One of my mentors, who has had an integral part in how I function and run my business coaching the Elite First Responders in my program, shared an amazing analogy with me that hit so close to home that I had to share it with you today…
1. The Zebra Effect
Have you ever watched animal documentaries where a lion or cheetah chases after and kills a Zebra?
While it’s a pretty spectacular display, though quite misleading.
Despite what the filmmakers would have you believe, the success rate of a lion or cheetah hunting a zebra, is less than 20%.
Think about that for a second…
The fastest and most powerful creatures in all of nature are only able to successfully catch a Zebra twice for every 10 hunts on which they embark.
So why is it that a seemingly unintelligent striped pony is able to outwit and outmaneuver the “King of the Jungle” and the fastest land animal on the planet?
One word… Distraction.
You see, by itself, a Zebra has a life expectancy of only a few minutes. However, when herded together, the Zebra’s stripes blend so seamlessly with one another that the predators are unable to distinguish their targets from one another. This causes them to proceed to chase dozens of different Zebra without catching any of them.
Your goals to have energy, stamina and increased recovery time on shift, so that you can get back to training and feeling like an Elite First Responder are like those Zebras.
When you are given too much information that doesn’t fit your shift work lifestyle with all of the stresses thrown at you and offered prescriptions that only treat one symptom, you are not able to make any progress. Advice is given on surface issues instead of focusing and fixing the root cause of the problem, and it leaves you unable to reach your goals successfully. Basically, you’ve fallen victim to what my mentor has dubbed, “The Zebra Effect”.
When your goals don’t go after the right target and your efforts blend together so quickly, you will likely find that a few years into the job your body starts to tell you that you are not going in the right direction.
At first struggling to fall asleep, then staying asleep, exhaustion kicks in…. Workouts become harder to get through and aren’t as much fun as they used to be. This is often paired with a short fuse appearing a day or so after really tough workouts.
The more information you take and throw into the mix to try to help, the more symptoms appear.
Creating sustainable results in your work and family life, will require you to ruthlessly eliminate any target that is not your #1 highest priority. You must focus ALL of your time, attention, and energy on one thing at a time.
As simple as this might sound, my coach attributes 80% of her recent success to this simple strategy. (she runs an 8 figure company and is a single mom to two kids who are competitive athletes)
“Limit yourself to one goal in your business, one goal in your health, one goal in your relationships, and one goal in your personal development.”
Since implementing her strategy, my life has changed forever and I promise, yours will too.
2. Schedule Personal and Family Time First
Here is her second piece of advice that I have adapted to your shift working life.
A common struggle facing First Responders is that shift work, OT, court and exhaustion tend to have a way of interfering with… Well, everything!
Your family, personal, and social time are all relegated to “sometime soon”. You are waiting until you have a block of shifts that is slower paced; one with no OT, more energy and a clearer brain.
And when does this ever happen?
If you are like my husband, I am going to assume rarely or never…
For us, it was no different.
When my husband first became an officer it wasn’t that hard as it was only the two of us and I could work my schedule around his. Throw kids in the mix and life threw us for a loop.
My husband struggled to spend more time with us when we were awake, while trying to work his shift schedule AND get enough time to sleep. It was next to impossible for him.
To help him accomplish this, we used my mentors simple but effective planning method.
The premise is simple…
When you plan your weeks, start by planning family time first.
Don’t schedule a single errand, favour for someone else or thing on your to do list until you know exactly…
- When you and your spouse are going on your days off date night (this is non-negotiable if you’re married). If you’re single, schedule time to go out with new people as you attempt to find your perfect partner.
- How you will spend time with your children. (check their calendars for events that you would like to attend- graduation, birthday)
- When you will engage in relaxing activities and take care of yourself. Taking a walk, reading a book, listening to music, working in the yard, a hiking for a day in the mountains… Whatever you like to do in your own time to relax.
By flipping the script and making time for the things that are truly important first, you will force yourself to take out all tasks and activities that aren’t serving you at the highest level.
Life is short. You don’t want to arrive at the end of it wishing that you’d spent more time with the people you love. (because that’s what really matters at the end of the day)
You can prevent this grim reality by ensuring that you plan your family and self care time first and only then focus on the rest.
3. Protect Your Time
It’s interesting to me how often First Responders and other high performers feel a glaring lack of ownership regarding their own time.
You feel like everyone is entitled to your time: your boss, your colleagues, your spouse, your to do list… Everyone except for yourself.
You’re quick to prioritize the needs of others and move your schedule around so that you can accommodate the other person; but you’re rarely willing to prioritize your own needs and desires.
After realizing how much I was jeopardizing my health and family life by crashing and burning out not once, but twice in my life, I realized how important it is to understand my priorities.
To me, that’s Family first.
Our careers are only a small portion of our life. But our family is with us forever. Or will be if we take care of ourself enough to show up for them.
If I get an invitation or request – even an urgent one – that isn’t aligned with my highest priorities, then I say ‘no’ every single time.
To succeed in life as an Elite First Responder and maintain your family life, you must develop this same attitude.
YOU and only you have a right to your time.
You have the right to tell people “no”, set firmer boundaries and ignore requests that aren’t aligned with your vision. And you can prioritize yourself before anyone else.
I know this might sound a bit selfish or even heartless. But at the end of the day, owning your time is the ultimate form of selflessness. It speaks volumes to your family who is watching your every step. (your kids and mimic see EVERYTHING you do)
Owning and being entitled to your time, will force others to respect it and only make requests when absolutely necessary.
You will have more time to focus on your family, your goals, and your mission. This will ultimately allow you to impact more people and elicit greater change in the world.
In the same way that you’re told, in the event of a plane crash, to “Put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping those around you”, you must prioritize your own time before anyone else’s to ensure that you’re operating at peak capacity and able to serve the world at the highest level.
4. Get Impatient With Yourself and Refuse to Accept Failure
Becoming an Elite First Responder takes time.
Think of how far you have come since you started on the job. How much of what you do every day is not sub-conscious at first. It takes time, training and effort you learn how to tactically perform on the job.
There were days in training and on the job where you felt beat down and weren’t sure how you were going to get back up.
But you did…
Why are you not treating your health and well being the same as you do all of the tactical training to keep you safe on the job?
Truthfully, I don’t know. I, myself, pushed through 20 years between my 2 burnout crashes and never gave up even though my doctors and specialists had no idea how to help me.
Becoming an Elite First Responder takes time
Because I knew that the way I was living was not me.
I knew that I could not make an impact on others lives if I continued to survive and not thrive every single day.
My life was supposed to be full of loving my job, happy family time, sports, activities and adventures.
I never gave up on who I truly was, even when my body and mind was saying otherwise.
It was not an easy road and boy did I fail lots. But I dusted myself off and got back up and tried again.
I didn’t accept failure and was incredibly persistent in finding out a fix.
Take your life and career to the next level and be like the Elite First Responders in my 911 Elite Performance Program.
Failure is only final if you allow it to be so. If something in your life or career isn’t working, then take massive action and MAKE IT WORK.
No excuses, no explanations, put in the work (without overwhelm) and focus.
Most people are far too patient with themselves and far too impatient with the process of success.
They’ll whine and complain about how they don’t have the money, time, or motivation… Yet they’ll allow themselves to waste time on social media, in front of the television, or other forms of procrastination. All the while also wasting money on numerous coffees, energy drinks, supplements and bars that don’t do what they say they will.
Success takes time. Yes.
But it will take a lot more time if you remain stuck in the same patterns and routines that have brought you to this point.
So get impatient with yourself.
Demand excellence and success.
Refuse to allow setbacks or others failures to succeed to hold you back.
The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.
Andi Clark is a mom, wife of a Police Officer and the founder of 911 Lifestyle. Also known as The Elite Trainer for Police and First Responders, Andi is an expert in peak performance and how stress physically affects your body.
The one that’s listed in the blog doc is:
Andi Clark is a mom, wife of a Police Officer and the founder of 911 Lifestyle.
Andi has a background in athletics including a 25+yr career as a personal trainer, nutrition and mindset coach to athletes and stressed out high end executives.
Being healthy and active was what she lived for. Until her body started waking absolutely exhausted, workouts become something to push through instead of enjoy. A short fuse crept in, motivation left and injuries seemed to be a part of life. All of this added up to the point that she had to stop all activity altogether.
Doctors, specialists and prescriptions were never able to fix the problem.
Once Andi realized she had a genetic stress condition that puts her body into an increased stress response state all the time (similar to what Police Officers and First Responders experience when they put on their uniform and have to mentally prepare for whatever may happen in their day) was she able to figure out what was happening and how to reverse it.
Through years of research and studying, Andi formulated a completely different way to thrive when your body is always functioning at higher than usual stress levels. One where it is possible to reverse and prevent an officer from getting to a point where they struggle to get through their days by taking a preventative approach instead of a reactive one. And one that reduces the negative effects of shift work on the body.
Through her husbands career as an officer her focus has been on preventing burnout, exhaustion and a tanked immune system that she knew can result from high levels of stress that are out of your control.
As she watched his co-workers struggle with everything from sleep, exhaustion and anger leading to divorce, PTSD and even suicide it became apparent how LIFE-SAVING the foundations she was laying down for her husband actually were, because not only was he tolerating the shiftwork lifestyle, he was thriving in it.
Andi created 911 Lifestyle once she realized the strategies her husband was using MUST become available to all Police Officers and First Responders so they can peak during crisis, recover quickly after, have energy left over for their families and become the Elite First Responders that they were born to be.