At a CQB class in Ohio this past week a major focus was thinking and making quicker and more accurate choices under stress. The key to success was was understanding the why.
The new look
I can tell someone how to do something, to go through the details of the action. However, if they do not understand the why their ability to make the choice to perform said action is suspect when we add stress and more importantly unfamiliar surroundings. It is one thing to perform an action in a controlled environment where it is easy to “see” the answer. It is almost laid out for you with little distraction of other choices. It is a whole other thing when you are in a novel environment and things don’t “look” the same. The brain struggles to bridge the gap and two things happen at this moment. They go into a flat spin or they make the wrong choice.
Sometimes the wrong choice executed swiftly and coordinated with a team effort can solve the problem. It is better than the alternative; which is the paralysis analysis we often see. Change up one aspect to the problem and the brain starts to melt as if it finds itself in unfamiliar territory. This is why principles are a better choice when your job typically involves chaos. When we see a tactical team practicing their moves through a shoothouse and they are choreographed the moment one things changes and they either fail to pick up on it, if they do pick up on it do they make the right choice or stall.
High stakes chess
Performing any type of assault is a thinking man’s game, the ultimate chess match where you must be thinking one or two moves in advance, but still be concentrating on the move right in front of you. You need to see the board, not just the pieces on the board, but their strategic value according to their position and how that affects your strategic value and position on the board. This is why understanding the why is so important. If you understand the why it allows you to apply effort to the most important task at that exact moment. There are lots of tasks, but you can only effectively perform one and you need to pick the most important one and execute.
Discipline is key
This is where discipline comes into the question, you need to understand there are some things that carry a higher priority. If you don’t understand those priorities it will make it next to impossible to make decision that support the mission. In the early stages of the class we take the time to explain the why, you are faced with a decision with multiple choices. How do you know what is the right choice. Break it down to the tactical imperative at that moment; what is the most important task that supports the mission. Often times it is pretty obvious, but other times you have to breathe, look around then make a call. Breathing is more of a tactical pause allowing you to move into the looking phase. Looking means taking everything into play and then reducing it down to a few choices. Executing means acting on the best choice that supports what you saw.
The building block process is idea here, it gives perspective and allows you to see the best choice more clearly. You see it clearly because you understand the why.