A cycle is something that gets repeated over time. They are also known as habits, routines, or standard ways of doing things. They are typically thought of as self-perpetuating, meaning they are capable of continuing or renewing themselves indefinitely. Once something is put into motion it will keep creating the conditions needed to continue.
But sometimes the cycle needs to be broken. This is certainly true when it’s a negative cycle we find ourselves in. If we don’t correct our poor choices we will continue to spiral downward. Yet even positive cycles need to be tweaked from time to time to ensure that we are truly getting the best return on our investment of time.
Break the positive cycle of action:
1. Get some rest
Firefighters are performance-driven go-getters who are in a constant state of motion and activity. We pride ourselves on our work ethic and many talents and are quick to put them into use whenever and wherever. Many firefighters work multiple jobs; some out of financial necessity and others out of a work-a-holic personality. We tell ourselves that by working more we can better provide for our families, or by teaching/instructing we can improve a greater number of firefighters. All these are understandable and even admirable.
But our body wears down. We know that when we begin to lose energy we become more susceptible to injury and illness. When our activities begin to overwhelm us we get mentally fatigued which can lead to errors in judgment or a state of depression, anxiety and so forth.
By breaking the cycle of activity and getting some rest we can improve the quality of our performance and our health. It doesn’t mean you need to quit all your side hustles, it just means to build in specific rest days. Spend time enjoying the fruits of your labors. Relax and get rejuvenated for the next push. We rehab on the fire scene when we’re tired, why don’t we do it more often away from work?
2. Read different books, articles, or publications
The average person reading this blog post is quite likely a student of the fire service who puts in the time and energy to improve themselves. This particular website is chock full of useful information and a great resource for all things fire, EMS, and rescue. There are some wonderful books that you can immerse yourself in to learn everything from attack, to command, to dealing with station issues.
But if all you ever read is fire service related, I believe you’re doing yourself a disservice. Break the cycle of action by reading outside of this job. Pick up a book on technology or the latest generations. Read a book about our founding fathers and their core values and ideals. Yes, even the messy ones! Articles written by military leaders both past and present can give great insight into leading yourself, your family, and your personnel. Social behaviorists are putting out some great content these days on how people think; they have some great application to the fire service. Don’t be narrow-minded in your choice of learning material.
Break the negative cycle of inaction:
1. Avoiding tough decisions
Let’s be honest. It’s easier to ignore a problem and hope it goes away than it is to confront it head-on. Especially when it’s a personnel issue. Maybe it’s an officer who always throws his people under the bus or a senior firefighter infecting others with her poor attitude. Either way, by not holding the conversation or taking the next step in a disciplinary process we just make the problem worse.
At some point, all of us have to make tough decisions in life and at work. Will we hold others accountable to the SOP’s? (Do we hold ourselves accountable to them as well??) Or do we allow things to slide that might end up having a significant impact on an emergency scene someday? Are we willing to get involved with someone who is “going through some stuff right now” and get them the help they need or will we sit back and act surprised when the person takes a significant step to alleviate their personal issues?
Break the cycle of inaction and be willing to make the tough decision to do what’s right, not what’s popular. Face the issues competently and professionally then move on.
2. Lack of Preparation
It’s been a while since you had a fire so you don’t worry that the hose bed isn’t properly loaded. Since you’re not going to many fires the SCBA bottle that is down “a little” is of no big concern. Because it’s been so long since your gear saw a fire, the current dirty state of it is a badge of honor. The cycle of being unprepared is in full swing.
The cycle of inaction continues by not doing self-study, training, or getting fit. We are good at lifting heavy things in the weight room (well, some of you) but not so much on getting the cardio in (it’s not as sexy, right?). Some spend all their time in a book whereas some only use the book to prop up the TV monitor so they can “game on”. Each is problematic.
Break the cycle of inaction by checking equipment first thing at the beginning of a shift and not after coffee hour is over. Don’t settle for dirty gear, unfilled bottles, or anything else that might impact safety. Get a workout for both the mind and the body each shift. This will be harder for a volunteer to accomplish but that can not be an excuse for inaction. Do not tolerate the complacency that comes as a result of inaction.
Do not let an unhealthy cycle of action or inaction continue to spin. Spend time evaluating your daily choices to see if you’re stuck in a rut. Just because an action is positive doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be changed up a bit with other positive things. Remember that you can be too busy doing good things that you fail to do the best things. Determine the negative things you’re engaged in and make a conscious decision to stop and do a reset. Don’t take the easy way out, take the right way out.
What are you going to do today to break the cycle you’re in?