When I think back to my law enforcement career, there is one constant that jumps out: learning.
From sitting in the police academy learning about a myriad of topics, to sitting in a patrol car learning the ropes in my FTO program, my tenure as a criminal justice professional was an education in more ways than one. And that lasted even up to my retirement in early 2019.
In fact, some of the most valuable lessons I learned in my long career were about self-reflection, humility and mindset. Yes, I said mindset.
A lot of first responders might equate mindset to some sort of “touchy-feely” form of self-reflection. While I wouldn’t call it “touchy-feely” per se, I would absolutely assert that having the right mindset in law enforcement can be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful career.
Of course, the “right” mindset can mean many things to many people, but here are a few of my favorites:
Being grateful– Even if you think your life sucks and you hate your job, you still have much to be thankful for. Still not convinced? Try this: You are reading this, and you are breathing, right? Start with being grateful for that.
Accept responsibility– Many of us in law enforcement have had bad things happen to us. Know that you are not alone. Join the club. But, blaming other people – i.e. your boss, spouse, friends, parents, etc – for your misfortune doesn’t solve anything. Believe it or not, once you start taking responsibility for your own life, things will start getting better.
Believe in yourself– If you don’t believe in yourself and your abilities to do great things, no one else will. Period. Stop waiting for the approval of others before you make your move. Time waits for no one.
About three years ago, I started a criminal justice podcast called CJEvolution. I incorporated the word “evolution” into the title because, as criminal justice professionals, we should always be evolving and improving ourselves. I like to compare it to the safety presentation that happens before every flight – they always remind you to put your own mask on first before helping others. Why? Because if you don’t there is a good chance you will pass out or become incapacitated before you can do anything for anyone else.
Read: Surviving Off Duty
It’s only when we take care of ourselves that we’re best able to serve others.
Back to mindset. Whether you like it or not, our thoughts become our actions. What you put out into the universe is what you are going to get back.
I know, I get it. If you would have told me this a handful of years ago I would have laughed in your face for several minutes. But I am not laughing anymore. It’s true. If you go to work everyday with a bad attitude and wishing you weren’t there, you might just get what you are wishing for.
Instead of complaining, shift to a positive mindset. After all, in law enforcement we all have much to be grateful for.
Want to learn more? Mike Gillette, author of the best-selling book “Mind Boss,” was recently on my podcast and he shared his inspiring tenets of tough thinking to take charge of your life and live the best one you can. Check it out here.
Patrick Fitzgibbons is a retired law enforcement officer with approximately 23 years of experience. He holds an MBA and an MA in organizational leadership and is also the host of CJEvolution, a criminal justice podcast on the web.