BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) -- Picture this; you leave from work the same way and around the same time as any other day. As you approach an intersection the light turns yellow, you slow down but the car in front of you speeds up to make it just as another car comes speeding through, smashing the car in front of you. In a matter of seconds, a peaceful drive home turns into a moment of chaos and in your mind you have a choice; react and respond to possibly save lives, or stay and watch. An unknown test and challenge presents itself, "Can I save a life? Can I perform in an uncertain situation?" What do you do?
Although the scenario is chaotic and not a daily occurrence, the uncertainty of life can rear its ugly head at any time during your day in the military. For Maj. Brian Chontosh, retired Marine, Navy Cross recipient and author, the term 'readiness mindset' is how he makes sense of living his life, ready for anything.
In Chontosh's article "Performance on Demand," he encourages everyone to build their mindset of readiness by approaching everyday life "as a process of accruing experiences in the event we are tested without warning."
"Knowing yourself and knowing each other in various times of uncertainty, confusion, demand, exertion... is critical," said Chontosh. "How else can you create a familiarity and comfort with something you didn't initially know? Thinking you know who you are in a scenario versus actually knowing is often confused by too many."
Performance on demand is a term that Chontosh has adopted throughout his life. Having the capacity to demand excellence of himself through any situation and in any environment prepares him for the worst even in the best of situations.
"The test or evaluation is some artificiality that gets measured," said Chontosh. "Last time I checked, Mother Nature doesn't really care so much about your measurements. Neither does 'Murphy'. Summits are optional, coming down is mandatory."
Having confidence in your own training and capabilities, and treating everyday situations as a chance to excel with pride in a job well done, allows for a mindset to perform on demand for anything in the military, and in life.
"Critical challenges rarely come with adequate forewarning. Performance on demand is the act of producing results PERIOD. Right here, right now," said Chontosh.
"I also don't try to do monumental things. It's like someone who needs to lose 50 pounds, sounds like a lot and it's a big ordeal. Fifty pounds sounds like [half a pound] repeated a few times," said Chontosh. "Reduce things down to simple tasks that can get small wins, and then repeat. The problem is that everyone wants to win the 400-million-dollar Powerball right now."
Staying physically fit, forging mental toughness through learning of any kind and constantly taking on new challenges is something anyone can do. For the single-parent service member who challenges balancing duty with appointments, to the senior officer working 10-plus hours a day to finish their career milestone qualifications, taking time to invest in yourself to be able to perform at 'your' highest level is something everyone should strive for.
"I tell myself all the time - all you need to do in this moment is 'suck less' than you might otherwise. It's a healthier twist than 'do a little better'. I just try to suck a little less than I did yesterday," said Chontosh.
"I need a lot of work! I realize that, and I also give myself the proper credit at saying, 'hey, you are also a good man and have come a long way'," added Chontosh. "I think acceptance and being okay with yourself is part of the first few steps. Awareness obviously has to lie in there, but I'm not convinced it is in any specific order."
Taking life's lessons, the positives and negatives, successes and failures, and sharing them with others only spreads a mindset to everyone you work with, serve with and care for. Passing the knowledge just builds a stronger tribe of people everyone can share their life with. Sticking to the same script doesn't always ensure growth for those you may lead.
"You don't need to make things mundane, tedious or more than what they are," said Chontosh. "Just teach personal accountability, personal pride and the value of service, and do the right thing at the moment. Period. It doesn't matter yesterday or tomorrow, what you would have or should have or could have, or if you're this or that. Do your duty now; with excellence."
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