Law Enforcement Mindset Matters

An Interview with Garrett TeSlaa, from The Squad Room Podcast

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I say regularly that our brain is there to keep us safe, and not make us happy. Our brain is wired to filter in dangers and thus it is actually work to keep a positive outlook. That is made even harder when you are dealing with negative events or perceptions as part of your job. Garrett Tesla from The Squad Room podcast recognized how changing his mindset not only impacted him but his family life and others around him.

The inspiration

About 11 years into Garrett’s career, he was on patrol and just feeling every bad side effect from the job. From bad nutrition, weight gain, and poor health to a negative mindset, and depression setting in during nightshift. “I noticed that something was wrong, and I didn’t know where to start.” He started doing his research into sleep hygiene, supplementation, and hypervigilance. As he started to learn more, he began sharing the information in his briefings at work, helping others to navigate through their situations. “Officers from all around the world are dealing with the exact same thing. It was reassuring and terrifying at the same time that this is such a common issue.”

Shifting Mindset in Law Enforcement

Garrett’s Ted Talk, The Importance of Second Responders, talks about one of his mindset shifts.  “One of the greatest gifts as a first responder is to see the hope that second responders bring.” Garrett was inspired to come up with the second responder concept after his experience with the aftermath of the Montecito Debris Flow which killed 22 people and destroyed an entire neighborhood. He saw normal people stepping up and doing what they could to help. “A hero is a man who does what he can” and that’s what the second responders were, heroes. They filled in the gaps where the first responders weren’t able to. Garrett remembers how inspiring it was to watch people raise their hands and ask or figure out how they could help. Being able to filter and focus on the support from the second responders, was a mindset shift from the negative impacts of the terrible critical incident to the hope the community provided. Seeing things differently can make a huge impact on resilience and counter the impact of parts of the job. Sometimes we see the thin blue line as the line between law enforcement and the public and that’s a misinterpretation of what it represents. It’s the idea that officers are the line between order and chaos, but they are on the same team as regular citizens. This mindset shift for Garrett led him to develop mindset techniques called BADGES.

BADGES for Mindset

BADGES is a framework that Garretts uses to help him evaluate what he is doing, where he is at, where is his mental and physical state, where he is or is not in alignment with, and where is he not showing up as authentic as he could be.

Beliefs: It’s about looking at your beliefs, what do you believe about yourself and others? How do those beliefs translate into actions?

Alignment: Are they in or out of alignment? Are you leading and acting in a way that agrees with how you should be?

Discipline: This is more than just an idea of being regimented. It is about momentum, motivation, and “establishing a perimeter.” It’s about a boundary. It’s finding a behavior and establishing boundaries around that behavior. Discipline is more successful with flexibility.

Goals: Goals are tricky. Garrett talks about finding success with goals using something called “the front-side focus.” This is when you focus on the next right thing. Focus on the next step. What is the next thing you have to accomplish? You want to set that large goal, but if we don’t break it down into actionable steps (process-oriented goals), then we lose our way quickly. Process orientated goals is the idea of doing the next thing you have to do to progress to the next step and the next. When thinking about relationships, it’s not about crossing a finish line. It starts with just showing up and then you keep showing up. It’s not about the grand gesture but how you are showing up in small meaningful ways.

Emotions: There are no such thing as bad emotions. They are just part of your natural response to whatever you are dealing with. Officers are overexposed to emotional events but underutilize their emotional response. Knowing that emotions happen is an indicator that something is going on. Get curious about your emotions and ask what it was about. If we can dig into our responses to our emotions or lack of emotions, we can start to understand them.  We can start to put patterns together and help navigate them a lot better. First responders sometimes “numb the dark to numb the light.” Their emotions are kind of compacted or numbed so their brain can try and process everything going on. Officers can’t shut down the natural responses to the trauma they see and experience because, in time, they may have trouble finding joy and happiness. For instance, if your child’s birthday party is just a pain versus a joyful experience, that should be a red flag. “Our cynicism keeps us alive on duty, but it kills us off duty.”

Service:  Services is tapping into the reason why someone becomes an officer. Maybe it means serving the public. If you are a Sergeant, maybe it means serving the people on your squad. It also means serving your families.

Evaluate and give gratitude to the people who are in service to you as well. When thinking of mindset, resilience, and self-awareness, think of BADGES.

One piece of advice Garrett gives in regard to couples is, “Maintain the possibility that you are wrong.” This creates the self-awareness and mindset to think about your responses or point of view.

Find Garrett TeSlaa for information, motivation, or speaking events at: Instagram: @thesquadroom or Website: thesquadroom.net

Podcasts

Law Enforcement Mindset Matters

An Interview with Garrett TeSlaa, from The Squad Room Podcast

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