Mindsetting: The Inner Game of Self-Defense


After many years of honing techniques to help young women develop the key habits of personal safety, there is one, in particular, that always stands out.  And no, it doesn’t involve any kicking, gouging or kneeing . (Not that there’s anything wrong with any of that!) Actually, this particular technique doesn’t require any physical effort at all.

Instead, it is powered entirely by the mind.  It’s practiced by elite performers in nearly every field you can imagine — Olympic athletes, world-renowned surgeons, virtuoso musicians, military special forces, and even NASA astronauts.

The technique is called Mindsetting.  And, even though it was developed for top-level performers, you don’t have to be extraordinary or gifted in any way to benefit from it. I’ve included this in my teaching for many years and have found it very effective in helping beginners learn the basic strategies of personal safety.

To ensure that your daughter knows what to do if she’s ever in a dangerous situation, I’d like to give you a quick lesson on how you can teach her to use this simple technique.

The three essential steps in Mindsetting are Visualizing, Strategizing, and Internalizing.  Let’s look at each one more closely and see how, together, they can be used for self-defense:

Step 1:  Visualize — See it in your mind’s eye

After choosing a specific kind of threat you want to work on with your daughter– “being followed” or “being approached in a parking lot” or “confronted in an elevator,” etc.– the first step is to simply have her picture herself in that exact situation as vividly as possible. 

Let’s use the elevator scenario as an example.

She boards an elevator alone and heads for the 14th floor. Before arriving, she feels the elevator slow to an eventual stop. It’s the 8th floor. The doors open and a man gets on.  At first, she thinks nothing of it, but then the doors close and she begins to feel uneasy. (It is not at all uncommon or unreasonable for a woman to feel a bit ill-at-ease in a situation like this.)

Having your daughter be able to picture herself in this scene (or one like it), is the first step in Mindsetting.

Step 2:  Strategize — Devise a plan 

In this step, you’ll want to help her identify the exact steps she should take to ensure her safety if something bad happens. 

Sticking with the elevator example, here’s a basic safety strategy your daughter should know:

First teach her that any time she enters an elevator, the safest place for her to stand is near the control panel. (You’re probably aware of this, but she may not be.) Explain that if the worst should happen –if she is confronted or attacked– she’s in the perfect position to quickly press as many of the buttons on the control panel as she can. This will cause the elevator to automatically stop on each floor, giving her repeated opportunities for escape.

Now, should she ever find herself in a situation like this, she’ll have a concrete plan of action that she can rely on.

With her safety strategy in place, step three will help her connect all the elements and reinforce a successful outcome.

 Step 3:  Internalize — Make it a habit

In this final step, you’ll again want your daughter to imagine herself experiencing the elevator scenario as vividly as possible. This time, however, she will also visualize the attack and the protective strategy you taught her in step two.

Have her walk through the entire scenario, in her mind’s eye, visualizing herself following the plan, flawlessly.  In addition, explain that she must always see herself being successful in the end. The goal of Mindsetting is to visualize and internalize effective strategies that result in positive outcomes.

Going through this process with your daughter even just once builds confidence.  Doing it repeatedly reinforces the response and embeds it firmly in the subconscious mind.

By introducing her to these three simple steps, you will have armed her with a powerful mental training technique to help her prepare for any situation she may have to face.