Former Secret Service agent and star of Bravo’s Spy Games Evy Poumpouras shares lessons learned from protecting presidents, as well insights and skills from the oldest and most elite security force in the world to help you prepare for stressful situations, instantly read people, influence how you are perceived, and live a more fearless life.
Mental Armor: Exposing and Overcoming Fear
Regardless of what you fear, stress about, or hope to improve upon, you can always find a way to conquer it, so long as you gradually work your way toward that goal. You can do so by implementing the following steps.
STEP 1: EXPOSE
Identify stressors that you can introduce into your life to help you strengthen your mental armor. You should start small, but these should be uncomfortable.
STEP 2: EXPERIENCE
Observe and take note of your F3 (Fight, Flight or Freeze) response. Study yourself under the condition of heightened stress to learn all that you can about your natural reaction to the stimulus. Did you freeze up? Did you feel the sudden urge to quit or run away? Did you experience rejection or failure?
STEP 3: ADJUST
After analyzing your responses, identify areas where you want to make adjustments. What can you do differently to help you achieve the desired result? Perhaps you want to spend more time on your preparation and planning. Or hold out thirty seconds longer before quitting or walking away. Every little adjustment you make will add up to big improvements over time.
STEP 4: OVERCOME
After you identify what worked and what didn’t, choose one area to really focus on and correct. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to fix everything in one fell swoop. For example, if there are multiple areas you want to work on in public speaking (fidgeting less, slowing down your speech, maintaining better eye contact), work on one until you’ve mastered it before moving on to the next.
STEP 5: REPEAT
Repeat steps 1–4. Having strong mental armor requires repetition, so you must keep at it. It’s not enough to just attain it; you must also maintain it.
Kill Fear While It’s Small
Everything in our lives has a first; our first day of school, our first car, our first love. These firsts are like seeds planted in our minds, ideas, and efforts that we begin to nurture in the hope that they’ll grow toward a positive outcome. But there are also seeds in our mental garden that can grow into uncontrollable weeds, sucking the life and energy away from the things we love most.
Fear is one of those seeds. Oftentimes, we find ourselves afraid of something that feels overwhelming because we’ve allowed it to grow unchecked. We knew it was there, but we chose to ignore it rather than face it. It’s those small fears that I want to discuss here, the ones that if we catch early enough, we can take action to keep them at bay.
Have the Courage to Walk Away
There is this epic misperception that when you walk away from a fight, it’s a sign of weakness or cowardice. Many of us are taught to believe that standing up for ourselves means doing so only with either strong words or clenched fists.
Walking away isn’t about weakness—it is about implanting strength and strategy to deal with conflict. The true essence of inner strength is seen in how you respond to conflict. It’s about checking your superficial ego and being smarter than your adversary.
Mental Resilience: Problem vs. Solution Mindset
Often, when things don’t go as planned, we become more fixated on what went wrong than we are about solving the issue at hand. We get stuck in the problem mindset, looking for anything and anyone to blame.
When forced to deal with unexpected issues, it’s wiser to use your finite mental energy to have a solution mindset, wherein you focus on the solution rather than obsessing over the problem. But how do we do that? By following these steps:
STEP 1: SET AN EXPIRATION DATE
Sometimes before you can move toward the solution, you need time to process the situation and your emotions around it. The length of time can vary depending on the depth of your hardship. Give yourself enough time to gripe or grieve over what has happened to you—because if you move on too quickly, you may end up suppressing the issue rather than accepting it.
STEP 2: ACCEPTANCE
Once you’ve moved through your emotional hurdles, accept where you are now. Don’t try to start from where you had been or where you wish to be. Live in your new reality along with the mindset that this is your problem to solve. The mark of a resilient mind is one that can look frankly at the circumstances surrounding you.
STEP 3: SHIFT TO THE SOLUTION MINDSET
Solutions require innovation. Creativity. Stepping outside your mental and emotional confines and looking at the situation from a bird’s-eye view. Shift your mindset away from the problem and toward the solution.
Mental Attitude: Powerful vs. Powerless
Think about the differences in these two sentences:
- Look what I became.
- Look what became of me
In the first one, the speaker has taken ownership over their life and became something by doing something. She owns the results, regardless of what those results are. In the second however, the speaker allowed something to be done to him. He is a mere recipient, accepting whatever the world is dishing out at that particular moment.
Two things are bound to happen in every negative encounter: 1) you come to resent the person you listened to, and 2) you come to resent yourself for listening to them. There is nothing worse than looking at someone and thinking “I’m in this shitty situation because I listened to you”.
Instead, your mindset should be somewhere along the lines of “Okay, I did what I thought was best. Right or wrong. But if it doesn’t work out, there is no one else to blame but me.”
Now, this doesn’t mean you can never take advice or heed the recommendations of your circle. It just means that after identifying, discussing, and analyzing all your options, you take full ownership for the final decision made. Regardless of whether in the end you’re a hero or zero, you own the outcome by virtue of a powerful mental attitude.
If You Must Fight, Then Fight
Evy is not an advocate for violence. Using conflict and force are by no means the most effective or strategic ways to get others to comply. But, sometimes no matter how hard we may try, that shit just seems to find us.
It doesn’t hurt to learn how to really fight. But watching instructional videos all day isn’t an answer. Instructors could demonstrate something practical, simple, and easy to remember, and it still probably wouldn’t help viewers much. Because when you’re assaulted, your fine motor skills go out the window, along with your ability to think. So unless you’ve committed that move you saw on TV to memory, and practiced it over and over again, you’re never going to remember it.
A violent strike to the groin. A swift kick to the shin. A hard punch to the throat. Or jamming a finger in the eye. Swift, violent, and fierce—using elbows and knees when possible—as that’s where we have the most power.
Continue Reading: Becoming Bulletproof Part 2 – Instantly Read People