What is a prepared mindset? Well, one thing it is NOT is paranoia. Perceiving everything as a threat is no way to live and enjoy life, and to my way of thinking, it represents a mind that is out of balance. I know folks who live like this, and it would seem that they often attract bad circumstances to themselves, inadvertently creating self-fulfilling prophecies. Paranoia makes one jumpy from maintaining a constant state of fear which really produces lots of stress—this is not productive at all, and the mind does not operate efficiently this way (not to mention it is hard on the body to have all those stress hormones zooming around the system on a daily basis). The opposite of paranoia would be Condition White—the state of “cluelessness”; burying one’s head in the sand and subscribing to the notion that nothing bad can happen because that only occurs to others in some distant universe. This is equally non-productive. Developing and maintaining a prepared mindset lies somewhere in between these two poles. It means staying informed, giving threats some thorough and objective consideration, contemplating solutions, learning and practicing skills, and developing awareness habits and plans. There is an important shift from either extreme: knowing bad things can and do happen to good people, taking necessary and reasonable precautions, and then going on about one’s life while maintaining vigilance. One would be wise not to live always as if there is no tomorrow, and wise not to forget to live.
When people are executed in a movie theater, or while attending worship services, it brings the point home that anything can happen to anyone and anywhere. Nowhere is sacred, and nowhere is truly safe. Not even home—home invasions are a growing problem. So what must a logical person do??
Step One: Make the reasonable assumption that a bad thing could happen–admit it to yourself and realize that you are not invincible. Even the most savvy self-defense instructors/practitioners can find themselves in sticky situations.
Step Two: Take a step back and analyze your life for the vulnerabilities. Solid threat assessment. Where are the security holes in your day—moments when some miscreant could catch you by surprise? Could you modify your behavior to shore up some of these holes? A good example of this is texting and walking—do you need to text while wandering through a parking lot? Parking lots are ripe hunting grounds for the bad guys. Do you tread in higher-risk environments? Believe it or not, a bar is a higher risk environment. So is a bank. Can you take extra precautions when going into these environments?
Step Three: Ask yourself a very important question: what is my life worth to me? Will I do whatever I have to do to survive and win a violent confrontation? Only you can answer this question for yourself, and despite what you may believe, years and years of combatives and martial arts training are worth zilch if you have not made the decision to respond to an imminent threat with ferocious resolve.
Step Four: Get some training. Train the soft skills and the physical skills (empty-hand and weapons). Soft skills include communication and de-escalation, threat assessment, awareness, conflict management, etc. I read a recent interview with combatives expert Lee Morrison, and he stated, “For me the soft skills (personal security) side of things is where it’s at; the best self-protection comes from not having to be physical in the first place, or better yet ‘not being there’ this comes from seeing it coming (situational awareness) and understanding what ‘it’ means to you right now (threat recognition) without these things the rest is redundant. Of course an understanding of how to articulate you defence post event in court is absolutely crucial; I don’t think enough has been done in this area. “. Mr. Morrison also faithfully trains the hard physical skills. To me, the hard skills are like your little insurance policy in case you have an off day, or someone is hell-bent on causing you harm. I have also been training the hard skills faithfully for the past 11.5 years. For self-defense, it is important to find the things that actually work, the things that are simple, and to train with full emotional content. Winning a fight against an assailant on the street is not about competition and trading blows—it is about full-on aggression and fighting dirty. Learn how to tap into your aggression and harden your body through vigorous training. Hardening the body can help harden the mind, and both can boost your confidence in handling yourself.
Step Five: Educate yourself about self-defense and the law. Know when you can use force and when you cannot. Know what to do after you use force.
Step Six: Decide on self-defense gear, whether or not you wish to carry it, and broaden your mind to encompass the world of improvised weapons. Knowing how to use this gear goes back to your training.
Step Seven: Develop tactics and strategies. Home emergencies, emergencies out in the environment with or without loved ones (group plans should be thoroughly discussed and drilled). It is true that plans often go to hell on the battlefield, so learning to be adaptive is also important. This also goes back to your training.
Step Eight: Stay alert and aware. As soon as you step outside the threshold of your castle each day and out into the unknown, maintain 360 degree security at all times. Observe and orient yourself and listen to what your intuition tells you if you get a bad feeling. You get these feelings for a reason, so honor them.
Step Nine: Live your life. Never forget to live. Life is a gift. Live it graciously, become a hard target, and defend it if anyone tries to take it away from you.
I hope you can see that the prepared mindset really equates to a strong will to live. A prepared individual knows the value of life, and is going to do whatever it takes to protect it. Life is, after all, precious and fleeting. I encourage and challenge you to do whatever you can to keep it from being any more fleeting than it has to be.