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  • Alex Rejba

Survival Qualities: The Necessary Traits of the Survivalist

While preparing for another survivalist challenge, I thought to myself – what does it take to become a successful survivalist, what mindset should any of us possess? After some extensive research, I compiled a list of characteristics and qualities that many survival-minded folks have in common.

So, what are the necessary survival qualities? Here is the short list:

  1. Adaptability – you need to survive in any environment.

  2. Self-control – cooler heads prevail.

  3. Resourcefulness – taking advantage of your surroundings.

  4. The ability to learn – absorbing new methods and knowledge.

  5. Motivation – the strong desire to survive.

But is this the complete list? And how do we acquire and learn these qualities? Let’s explore the mindset of a survivor even further.

Survival Qualities and Traits – The Comprehensive List

1. Adaptability

This skill is probably inherited by each and every one of us after millions of years of evolution. It is the survival of the fittest, after all. The better you adapt to new circumstances and environments, the higher are your chances to survive. You need to be flexible, you need to be capable of changing your plans accordingly to unexpected scenarios. Situations and surroundings might change for the worse and they won’t care about what you planned so far. Keep your ears pricked; keep your mind open and alert; keep your body ready to do things differently.

2. Self-control

A true survivalist should be able to control his emotions. That does not mean that he or she is a cold-hearted slab of stone. What it actually means is that you always remain calm in the face of any unforeseeable danger or situation.  You can be aware of your natural emotional reactions, you may experience agitation, anger, fear, and so on. Yet you will not let those feelings cloud your rational decision-making processes. It’s a tough quality to master, but it’s very rewarding. Whatever difficulty comes your way, you will not panic. Instead, you will assess it with a cool, concentrated mind and act accordingly.

3. Resourcefulness

Once you adapt and calmly judge the situation, this trait will become handy and even crucial to your prolonged survival. How do you overcome this challenge? How do you use the environment to your advantage? Where is the shelter, food, water? How can you use the gear you’ve prepared in this situation? Can you make fire? Can you filter the water? Can you find north? As a resourceful person, you can bend the situation to your needs, you can use your surroundings to your benefit.

4. The Ability to Learn

Learning is the key to preparedness. Survivalists are smart and capable of educating themselves. This quality goes hand in hand with the flexibility and open-mindedness that I’ve mentioned earlier. Just like you adapt to a new situation, your mind needs to be open and flexible for a new information. A survivalist is always willing to absorb new knowledge and to incorporate it with previously accumulated facts and methods. There are countless ways for you to learn something new that will make you even more prepared. There are books, videos, blogs (such as this one), you can even look for mentors and experienced teachers.

If you are eager to learn, I would honestly recommend “SAS Survival Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Anywhere”, which you can get on Amazon. It has every possible aspect of survival knowledge and technology, and the latest edition covers such new topics as terrorism and urban survival. The books teaches you about being prepared, making camp, finding food, first aid, disaster survival, and so much more.


5. Motivation

Motivation is the driving force behind your will to survive. It should be constantly with you: when you’re learning, when you’re managing to keep your emotions in check, when you’re adapting to new challenges and resourcefully taking advantage of the environment. Whatever comes your way, you need to have the inner desire to survive, whether alone or with your loved ones. Motivation keeps you going, keeps you afloat. It makes you focused on your goals, on the things that must be done in order to survive under every possible condition.

Here are a few more words about survivalist’s motivation:

Aren’t There More Useful Qualities and Traits Than Just These Five?

Of course there are more! While the aforementioned survival traits stood out during my research, here are additional characteristics you should hone as well.


A survivalist is neither a complete pessimist, nor a blind optimist. He sees things realistically, without tainting them with any subjective colors and filters. He recognizes the needs and the means to fulfill those needs. He realizes the gravity of any situation, estimates the danger and thinks about the ways he can cope with the situation. He does not tend to see the situation as hopeless, nor does he think that everything will turn out just fine and dandy. The reality is a complex thing, it never just positive or negative, and the survivor sees it for what it is. A good self-control will help your realism.


This might seem like a trait that negates the suggested flexibility and adaptability, but stubbornness actually completes them. It basically means adopting the “never give up” attitude. You stubbornly pledge to survive, you stick to your goals no matter what, and proceed using the tools mentioned earlier (self-control, resourcefulness, etc.) as well as physical skills you’ve learnt. This is not about being dense and ignoring everything as you plow forward. This is about being persistent and resilient, about believing in what you can do and encouraging yourself to overcome any hardship.

Healthy Well-Being

Without sounding too poetic, your body is the vessel for your mind. You need to have a healthy attitude towards your physical well-being. Now, I don’t intend to preach what you should eat and how much you need to exercise. But your body is what will execute the orders sent by your will and your desires. Your body is you; take care of it. Take care of yourself, stay fit, train, improve your stamina. A healthy spirit can only thrive within a healthy body.

Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.– Thomas Jefferson

How Can I Learn and Improve These Abilities?

These qualities are not set in stone. You can improve and refine them. The key is open-mindedness as well as a will to change. Learn from your mistakes, always challenge what you know and what you believe in. Understand what every quality means, how it applies to you, and what you can do to master it.

For instance, self-control. Recall all situations in which your emotions got the best of you. What could you do to react better? How are you going to react in a similar situation in the future? Try yourself in a real situation. What do you feel when confronting the same people or circumstances? Can you let go of that emotion, if it gets in your way?

As far as the traits like adaptability and resourcefulness go, you can develop them all the time. Join various survival challenges and try yourself in different environments. Calmly estimate your successes and failures, but do not judge yourself harshly. It’s a learning process, you will do better next time.

The same goes for motivation and stubbornness. Always stick to your missions and goals, no matter what obstacles you might encounter along the way. Look at yourself objectively, notice the weaker spots in your determination. Think what causes them and what you need to solve to become a better survivor.

Always nourish your learning ability. Look for new information and challenge old preconceptions. The books and the Internet are rich with knowledge on survival and preparedness. Of course, not every information out there is legit, use your common sense, take any new knowledge with a grain of salt. Learning does not mean just mindlessly taking the new data in, you need to be smart about it. Incorporate new information wisely, trust your instincts and truly become a smart survivalist.

For a really trustworthy well of information and skills, you should check “100 Deadly Skills: Survival Edition: The SEAL Operative’s Guide to Surviving in the Wild and Being Prepared for Any Disaster”, a book with hundreds of positive reviews on Amazon. This impressive list of one hundred skills functions as a perfect guide and ensures your survival in the wild, in any climate and terrain. The book, compiled by actual special forces personnel, prepares you for any crisis, so that you stay safe in any calamity or hostile environment.

In addition to this book, I have compiled a list of recommended survival books that you can trust.

Becoming a Better Survivalist: A Tool to Measure Your Progress

Now that you see what it takes to have a great survival mindset, here is a simple tool you can use. It’s a table that lists all the necessary qualities. You can print it as many times as you would like. Then assess yourself, mark how you rate yourself for every trait, on a scale from 1 to 10. Work on those mental skills, strive to become better, and once in a while (let’s say, every two weeks) rate yourself again. Compare with the previous results, observe your progress, and recognize weaker points that you still need to improve.

Related Questions

What makes someone a survivor? A characteristic survivor possesses the skills and qualities mentioned in this post. In a nutshell, a survivor can cope with anything, can find stability within him/herself, no matter what circumstances they are facing at the moment.

Why are survival skills needed? Simply put, they are the deciding factor between life and death. If you are motivated to survive, you will need to master many useful survival skills, such as adapting to anything, starting a fire, making a shelter, using the right tools, and so on.

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