I ran a group of brand-new police recruits through an imagery/thought experiment that led to a conversation that I think is important. If you listened to our podcast episode we did with Brian Willis, we talked about what Imagery is—but in case you missed it, we are referring to the use of your imagination to enhance your performance. Some people don’t buy in to it, but a lot of world-class performers use imagery, including Olympic athletes, professional sports players, and Special Operations personnel. 

In this particular experiment, I asked recruits to close their eyes for a moment and consider the image of a survivor. What comes to mind? Perhaps you’d see someone who has been through a traumatic event, injured and bloodied but unbroken. Some recruits noted that the survivor might not be proud of the outcome. You might have your own version—Sit back and think about it. Now imagine a winner. What does the thought of winning bring to mind? People see a champion, maybe a trophy or great achievement, hard work paying off, an element of pride or team spirit, the person is in a good mood. So, what’s the difference? 

One recruit commented that one difference related to the way the event began—that winning related to a situation that you were prepared for, anticipated, and that you had a game plan. Surviving, on the other hand, was the result of a situation that you were forced into or that you didn’t expect. Hmm. Interesting. 

So in the context of law enforcement, let’s consider an ambush. If we survive an ambush, it would be a scenario that we had not planned or prepared for; We were forced into a situation of which we had limited control over. If we are lucky to survive, it’s because we overcame great odds. Right? One of my worst-case scenarios is someone pulling up alongside me at a red light and shooting at me like a sitting duck in my driver’s seat. What can I do to mitigate that sort of threat? Can I win this? I recognize that being trapped in every direction is a great opportunity to ambush me. For that reason, when I’m at a red light, my mental readiness steps up a notch—I look closely into the cars next to me as best I can. Eye contact. I offset my car so I have room to maneuver if needed, and no one is directly left or right of me… If something happens, I will… 

Wait, see what I did there? Amazing the difference our attitude can have. Images in our head affect our performance in subtle ways. Have these conversations with yourself. Don’t merely survive these imaginary what-if battles, win them. Let your imagination drive your training and your decision making. Be positive, and always win. 

Mike Doyle

Mike Doyle


Mike is a full-time police officer and tactical medic. He currently works as a K9 handler, SWAT team member, and Police Trainer. Mike started Tactical Tangents as part of his fundamental purpose to save lives. His goal is to enhance the survival of police officers and concerned citizens by helping them become better, smarter, faster, and more efficient. His opinions are for informational purposes only and do not reflect those of his employer or any other government agency.


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