|Correctional Officers – Staying Strong|
|By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ|
For many, the phrase ‘stay strong’ implies a level of physical fitness, a body-tone or a muscular -skeletal system that embraces the body and keeps you going when the daily challenges of the job are overwhelmingly not in your favor due to the current housing patterns that pits officers against an enormous number of inmates. However, what we need to seriously take into considerations are the things that make you ‘mentally strong.’ After all, most of the job requires you to be alert, to think and solve complicated problems.
Just like we have bad habits that rob you of your physical strengths, there are bad habits that rob you of your mental energy and ability to focus on what you are responsible for on or off duty – your self-control. Exercising your ‘mental muscle’ is very important as it is the main tool for cognizant awareness you have to possess to do your job at its best and make you perform your duties at the peak of your efficiency and abilities.
This habit of exercising your mind, along with the hard work and dedication you have put into your job as a correctional officer, shall reap you the success and rewards you are looking for. Realizing from the moment you hit the ‘line,’ you see the environment as a very negative place to work in. Therefore, to offset this negativity you must begin your thoughts by realizing your blessings to possess a better perspective than those you are supervising behind bars.
Show your gratitude of your blessings through your behaviors and deeds. Never surrender your personal power to others, especially the inmates. Giving negative people your power is self-defeating your purpose or presence there, and drags you down. Accept all challenges willfully but cautiously, and view the adversity as an opportunity to become better and stronger as each obstacle you overcome, you gain confidence and better at the job.
Don’t waste your time on things you cannot control -instead focus on the things you can control. Doing so will give you more positive and productive results and a more useful delivery of your energy. Know your job and its limitations. Boundaries set are positive and serve specific purposes in creating better emotional and physical resources to work and grow with.
This may cause grief to some but it provides you the opportunities to become better at what you desire to do. Don’t be a risk taker. Use your mental power to identify risks and create that ‘comfort zone’ you know will keep you safe. Learn from your mistakes and reflect from the past, but do not dwell on it; you cannot live a life with regret and expect to grow mentally. As an individual and professional, create your own role and your own definition of success- don’t play ‘follow the leader.’ Don’t resent the success of others but rather, recognize your own abilities and seek achievements on your own.
Remember that some failures are positive steps towards your growth in wisdom, personally or professionally. Keep your mind healthy by doing healthy things. Accept responsibility for your decisions and don’t waste your time blaming others. There is no entitlement to your job – just expectations. Do not limit yourself to your capabilities or potential. Remember that in every case of adversity, there is an opportunity to learn and understand things better than before. Use your mental energy wisely, don’t throw it away on irrelevant things that resemble gossip, whining or complaining. None of that helps you do your job better.
Equally important to you is the feeling to trust yourself and be realistic of your job and its expectations. Don’t engage in pessimistic predictions. Allow your positivity in life give you the optimism you need to see the reality clearer and better than others. Acknowledge the fact that with your job comes some level of emotional pain or discomfort. This is where you find yourself challenging yourself for self-control and the energy to say true to your own morals, values and ethical conduct you set out to live with from the very beginning of this journey as a correctional officer.
Being a correctional officer is not a popularity contest – it’s a viable and respectable job to ensure secure and safe conditions for all. It can be a most fulfilling career path to choose and take if you remain mentally strong. Tolerating discomforts is like a good workout at the gym – no pain thus no gain.
Corrections.com author, Carl ToersBijns, (retired), has worked in corrections for over 25 yrs He held positions of a Correctional Officer I, II, III [Captain] Chief of Security Mental Health Treatment Center – Program Director – Associate Warden - Deputy Warden of Administration & Operations. Carl’s prison philosophy is all about the safety of the public, staff and inmates, "I believe my strongest quality is that I create strategies that are practical, functional and cost effective."
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