1. Self Awareness: Write why you became a police officer, the purpose in your work, and how the job has adversely affected you, your outlook on life, your primary relationships: What value should you get from work?
Challenge: Re-dedicate yourself to the purpose of protecting and giving life to others. Write what your family, spouse, friends, work colleagues, and the community need from you and focus on that rather than what you want from them.
2. Goals: Having short term, intermediate, and long term goals are essential to remain motivated and grounded;
Challenge: Write at least one realistic short term goal, an intermediate goal, and a long term goal: write what you can do each day toward achieving each goal—even something as simple as reminding yourself about them each morning.
3. Communication: Practicing effective communication and sharing your experiences, thoughts, and emotions, are essential to sustain a healthy spirit.
Challenge: Actively work this day at connecting with others, sharing with them, asking them questions about themselves and learn to listen. Develop a strong foundation and support by engaging and talking with others.
4. Relationships: The most important things in life cannot be seen or touched, but are felt with the heart. Write down who your most important relationships are with and what makes them so important.
Challenge: Tell or write someone today how much you appreciate them and what they mean to you. Write down what you can do to consistently work at improving these relationships based upon what specifically you can do, completely independent of how the other person may respond.
5. Live Love: The greatest motivator, inspiration, purpose, and contentment in life come from living expressions of love. The biggest regret of most people is that they wish they had spent more time with their kids and wish they were a better husband or wife, son or daughter, father or mother.
Challenge: Show your most important people that they are the most important thing in your life by what you do each day. Do something special with them this day.
6. Forgiveness: Not forgiving yourself or someone else causes more discontent and anxiety than nearly anything else.
Challenge: The original meaning of the word “forgiveness” means “to let go”. Ask someone you have wronged in the past to forgive you. Also, forgive someone for something that you perceive they have done against you.
7. Learn to Let Go: There is often a natural tendency to identify with negative emotions and to harbor negative feelings. Negative thoughts and negative emotions only serve to poison our spirit and they prevent us from enjoying the highest quality of life.
Challenge: Make a conscious effort to become aware of every negative thought or negative emotion this day. Then, consciously let go of that negativity and replace it with a positive thought, a positive affirmation, or a remembrance of a positive feeling.
8. Compassion: The most contented and meaningful life is built upon selfless motivation, self-giving behavior, and compassion toward others. The quality of our life and the well-being of our spirit increases the more life is made to not be all about us. The more our life is about others and their well-being, the more we find peace and contentment.
Challenge: Do something today nice for someone else that is unexpected. Make a habit of looking for unexpected things to do for others.
9. Self-improvement: A vibrant, healthy spirit is dependent upon progress and the development of a finer character. One can only improve their character through consistent effort. Write down words that describe what kind of person you are, what kind of person you are becoming, and what kind of person you would like to be. Write the ideal characteristics you would like to attain.
Challenge: identify a negative or bad habit you wish you did not have. Replace that habit with a positive, good one. Each day work at developing those ideal characteristics you hope to attain.
10. Exercise: Few things will enhance the wellness of your spirit more than consistent exercise.
Challenge: If you already are not consistently exercising (4-5 days a week), develop a reasonable exercise plan that you can maintain; start it today. If you are already exercising, evaluate how effective and consistent it has been and resolve to increase your effort.
11. Gratitude: It is nearly impossible for your spirit to be depressed while at the same time feeling thankful. The consistent practice of being thankful for all of the good in our lives will help to sustain the spirit and keep one from sinking into depression.
Challenge: Write a list of everything you are grateful for, no matter how small; list everything good in your life now or in the past. After one week, create a new thankful list and see how many more things you have realized that you actually have to be grateful.
12. Silence: In silence we can come to know ourselves and our needs. Without the constant distractions of life, creative ideas tend to become unleashed. Silence is a way to get in touch with ourselves and to become centered on what should be valued in life.
Challenge: Use this day as a day of silence. Try not to speak unless you absolutely have to. Don’t listen to the radio, an IPod, television, computer game, or anything else with sound. Use this day of silence to think more clearly and to feel-to connect with your inner self.
13. Speech: One’s speech is often used to broadcast and re-enforce negative thinking and negative emotions. Our speech also promotes our own ego and self-interest, as well as being used against others. This can have a very damaging effect upon our spirit.
Challenge: Use this day to speak only that which is positive and helpful. Do not speak negatively about anyone, about your agency, or about yourself.
14. Choice: The quality of our professional and personal lives are built and sustained upon the hundreds of choices we make every day. The constructive use of choice and free will can immediately begin to enhance the wellness of our spirit and the quality of our life.
Challenge: Make a list of 3 choices you regret. Make a list of the reasons why you made those choices; what was the motivation behind them? Write what you will do to make more consistent constructive choices. Examine the motivation behind what you think, say, and do.
15. Righting Past Wrongs: Our spirit can be heavily weighted down by things we have said and done in the past which we regret.
Challenge: Make a list of every person you have wronged in one way or another. Each day do something to make right that wrong of a particular person. Then do the same thing the next day for the next person on your list until the list is exhausted.
The healing and wellness of our spirit just does not happen on its own. We have to make the conscious decision to do something that is proactive, constructive, and positive toward our own healing and well-being. Consistent wellness practices will re-enforce good habits and will nurture the spirit within while enhancing coping ability.
Resources Web site(s)
Captain Dan Willis has served with the La Mesa Police Department for 24 years, including as a SWAT Commander and crimes of violence/ cold murder case detective for 9 years. Captain Willis developed and coordinated the La Mesa Police Department’s Wellness Program. He teaches emotional survival to law enforcement throughout Southern California.
Captain Willis has been an instructor at the police academy for the past 9 years. He is the author of the book “Healing Our Heroes: The First Responders 10 Essential Survival Keys for Mind, Body, and Spirit” published by New World Library, due out in print in the fall of 2014.