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In my column last month, I chronicled the harrowing sequence of events that led to my epiphany and examination of the concept of mental preparedness. People are regularly faced with adversity and unpredictable challenges. One of the key differentiating variables amongst people is how we handle and adapt to these events. Although you cannot plan for every possible event, you always need to be prepared.

To provide better insight into this subject I reached out to my friend, Dr. Mark Goulston. Dr. Goulston is the author of the international best-selling book, Just Listen, Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone. He provided the following paradigm to help explain the psychological process of mental preparedness and why it is so important:

Crisis Leads to “Break-In” (Breaks into your normal mode of thinking, feeling, and doing).

Leads to Break-Down (the way your thinking, feeling and acting all overlap and are thrown into disarray).

Leads to Panic Button (Makes you feel unglued. Oftentimes a coach/someone you trust and have confidence in is required to assist you with getting through the challenge without panicking).

Leads to Breaking Apart (Letting rather than fearing your thinking, feeling and acting come apart in order to reconfigure your actions and reactions according to the present reality you’re facing).

Leads to Breakthrough (A new configuration of your thinking, feeling and doing aligns with your current and new reality).

Which finally leads to Break-Out (Enables you to either effectively navigate your way through your current challenge and/or leave the others and/or competition in life behind who haven’t gone through this paradigm shift and process).

Dr. Goulston’s point is that you have to be mentally prepared to handle and adapt to crisis and change. If you are not prepared, panic can occur, which severely limits your ability to effectively react to situations.

I further discussed the notion of mental preparedness with two of my friends who are retired professional athletes.

The first, Ricky Rudd, was one of the premier drivers in NASCAR. Rudd noted that there was clear correlation between risk, intensity, and alertness. His alertness went substantially up when he got into the race car. Through experience and learned behavior, he followed this process throughout each race and then applied this in his daily life as well: See, Assess, Analyze, Process and React. He noted, “With each event you face, you only have one chance to make a right or wrong decision and you often have to be prepared to make a split-second decision.”

The second, Adrian Murrell, was one of the top running backs in the NFL during the 1990s. Murrell pointed out that whether in life or on the football field, you can never predict and prepare for every situation. However, he noted that it is essential to be mentally prepared and leverage your experience to make decisions with conviction. He explains that oftentimes the play that was called by the quarterback didn’t work. The defense shifted their alignment and he had to make an instantaneous decision about which gap he was going to run, cut he was going to make or person he was going to block.

Life is an amazing gift and it’s up to you to be prepared and capable of making the requisite, hard and educated choices in a timely manner in order to reach your potential and achieve your objectives. It’s essential to never panic and be prepared to make split-second decisions with conviction based on the applicable variables and experience. Are you ready for this challenge? Because in the blink of an eye, your life can change forever.

Jeff Mandel is Chairman and CEO of iQual Corporation and the ApprovalGUARD Service. For more information, please visit