If you ask the average person what the most important factors of making it through a survival situation are, you will probably get a wide range of answers. On most survival websites, including this one, you will read a wide variety of articles detailing the importance of things like Water, Shelter, Food, Gear and Weapons.
None of it matters!
Yes, those things are important, but there is one key factor in almost every survival situation that that almost always determines the outcome. Not having this one key component has killed more people in a survival situation than any other issue we can talk about. In my opinion, it’s probably the single most important aspect of survival.
The Will to Survive
Throughout history, man has endured the unthinkable. From great explorers being shipwrecked for years in the Antarctic to those who survived the unthinkable conditions in Nazi Germany, the will to survive can often help people live through conditions that most would consider impossible.
Take the story of Ernest Shackleton and the Crew of the Endurance
In 1914, Arctic explorer Ernest Shackleton embarked on a journey to become the first man to cross the Antarctic continent on foot. He placed an ad in his local paper that read:
Men wanted for Hazardous Journey…
Small Wages, Bitter Cold, Long months in Complete Darkness, Constant Danger, Safe Return Doubtful, Honor and Recognition in Case of Success…
His journey to cross the Arctic would never happen. Instead he would embark on one of the most remarkable stories of survival ever told. Shortly after leaving, Shackleton and his crew of 28 men became shipwrecked in one of the harshest environments in the world, the Antarctic Ice.
Frozen and stuck in the Arctic ice for ten months, his ship The Endurance drifted for over 800 miles to the north. The Endurance was eventually crushed by the pressure of the ice, forcing the crew to abandon ship. They hauled tens of thousands of pounds of gear, food, scientific equipment, and heavy lifeboats by hand across the Arctic Ice.
After surviving in makeshift shelters for another five months, Shackleton and crew set out on an amazing 100 mile open boat journey to Elephant Island. It was the first time they had been on land in over 16 months, but the story was far from over.
Elephant Island was anything but paradise, in fact it was almost inhabitable. With little food or fresh water, Shackleton realized that there was little hope of surviving for very long. Shackleton and five of his men immediately set sail in a small life boat on a perilous 800-mile journey to South Georgia.
For 17 days they navigated their way through storms, rough seas, and freezing temperatures, in what many consider to be one of the most remarkable boating adventures of all time.
They somehow reached South Georgia, but again the adventure was far from over. Suffering from extreme frostbite and fatigue, after completing one of history’s most incredible boat journeys, Shackleton would have to hike and climb another 20 miles across deadly crevasses and treacherous mountain tops.
With no real mountain climbing equipment, they trekked for over 36 hours before finally making it to make it to a remote whaling station. Within three days of their arrival, they immediately set out again in a borrowed ship to rescue the crew that was still back on Elephant Island.
“Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all.”
It took another four attempts, but through pure will and probably a bit of stubbornness, Shackleton eventually rescued the rest of his men. They all survived on Elephant Island for over 4 1/2 months in shelters made out of the remaining lifeboats.
The will to survive is a very powerful thing; being able to motivate yourself during a stressful situation is a critical aspect of survival. I cannot stress enough the importance of maintaining a positive mental attitude during a stressful survival situation.
For more info on Shackleton and his adventure…