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Bear Grylls: The Right Mindset = Life or Death

Attitude is everything. It can literally be the difference between life and death.

In his books and TV shows, Bear tells stories of people who’ve survived in some of our planet’s most hostile environments. For example, in the series Escape from Hell, Bear reenacts how people survived avalanches, being lost in sand storms in the desert, falling from a plane in the jungle, confrontations with bears and climbing out of steep canyons—with the survivors sharing in their own words how they fought for their lives.

From these and others, Bear has identified one commonality of these survivors; namely, their mindset.

Image by Galen Rowell

“Almost all of the most extraordinary tales of survival seem to involve an indefinable Ingredient X,” writes Bear in his book Born Survivor, “which can only be understood as having its source in that mysterious entity, the ‘human spirit.’”

A survival mantra: Never give up

In speeches, Bear often talks about the power of never giving up, he uses the #nevergiveup hashtag in his social media posts and as the title for his book Never Give Up.

Image by Christopher Furlong

“The difference between life and death often boils down to a matter of choice,” writes Bear in Born Survivor. “If you decide that the odds are so heavily stacked against you that you have no chance of survival, the battle is already as good as lost.”

In this book, Bear recalls stories of people who did not give up. For example, in 1963, two Americans survived a plane crash in a snow storm in Canada and survived for seven weeks in temperatures that were sometimes -45°C. These people who survived the plane crash were ordinary folk, not explorers or survivalists, but when faced with their harrowing predicament, they channeled the power of sheer will to stay alive for so long.

“If you choose to be inspired by the stories of those who have survived with no wilderness skills to fall back on, you will know that the seemingly impossible is now possible,” he says.

The importance of staying positive

Having a positive attitude is another important mindset for survival and positivity is a core value of Bear’s.

“Keep a positive attitude and you will always have hope,” he says. “A positive mental attitude is a vital ingredient in any survival situation.”

To stress how important the will to survive is, he tells the story of two mice dropped into an urn of milk. The first mouse thinks there’s no hope of escape, so he gives up. The second mouse sees the milk’s potential, and starts to tread it. It soon begins to thicken and curdle. Eventually, it turns into solid butter and he can crawl out. 

Of course you can’t survive only on positivity, and in Born Survivor, Bear says that the will to survive is one of the four key elements of a survivor. The other three are skills, physical fitness, and a degree of luck. For these, he advises trying to learn a new survival every day, being physically fit and strong enough to implement the skills, and always expecting good things to come your way.

The role of resilience

Bear Grylls knows all about resilience. During his career, he has survived all types of hostile terrains and injuries, even once breaking his back and undergoing a year of rehabilitation. Bear has revealed on his Instagram that he still suffers pain from the original accident and undergoes regular ice therapy.

However he became more resilient than ever, and within two years of the accident, he had become the youngest Briton to climb Mount Everest. 

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When he went to Everest, conditions were tough, and four climbers died on the mountain at the same time. In Never Give Up, he tells the story of being at 28,000 feet, at -40°C and how terrified and mentally exhausted he felt before the dark ice face of the final 1,000 feet. He says it was resilience, and a voice inside saying “never give up” that got him through.

“Know the power of unrelenting, unwavering resilience,” says Bear. “Because it’s the storms of life that make us strong, and as with all dark nights, sometimes we just have to hang in there. Doggedly. The dawn will always come.”

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