Survival Traits – What Qualities Help Us Survive

Survival Traits – Characteristics – Qualities – Attributes.

I believe some survival traits are learned, while others tend to come natural for some people.

I’ve brainstormed a list of survival trait characteristics that I believe are important to survival. I didn’t look up some textbook or whatever. Instead these come from my life experience and opinion. I welcome yours as well.

They are listed in no particular order of importance.

What Qualities Help Us Survive?


The ability to adapt to a changing situation. I did say this list was in no particular order. However “Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome” immediately popped into my head. It may be the #1 survival trait of all…

To adapt. This survival trait by itself goes hand-in-hand with additional characteristics, abilities, knowledge, experience to draw upon, know-how, critical-thinking, “can do” attitude, “thinking on your feet”. After all, it is more difficult to adapt when you don’t know what to do!

With that said, when considering survival traits, the ability to adapt is right up there.

[ Read: Improvise, Adapt, Overcome ]


One might argue that this survival trait is #1. Without a will to survive, well, pretty much nothing else works. Yes it’s a basic and highly general trait. But it takes a strong will to survive when the going gets extremely tough. Some give up while others press on. It matters.


Staying or regaining calm. Being calm enables critical and clear thinking. Whereas high emotions and panic will cloud judgement and good decision-making.

It’s not easy to physically or mentally function in an effective capacity during a adrenaline dump. Some have never experienced this – but if and when you do, you’ll understand the issue.


The power of intuition. ‘Knowing’ without knowing why. It is a powerful survival trait. Gut instincts not only come from experience, but there’s some ‘magic’ going on too… a unique combination of our senses.

[ Read: Intuition & Gut Instinct: The Mystery Of It All… ]


Some (many?) people have a hard time making decisions, especially under difficult circumstances. The ability to make decisions (especially good ones) is a key survival trait attribute. Rather than getting “stuck in the mud”, decisions keep things moving (hopefully forward).


The ability to move on after a mistake or failure. We ALL make mistakes. Bad decisions. But you know what? Once it’s over, you can’t go back and change it. So a good survival trait is looking beyond the mistake. Not wasting time or getting bogged down in what is now the past. Regroup. Move forward.


Insight, anticipation, and foresight. Much of it comes from a combination of knowledge, experience, and situational awareness. A deeper understanding of an overall situation provides better intuitional foresight of potential or probable problems.


The ability to plan ahead, stay organized and work towards a goal. It requires systematic discipline. The ability to break down larger tasks or goals into smaller ones.

Here’s another thing… “No plan survives first contact with the enemy”. Or what Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.” Have a backup plan!


Maybe breaking the rules. Questioning, bending, or breaking the rules when necessary. Most people simply accept the yokes and chains which are placed upon them by others. But those with the ability to think outside the box do not necessarily accept those restrictions.


Wow. This general trait is sorely lacking in our modern world! That said, it’s one thing to “not be stupid”, but another thing to have common sense! It sure is a good survival trait.


Not an optimist or a pessimist. A good blend of both optimism and pessimism lends the ability to see both sides of a situation without the debilitating side-effects of excessive pessimism or excessive optimism. Too much of one or the other upsets the balance of clear thinking.


This survival trait goes beyond simply the will to survive. It expands upon it. The next level… “I will do it!” The mission will be accomplished. Pushing through a difficult situation. When the going gets tough, the tough get going.


Learn Ability. The ability to learn is not something that all people know how to do AND it involves knowing where to look and find information, ascertain if that info is accurate as well as what to do with this new found knowledge.

Care to add a few more?

[ Read: 10 Survival Movies ]

>> Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why
(view on amzn)


  1. A very comprehensive list. All of the character traits mentioned are possessed by most of the regular contributors on this blog. This we know about ourselves because most of us are older, established within our careers or retired from them. When I was younger, I had the chance to discover what character traits I had and which ones I excelled at. There are other character traits I had to develop as a young person dependent upon which career I chose or area of study I was engaged in.
    I was a teenager in the 1970’s America. I saw a postwar economy, many people lost their jobs through no fault of their own, double digit inflation, gas lines at the pump, money in stocks and bonds lost value. My point being: Growing up during adverse conditions has a big influence on character formation. If you are a parent today, do not isolate your children from the news of the world around them. Explain things to them as best you can.
    My parents tried to isolate me from aspects of the world. I had to leave home and discover many things on my own.

    1. Most people think I am crazy for explaining the catalyst that guided me into learning survivalist ways when very very young, so I won’t mention it. However, parents do have a role in teaching these traits, but these modern days most parents with young children have not the experience to teach much of it at all. And who teaches these things in school or college these days? They certainly don’t teach critical thinking except at Hilldale or just a few colleges.

      Learning on my own I used trial and error. If I passed the tests I got rewarded, if I failed, I lost something valuable. This is how the traits evolve with these survival skills.

  2. Number one has to be the ability to adapt to whatever situation you are in and do it quickly

  3. Having an external motivator. For me, I will survive to help my family survive. Nothing is too hard when loved ones are endangered. Religion plays a part too.

  4. The ability to find some hope, in the most hopeless of situations. The only reason i have this ability is my faith in God, pure and simple.

  5. Good list, Ken! For myself, my faith in God helps me a lot. When problems look insurmountable, or challenges look overwhelming, I trust Him to help me see a way. A motivating factor for me also is family. What I might not work as hard to do for myself, I will throw everything I have at for loved ones. Lastly, I would add that a sense of humor helps. The ability to find some lightness, even for a moment, goes a long way toward keeping spirits up and strengthening resolve.

  6. On optimism and pessimism, I view it as a triangle…with both of those being on the bottom corners. I consider both to have disadvantages. Being a pessimist rarely helps anything. Being an over the top optimist (the rose colored glasses thing) can lead to really bad or naiive decisions. At the top of the triangle is being a realist. That is where I choose to live….!

    1. You can be a pessimist or an optimist and still be a realist. Like you said, it’s a triangle. Being a pessimist can certainly keep you safe–from the good stuff as well as the bad. Being an optimist, likewise, keeps you safe, but mostly by blinding you to the bad.

      “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.”

  7. When I was five, my grandfather and my father went on a errand on a hot summer day in my grandfathers car which was an old Rambler. Unbeknownst to me as I rode in the back seat there was a rusted out hole in the floor pan that was covered with a rubber floor mat. The summer heat was consistent with Alabama humidity. Not focused on anything in particular, I pushed my bare foot between the floor mats into the hole. The cool wind from the motion of the car felt heaven sent. I couldn’t comprehend why. Just as I was about to decide to push farther in I decided to pull my foot out to see where it had been. I looked down through the hole at the road passing underneath. If something seems to good to be true it probably is. I still have that foot and all its attachments.

  8. I am not alone and I’m not my own. There is divine providence.

  9. Sense of humor! 😁
    When I was in the Marines we used to make jokes about and laugh at just about anything and everything. They were usually very inappropriate things that would make most civilians cringe. I guess it was the shared experience we all went through. We learned very early on that dealing with “the suck” is a lot easier when you can laugh about it.

    1. Grits,
      I agree ,we did the same in the Navy. I feel that if you cannot chuckle a little at your problem/predicament that you cannot overcome it .

    2. Hey ‘Grits’ :

      Your comment about Marines sense of humor brings me back to ‘Nam’, 60 years ago.
      When we, on the ground, would see a helicopter being shot out of the air and come whirling down in a ball of flames, we would shout “Whee – Roman Candle”. (4th of July fireworks)
      If you don’t experience it, it’s difficult to imagine it.

    3. – I would have to agree on the sense of humor, and I would also agree on it usually being highly inappropriate for the average individual when talking about the military. Just a comment from an old medic who also trained as a tanker for a few years.
      Medical humor can also get inappropriate, though few non-medical people will ever hear it.

      – Papa S.

  10. After reviewing some of the character traits mentioned to help one survive, I began to think back to many people I met that had trouble along the way and needed help in one form or another. The character trait that got them into a bad situation: pride and the fear of losing face, status or social standing. A review of the Seven Deadly Sins is a good review of how people’s bad decisions can make their OK life become dramatically worse in short order.
    This does not take into account those that lost every thing to an act of God. ( being a victim of an earthquake, fire, flood or riot may not count. The factor here being luck or the grace of God ).

  11. Proverbs twenty-two verse three says a prudent man sees danger and takes refuge.

    sounds pretty simple

Comments are closed.