Archive for the ‘Mastering Effort’ Category

Sports to Law Enforcement: Seven Success Lessons from Sports

 Guest Blogger

Dr. Bill Cottringer has worked and taught in the criminal justice field for over 50 years and currently serves as Executive VP for Puget Sound Security companies in Bellevue, WA.  He has published 9 books and over 250 professional articles. He is also a sports psychologist and success expert on

The field of sports has a live-or-die success decree which offers criminal justice personnel a treasure chest of wealth on how to win critical battles and deal with crisis.  Successful sports teams understand many Rugby, police psychologyobstacles must be overcome which impede success. Roadblocks occur when things don’t go as planned, with either Plan A, B or C, quickly go South past the point of no return.   What you don’t know from the “black box” is what often kills you in the end.

Here are seven useful lessons learned from sports failures to apply to your criminal justice work in tough situations.  Doing as many of these things as you can will help you and your team get the best possible outcome in the worst of situations.

 1.  The achievement of success in anything requires a well thought-out and well-practiced plan. This takes focus and effort and even more flexibility and adaptability to make required course corrections when the right time comes. Visualize the steps to the outcome you want.  One coach even has his players practice the celebration of winning a game after the third quarter.   Figure out how to get there before you take the first step toward you goal. (more…)

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Police Psychology | Viral Infection


There are some things Police Psychology just hasn’t figured out, in fact all of psychology is left puzzled when something goes viral. I was recently sent a video about a VIRAL MARKETING, police psychologywoman who has heard her fiancé was gunned down in the street after a Mardi Gras Parade. She was out of control and causing a ruckus. An officer responded, not with handcuffs but with a hug. It was the most human of responses, and since it was a white officer hugging a black woman in turbulent racial times, you would think it is going to go viral. It’s only gotten about 6,000 views, somewhat short of the 1 million viral standard (which is now 3 million in less than a week).

From the Dancing Baby Cha-cha of the 90’s, to ugly cats, the lip-singing of the Numa Numa video, to the thousands of videos of Hitler parodies from “Downfall”, to the Korean Gangnam Style, to the under 12 obsession with Minecraft, what is it that makes something go viral. What makes something that is not too far from the rest of the pack, stand out. And then, how could we figure out how to do it. Imagine you are trying to sell a book and you get 5 million hits in a week and you could repeat it. Bye, bye police psychology, hello marketing guru. (more…)

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Police Psychology | The Mental Game in Law Enforcement

“90 percent of the game is half mental” (attributed to Yogi Berra)

by Doug Gentz, Ph.D. – Psychological Services

After you’ve acquired the knowledge and skills required for any performance, further improvement depends on your ability to manage your nervous system in a way that lets you pay attention to the right thing at the right time in the right way.

Performance is measurable – scores at the range, elapsed time on an LEDT course, position on a promotional exam (or scores on subtests within a promotional exam). SNS activation levels are also measurable – heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, etc. Because attentional effectiveness is not measurable it tends to be the “missing link” between activation levels and quality of performance.

performance 1 Police pscyhology (more…)

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Police Psychology | Can You Be a Virtuoso?


Police Officers have noted it way before others and police psychology has to deal with it when they talk to anyone on-the-job. There is a major difference between “rookies” and the cop that has been on the job for awhile. That difference is the same in the rest of the population regardless of what job they work.

In the book The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born, It’s Grown, by Daniel Coyle, he talks Police Psychology Violin Talent codeabout the 10,000 hour rule. In short, he explains how everyone needs 10,000 hours in order to bring oneself to the next level of skill. This is based off of a study done by Anders Ericsson in 1993, in which he studied the amount of practice time young violinists invested into their music. At 40 hours a week, it takes roughly 5 years in order to gain proficiency, or ten years at 20 hours a week. Others measure acquiring a new “level” in yearly increments: the older you get, the more you grow, mature, and develop, thus assuming more experience and skill.  Interestingly cops are constantly saying a cop is still a rookie for around five years before the talent code was ever printed.

Police Psychology | What School Teaches

From the time you start school, you tend to measure advances in schooling and classroom time. You finish five years of elementary school, three years of junior high, then four years of high school, four years of college (although some take longer)…the progression is nearly endless. The hours are long, homework piles up, reports and tests seem never-ending…and yet we all do it. Some of us even continue onto getting higher education in graduate school or medical school. Every year we get burned out, yet went back for more. My daughter is only in 3rd grade, and she has already announced (approximately 1000 times from June 1st to June 2nd) that she has had just about enough of school. Yet she couldn’t wait to get back there after the summer. Remember that thing called summer vacation you used to look forward to all year? Yeah well, I don’t either, let’s go on.

How do you sustain the effort to go that long in any one thing without getting stressed out or burnt out or just plain giving up? How can we sustain the energy of each activity, class, or job throughout the years? Is there something specific that can help keep people going with an energy that parallels the beginning of a new year or a new job? How do you sustain the effort to continue working in business, in policing, in school, or even as a stay-at-home parent?

football talent codeIn his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the different things that make people stand out in a crowd. Outliers are people who stand apart from the rest of the group in some way. Most leaders are outliers—there is something about them, something different that makes them unique and exceptional. What does it take to become that special person aside from clocking a certain number of hours for each activity? Is it really enough to expend 10,000 hours doing repetitive and sustained activity in order to make you stand out? If we struggle to get through a day at work, how do you expect yourself to spend 10,000 hours improving just to reach a goal that is so far away?

Police Stress | Fortitude: The Key to Expertise

Essentially, an outlier is someone who has fortitude, mental toughness—grit. Perhaps even fortitude that borders on obsession. The reason fortitude may seem so difficult is because it often involves tolerating a certain degree of discomfort. No one can consider himself or herself brave or courageous or tough if they’ve never faced adversity. Fortitude is congregating your mental and emotional strength in order that you are able to overcome or persist doing something difficult or even undesirable. Everyone experiences moments in which it seems a whole lot easier to give up. Especially today where it seems more and more people feel they have the right and the tools to criticize everything you do or plan to do. How you deal with that criticism will determine the direction of your life. The pot shots and behind-the-scene things that are said about you, are only from very sad people who you can guarantee will never excel at anything. Adversity can harden your resolve, and actually helps you sustain effort. It is actually your best friend to develop an expertise. And you need to see it that way. Adversity is the gift that keeps you from burning out. It is the gift that help you through long hours of practice or the mundaneness of life? Adversity is the gift that gives you the fortitude to sustain effort! Whether you like or believe in Donald Trump and what he is saying or not, people have tuned into his fortitude and resolve and that is why he is leading in the polls at this time. Any effort stimulates adversity. As those of us in police psychology will tell you, the current adversity in law enforcement will help you do a better job. Learn from the resolve you see in others and make yourself become the expert you want to be.

Police psychology: simple steps3 Steps for Sustaining Effort

There are a number of strategies you can implement in order to increase your fortitude and thus extend your mental effort. Here are some steps you can use in order to sustain effort enough to be an expert—something most people just don’t do.

  1. Think positive. The first thing you need to do is erase all negative thoughts. When you make exaggerated generalizations about yourself, you are limiting your potential. Saying things like, “I can’t do anything right,” or “I’m worthless,” or “I mess everything up,” can have an extremely detrimental effect on your mental toughness. Practice positive self-talk, or productive self-talk. Replace all your negativistic declarations or judgments about yourself with uplifting, or at least encouraging ones. If you hear yourself moving in this negative direction, stop yourself immediately. You can use the formula I discussed in another blog post: negativity—stop—think. One of the biggest obstacles to sustained effort is the mental blocks inside your own head. Often, the only thing standing in your way is you. If you can remove your own impediment, if you can change the way you think about yourself and your abilities, you will build up a wall inside you that can help you defend yourself from external adversity.
  2. The Marshmallow Test (also known as delayed gratification). A few years ago, some studies were done with children who were given a marshmallow and told they had two choices: they could eat the marshmallow now, or if they waited 15 minutes, they would get an extra marshmallow to eat. They were then left alone in a room for 15 minutes and their activities during that time were recorded. Some children were able to wait and some weren’t. Ultimately, the experimenters concluded delayed gratification was a personal choice: you can choose to forgo your instant gratification for a later date, and in return you will get a bigger reward. People who have the fortitude to become an expert understand this phenomena. Sustaining your effort is not without mental and emotional expense, but this expense is in the short-term. Ultimately, the payoff for delayed gratification is much greater than any superficial benefit you will gain from giving up. If you accept and understand this, you are in a good position to sustain any discomfort you may feel while trying to reach your goal.
  3. Understand your values. Explore your values and hold true to them. Not everyone can become an NFL expert quarterback. Not everyone can get become a doctor. Not everyone can be a world-famous musician. Not everyone can be the #1 mom or dad (because I already have that award). When your values are not in line with your actions, you experience cognitive dissonance. If you take some time to think about what you truly value, you will gain a greater understanding of what activities are worth sustaining effort and overcoming adversity. This is a very personal journey; it will be different for everyone, and only you can know what journey you need to take. When you find the thing you will do, don’t let anyone talk you out of it and spend the time on it. You will become an expert in a few years.

Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D.

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Police Psychology | What You Can Learn from a 2-Year Old


Police Stress, women saying no

In police psychology, I have noticed that it is very difficult for people to say “no.”

In police psychology, I find a lot of officers who just can’t do it. There are very few things that toddlers know how to do better than adults. For instance, although sometimes when I’m driving I encounter cars that may as well have had the two-year-old behind the wheel, adults are fairly more competent than their young children when it comes to driving. I’d also rather have an adult monitor my bank account and finances than a child, and rather an adult ran the country than my nine-year-old daughter. You get the point. However, there is one thing that most children do better than their parents: saying “NO.” All you have to do is walk around the park and you’ll encounter countless voices erupting in that favorite word all parents long to hear: “NO.” When you tell your child its bath time, or they need to eat all their vegetables, or they need to get off the IPAD during mealtimes. How about when they can’t wear that outfit in public, or they need to be back by curfew, most children respond the same: “NO.” Damn I wish I could learn that more myself.

It’s funny how we seem to be expert “NO” sayers when we are young, but then we hit a point in our lives when saying that infamous word becomes ten times more difficult. In police psychology, I have many officers who are stressed out, overworked, working double shifts and still can’t manage to refuse to help. It’s funny how such a small word is so hard to master. It’s funny how saying “NO” can be associated with such a negative stigma of being uncooperative and intentionally difficult. It’s funny how Rodgers and Hammerstein so perfectly summed up our sentiments in Oklahoma: “I’m just a girl who can’t say NO.” And although many guys would like to meet such a girl, it’s really not funny. It’s not funny at all. When did we lose the ability to respectfully decline things we simply don’t have the time for? When did we start putting the need to please other people before our own sanity? Why must we overextend ourselves to the point where we are committed to way too many tasks at once—stretched thin, balancing a precarious juggling act? Why is that people in the helping professions and the policing professions, lose track of the word worst than anyone.

Police Stress | The Hardest Word to Say

kid tantrum, police psychology

I have noticed in police psychology that avoiding the word “no” can contribute to a lot of police stress.

Want to hear a police psychology situation? I had a police officer in therapy with me who was hit in his car by a drunk driver. He was having severe cognitive problem and PTSD, and will probably be disabled the rest of his life. His wife’s cousin calls and is with another police officer just having been lifted for minor-level drunk driving. He hasn’t talked to the wife’s cousin in years, in fact never liked him. He was being asked to vouch for him. He asked the cop to cut his wife’s cousin a break, despite it being the same situation that is causing him so much trouble. His wife wasn’t happy; he wasn’t happy. They found a new way to add to police stress. I was now dealing with a guy that had enough going on, but we added one more thing. And because of the PTSD, the officer can’t get it out of his head how he cut a guy he can’t stand a break, so he obsesses. More problems for me. (Notice, it always comes back to me. Hey, I should write about that.)

The truth is, many of us just feel guilty saying this two-letter word, especially to our friends, family, or people we care about or even should care about. So, instead, we agree and agree and agree until we are left feeling angry and resentful towards the people who put us in the situation. This becomes a problem because the people who ask you for favors oftentimes have no idea they are putting you in a difficult position.  They don’t think it is a big thing. (This is not to say that there aren’t people out there who will try to deliberately take advantage of you.) We need to relearn a lesson that we never should have forgotten. We need to teach ourselves to be okay with saying “NO” to people. We need to learn how to prioritize ourselves again—we need to learn how to be a little selfish. And police psychology has a bigger problem than most because we are the caretakers in the world.

Police Psychology| Why We Can’t Say “NO”

But that still begs the question: why? Why do we have such a hard time saying NO? I think one of the reasons is because people tend to be sociable and generous. It is an adaptive trait: the more communicable you are, the more people will want to interact with you. It is safe. It is easy. It also feels good when you do something for someone else. It can make them appreciative or complimentary of your talents and skills, and it can put them in your debt (in a sense). Saying “NO” seems too hostile and aggressive to many people—“How can I say no to Jim? He’s only asking me to give up one weekend for him.” We tend to overestimate the effect of this word. We tend to associate “NO” with antagonism and unfriendliness, and these aren’t favorable traits in society. Because of this, it almost becomes easier (at least mentally) to say “yes” because that is the safer response. However, that is a totally psychological misconception. If you say “no” to someone, chances are they will understand (and if they don’t, they’re definitely not worth your time). And they may tend to think through something before they ask again. We need to stop overestimating the power of this word and start accepting it for what it is–an admittance that we need to take care of ourselves.

There are many types of manipulations used to try to get you to agree to do things you don’t want to do. Sometimes they just come natural to people, sometimes they are intended for manipulation. Let me give you a couple that are easy to remember. One is called “foot in the door” technique. This is when they start out by getting you to agree to something small, and once you agree to that, they ask you for a larger request. For instance, if someone asks you to sign a petition and you agree to that, they may follow that up by asking you to donate some money. This works because you are already thinking in your mind, “Wow, I’m such a great person,” or “Well, I must believe in this cause…” and so you are more inclined to comply with the larger request after this. Another technique is called “door in the face.” This is when someone asks you to do something big and you say no, so then they ask for a much smaller, reasonable request. In this case, many people are more inclined to say yes to the smaller request (which is often what they wanted you to agree to in the first place) because of something called the reciprocity norm: you did something nice for me (by reducing the request), so I’ll do something nice for you (by fulfilling the request). Be wary of these tricks. Learn a thing or two from your children.


3 Steps to Saying “NO”

  1. There are polite ways of saying no (meaning, there are ways of saying “no” without using this actual word): “Not today, sorry,” or “I can’t do that today” or “That doesn’t work for me now, I’m sorry.” It all depends on how you word your decline. Careful of these. Don’t offer an excuse as it creates an opportunity for them to re-word their request and ask you something else. When you turn someone down, say you can’t do it, and skip out on all the sugarcoating explanations.
  2. If it is just a time thing, offer an alternative time. Sometimes that will be enough to make them look elsewhere. “I can’t help you build a website until next month if that works for you.” Or I won’t have the time to help redo your bathroom until after the holidays. Keep a person limited and focus on your time as the important factor. You can’t make more time, so don’t let it disappear.
  3. If all else fails, point out the manipulation. Remember this old school psychological advice, the best way to weaken a defense is to point it out.   “Wow you’re trying real hard to get me to agree to fix your bathroom. It seems a little manipulative.” “Oh I see, if I agree to a small thing and you want more.” Now these may piss someone off a little, but chances are you are not going through life without pissing someone off. People get over stuff, in fact sometimes they even gain respect for you because of it.


Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D.

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