Though the BBC article points out that positive thinking and visualization alone won’t get us to our goals, having a positive attitude and visualizing success can help manage the spiral of self-doubt. There’s always a challenge in any path we take. So expect that you will face them, plan to anticipate them, and strategize how to solve them. Having a track record of achieving what your internal critic thinks you cannot do give us the courage to face adversity since we have proven our success. Keep going, persevere, and take time to provide yourself with praise. Tell yourself you can do it. Then prove it to yourself. Self-doubt will come up, so make self-encouragement an essential point of every day with tactics like positive affirmations.
Encouragement can also come from the people in our life. If your network is full of people who throw shade on your goals and your work to achieve them, it is time for a new network. Surround yourself with people who are on a similar journey of self-growth. Be each other’s coach and cheerleader. Push each other to new levels. When we are down on ourselves and want to retreat internally, we need these friends the most. As uncomfortable as it is, seek their support when you least feel like you deserve it.
Angela Duckworth impacted millions of lives in her TED talk, book, and speaking on the importance of grit4. She makes the compelling case that grit helps us succeed and is a mix of perseverance and passion4. It’s a must-watch for anyone who wants to succeed. We all likely have been waiting for some medication, supplement, lifehack, or to be ‘ready’ to make success easier to achieve. Please don’t wait for it to be easy. That’s a trick our internal critic will happily deploy. The people we think are successful probably did it with grit, as simple as it. Overnight success is a myth, and those we believe skyrocket overnight spent years working hard against all the odds to get there.
WOOP provides a framework for thinking through the goal and planning to meet them that goes well beyond daydreaming. Planning is essential to any endeavor. The plan is a roadmap. It can be as detailed as you prefer but must include strategies for dealing with the obstacles on our trip. What will happen when the rural highway to our destination is closed for 4 hours because of a major accident or disaster? Do we have a plan to get there if our first path choice is blocked? Most trips have multiple routes to get where we are going. Knowing your options to navigate the challenge may give you the confidence to keep going and not only turn back and spend the weekend on the couch with Netflix.
If being a public servant is your goal, especially someone responding to emergencies, the ability to anticipate obstacles and formulate a dynamic plan is a foundational competency. It’s even harder to use those skills when you are tired, physically uncomfortable, and in an unsafe environment. When you answer a call for service via 911 or other means, you must still succeed despite all of the challenges you face. The public deserves and expects that we are the best prepared and trained for their emergencies. That’s a huge responsibility. To meet that responsibility, we need to put the work into gaining those skills required to help our citizens.
How will you meet the challenge of growing into the future YOU of your daydreams? Whatever it is, hard work and planning still separate those who achieve their goals and those who don’t. There may be many challenges already working against you that you can’t control. Don’t add something that you CAN control to the barriers to your success.
The WOOP website is loaded with resources, videos, and an overview of the science behind it. WOOP is a tool to address motivation and Dr. Gabriele Oettingen discusses the “new science of motivation” in her book, “Rethinking Positive Thinking”5.
This is the introduction video from WOOPmylife.org.
What did I miss in this article? How have you achieved goals you once felt may be impossible? Keep the conversation going by sharing and commenting.
- Robson D. The strategy that turns daydreams into reality. BBC Worklife. https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200821-the-strategy-that-turns-daydreams-into-reality. Published August 24th, 2020. Accessed August 27th, 2020.
- WOOP. Woopmylife.com. https://woopmylife.org/en/home. Accessed August 27th, 2020.
- Diamandis PH, Kotler S. The future is faster than you think: How converging technologies are transforming business, industries, and our lives. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster; 2020
- Duckworth A L. Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. Presented at TED Talks Education. April 2013. New York, NY; https://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_grit_the_power_of_passion_and_perseverance?language=en. Accessed August 27th, 2020.