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WIN is a simple but powerful acronym that represents what I believe is life’s most powerful question—What’s Important Now?
I first came across this question in the book Winning Every Day by Lou Holtz. It was a philosophy Holtz sought to instill in his athletes to help them prioritize the choices they were faced with daily. As law enforcement professionals we must take a lesson from Coach Holtz and apply this powerful philosophy in our lives. Everyday, in our personal and professional lives, we’re faced with decisions, some more critical than others. The choices we make 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 question throughout every day: what’s important now?
This one powerful question allows us to prioritize decisions, choices, actions and events in our personal and professional lives. It keeps us safe, and makes us better leaders, trainers, spouses and parents. The question “what’s important now?” requires you to consider the present with an eye to the future.
The Importance of Now
“We can learn from past failures and mistakes,” said legendary manager Joe Torre, “but we shouldn’t get stuck there. We can keep future goals in mind, but we shouldn’t get stuck there, either. The only way to reach our potential is to focus on what we must do now—this moment, this day— to perform effectively and win.”
These choices you face every day can vary greatly in difficulty and long-term implications. Some are relatively easy: Large or extra large coffee? Regular or premium gas? White wine or red?
Others get to the core of what’s important to you in your life. Do you spend time every day engaged in personal development activity, such as working out or reading? Do you continually hangout with the people from work at the end of a shift or do you go home and spend time with your family? Do you do what’s right or what’s popular? Do you take responsibility for your actions and decisions or do you look for someone and something to blame?
Still others are unique to the profession of law enforcement: Do you rush in to make the arrest, or wait until you have sufficient backup? Do you terminate the pursuit when the risk is too great or stay in it regardless? Do you engage in a foot chase or a foot-surveillance? Do you talk or do you fight? Do you close the gap and use empty hand control, or maintain distance and use an intermediate weapon? Do you shoot or not?
This question is particularly pertinent to vehicle operations. Do you drive within your limits while responding to emergency calls, or do you push the envelope? As you exit your vehicle at a traffic stop are you so focused on the target vehicle that you step into oncoming traffic or ensure it is clear first? Directing traffic at night, do you pay attention to the activity of medics at the scene and fail to realize that their emergency lights are interfering with the vision of oncoming traffic thereby placing you at risk of being struck by a vehicle? Or do you conduct a continuous risk assessment of the scene to ensure the safety of all emergency services personnel?
The philosophy of WIN can serve as a powerful guiding principle in every aspect of law enforcement, including leadership, training, officer safety, investigations, interviews, incident command, fitness, continuous learning, allocation of resources, time management, professionalism and career development. It will have a pronounced impact on how you treat members of the public, peers, superiors and subordinates. Having the WIN mindset will save officers’ lives.
As you go throughout your day, your career and your life, remember WIN, and let life’s most powerful question guide your decisions. You will be happier and safer. It’s definitely worth it, so WIN!