W.I.N. is a simple but powerful acronym used by the famous college football coach Lou Holtz. It stands for ‘What’s Important Now’? Holtz would remind his players at Notre Dame to ask themselves this question thirty five times a day; when they awakened in the morning, in class and study hall, in the weight room, on the practice field, on the sidelines during a game and when on the field during games.
As law enforcement professionals we need to take a lesson from Coach Holtz and ask ourselves this same question. Every day, in our personal and professional lives, we are faced with a number of choices and decisions – some more critical than others. Our responses to those choices (the decisions we make) can have a lasting impact on our health, relationships, careers and finances. In order for us to achieve excellence in our lives we must ask ourselves this simple, but powerful question throughout every day –What’s Important Now? Doing so forces us to focus on what is important and in the field allows us to prioritize tasks, threats and actions necessary to safely and effectively win each confrontation.
The simple act of asking this question causes us to briefly pause while our mind imagines the impact of the choices we have and rapidly brings to mind the most desirable one. When I say most desirable I do not mean the choice that will give us the most immediate gratification. Instead, I mean the choice that will have the most positive impact for us in our lives based on the foreseeable future. This one powerful question allows us to prioritize decisions, choices, actions, and events in our personal and professional lives. The reason What’s Important Now is such a powerful question is that although it is about the present it has a powerful impact on the future.
Eleanor Roosevelt had this to say about the importance of choices:
“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”
These choices you face every day can vary greatly in difficulty and long-term implications.
Some should be relatively easy:
– Small, medium, large or extra large coffee?
– Regular or premium gas?
Some get at the true core of What’s Important to You in Life:
– Do you spend an hour on the couch watching mindless television or do you spend the hour in a personal development activity such as working out or reading? (One hour of reading a day equates to 364 hours, or 9 forty hour weeks of learning per year.)
– Do you listen to the radio in your vehicle while commuting or use the time to listen to educational and motivational CD’s? (Another opportunity for 364 hours of learning a year for the average person.)
– Do you, once again, go for a drink with the people from work at the end of the day or do you go home and spend time with your family?
– Do you take the opportunity to praise the good work and effort of co-workers or do you take credit for their work?
– Do you celebrate the successes in your life or do you focus on the failures?
– Do you do what is right or what is popular?
– Do you do what is right or what is expedient?
– Do you celebrate the strengths of your children and your significant other or do you focus on their mistakes and weaknesses?
– Do you focus on the strengths and talents of your co-workers and your subordinates or do you focus on their weaknesses and failures?
– Do you bring up a colleague’s mistake which was made in front of everyone at a meeting to embarrass he/she or do you address it in private to draw out the learning points from the experience?
– Do you take responsibility for your actions and decisions or do you look for someone and something to blame?
Others are more challenging and unique to the profession of law enforcement:
– Do you rush in to make the arrest, or wait until you have sufficient backup?
– Do you pursue or use other means to apprehend the suspect?
– Do you terminate the pursuit or stay in it?
– Do you talk or do you fight?
– Do you know when it is time to walk away and when it is time to stand and fight?
– Do you close the gap and use empty hand control, or maintain distance and use an intermediate weapon?
– Do you shoot or not?
As a law-enforcement professional, What’s Important Now may change from minute to minute or second to second.
The principle What’s Important Now applies to every aspect of law enforcement including (but not limited to) officer safety, investigations, interviews, incident command, fitness, continuous learning, allocation of resources, time management, professionalism, how you treat members of the public, peers, superiors and subordinates, career development choices, and leadership. It also has powerful implications on our personal lives in the areas of: relationships, commitments, priorities, time management, and financial decisions – to name just a few.
As you go throughout your day, your career and your life let life’s most powerful question – What’s Important Now, guide your decisions and actions.