Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course
For some people, preparedness is about the big things: the well-stocked retreat home, buying yet another firearm, or getting a super-fancy generator. While these things can certainly be classified as preparedness endeavors, it isn’t the expensive and dramatic gestures that make us truly prepared people.
The way prepared people spend their time before an emergency is the real key to survival, and this is something that no amount of money can buy.
It’s the small daily habits that become an innate part of our everyday lives – habits that may not even be noticeable to someone outside the lifestyle.
Real preppers, the ones you should look to for advice if you happen to be new to preparedness, are the ones who quietly conduct their daily lives with an eye towards readiness. Not only are these the qualities you should strive for yourself, but they are also the qualities that can help you to determine whether someone is the “real deal” or an armchair survivalist.
#1: Prepared people think beyond “Plan A”
Anytime one disaster occurs, several others are bound to follow closely in their wake. One of the most dramatic examples of this was the tsunami that followed closely on the heels of the 2011 earthquake in Japan, resulting in one of the most horrific nuclear disasters in the history of the world.
But it doesn’t have to be on such an epic scale to qualify. No matter how excellent your survival plan is, if things go awry you must immediately be able to accept that monkey wrench and adapt your plan to it.
Prepared people understand that even the most perfect plans can go wrong, and they are willing to abandon it and act on the fluid situation at hand.
#2: Prepared people react calmly.
Panic kills. When something terrifying happens, if your reaction is to freeze or to run around like a chicken with your head cut off, you’re probably going to die unless Lady Luck steps in and saves you through no action of your own.
Panic can show itself in two ways. For example, during the King Fire, a massive forest fire that burned over 97,000 acres of California wilderness, we witnessed some very visible panic in some of our neighbors.
When we got the first evacuation alert (a notice that evacuation was highly likely within the next 24 hours), a woman who lived down the street was wailing and sobbing as her husband tried to pack up their vehicle. She was rendered absolutely useless by fear.
Alternatively, panic can manifest in the inability to act. In psychology circles, completely freezing is called “tonic immobility”. This is a biological impulse related to an overload of stimuli due to extreme stress. It can also show itself in as an irrational sense of calmness as the brain denies the reality that a horrible event is truly happening. In her book, The Unthinkable, Amanda Ripley wrote about the cognitive dissonance experienced by some in the World Trade Center on 9/11.
The story that stands out in my mind the most was the one about the people in the World Trade Center on September 11. They described the last time they saw some of their coworkers. There were many people who simply could not accept the fact that a plane had crashed into the building and that they must immediately evacuate. They gathered their belongs, tidied their desks, finished reports. They didn’t feel the same sense of urgency that those who survived did, because the situation was so horrible that they just couldn’t accept it. Their inability to accept the scope of the danger caused many of them to perish in a tragic incident that other people, who acted immediately, survived. (source)
You can enhance this ability to accept events and act calmly by thinking through possibilities ahead of time and considering courses of action while your pounding heart is not pumping vast amounts of adrenaline through your veins.
Prepared people know that the ability to calmly accept the event, make a speedy plan, and then act on that plan is the key to survival.
#3: Prepared people are critical thinkers.
Thinking critically is an important skill. Those who passively accept everything they see on the TV news are missing the concept of propaganda. Six enormous corporations control just about everything seen on mainstream television. Through this control, they can promote their own desired agendas by putting their own spins on events. They can influence how the American people think about guns, about our nation’s enemies, and about the food we eat. It’s vital to think about how these corporations earn money – through advertising dollars. Will they really show the truth if it negatively affects their advertisers?
The same is true of nearly any situation. The “truth” presented is most often the “truth” that benefits the presenter.
Prepared people are able to assess the information provided to them and distinguish the difference between facts and manipulations. They keep up with current events, but strive to separate the reality of the event from the opinions of the broadcasters.
#4: Prepared people carry a kit with them everywhere, every day.
If you don’t have a basic everyday carry kit, you can’t consider yourself to be a prepared person. I personally carry the basics for fire, water, and safety in my purse at all times. I also have an extensive emergency kit stashed away in my vehicle for times that I am far from home.
Prepared people know that disasters don’t usually give warnings, so it’s necessary to have a few basics on hand at all times. Here are some ideas for gifts to enhance day to day preparedness and here is an article that gives the basics of an EDC kit.
#5: Prepared people are MacGuyvers.
People who are prepared don’t really solely on tools and preps though. They rely on a mindset that allows them to create what they need from what they have on hand.
Being able to work with what you have and develop solutions is a vital skill for preppers. Here are some tips on enhancing your make-shift engineering skills. As well, Jim Cobb’s new book, Prepper Survival Hacks, is a great way to develop that mindset if you are new to this line of thinking.
Prepared people are creative problem solvers who enjoy challenges to their skills.
#6: Prepared people live a skills-based lifestyle.
It isn’t enough to just plan. You have to have the ability to execute that plan. And the only way to know that you have that ability is to make the skills a part of your day to day life. Here’s an example. I recently moved to a farm to begin homesteading and discovered (the hard way) that my successful backyard gardens did not make me an instant self-sufficient homestead farmer. How many preppers do you know that stock seeds instead of food or say that they’re just going to “live off the land” when it all hits the fan? While it’s entirely possible to do this successfully, it takes a lot of practice and a substantial amount of time building a foundation to make this a viable plan.
But it isn’t just homesteading that people mistakenly assume will be an easy survival plan. If it’s part of your plan, you must work at it now. You have to practice skills like marksmanship – we put some ammo downrange every single weekend without fail. You have to practice skills like hunting if your plan is to provide meat for your family this way. You have to practice preserving the food that you raise or acquire if you intend to eat in the winter.
Prepared people practice what they plan. They focus on productive hobbies and live a skills-based lifestyle that is closely related to their SHTF plan.
#7: Prepared people are physically active.
Prepared people generally work some kind of fitness into their day-to-day lives. They work a physical job, they walk or jog, they go to the gym, and they don’t sit at a desk for 8 hours, only to relocate to a couch until bedtime.
I occasionally teach introductory preparedness classes in my area. Every single time, someone from the city tells me their plan is to hike to Lake Tahoe because of all of the water there.
It’s a pain in the neck to drive to Lake Tahoe, let alone walk there. Don’t let the 30-40 mile distance fool you. When hauling a 60 pound pack through the mountains, that 30 miles might as well be 300 miles, especially if this is not the type of thing you normally do. If your last walk was through the potato chip aisle at the grocery store, bugging out on foot through the mountains is probably not going to be a viable plan.
Moving more in your day to day life is a great way to gently break your body into a more active lifestyle. Just walking daily can make a world of difference to your fitness level.
#8: Prepared people require purchases to be multi-purpose.
Most of us do not have unlimited storage space, and we have a lot of things we want to store. For this reason, we tend to pass on the “one-hit-wonders” unless they are truly remarkable. We have supplies that will serve more than one purpose. Our pantry basics can be used to make cleaning supplies. We stock large amounts of items like vinegar, duct tape, and baking soda. Our tools are versatile instead of narrowly specialized.
Prepared people seek out high quality products that multitask and limit purchases that only serve on purpose.
#9: Prepared people are not wasteful.
How far can you stretch your leftovers? What kinds of things do you reuse that others simply throw away? The ability to make one’s supplies last for as long as possible isn’t something that just appears overnight.If your friends think you’re a “cheapskate” you’ve probably got this habit nailed down. (Check here to see if any of these signs apply to you.)
Prepared people live frugal, non-wasteful lives now, and they’ll be far better suited to make things last later. One day, a situation could arise in which the supplies we have are very limited.
#10: Prepared people practice situational awareness.
Over the past few years, we’ve heart about all sorts of incidents of mass violence, both in the US and abroad. Practicing situational awareness at all times is a habit that helps you to instinctively assess the baseline of normal for your location, and in turn, notice early on if something just isn’t right. This helps you to react more quickly if a threat occurs, and often those brief seconds can be essential.
Prepared people spend time participating in activities that enhance their situational awareness. My kids and I used to play a “game” of identifying exits when we went to new places. You can channel author Rudyard Kippling and teach your kids “Kim’s Game” to increase their observational skills. (Learn more about it here.)
What are some other habits for preppers?
Preparedness is not some finite goal that is achieved when you have amassed a certain amount of beans and bullets. It’s something that is an ingrained part of your personality. Our habits become such a natural part of us that we don’t have to think about them when we find ourselves in the midst of an emergency. The way you live your day-to-day life is the real key to survival, and this is something that no amount of money can buy.
Do you have any habits that you feel enhance your preparedness? Share them in the comments below.
Cool list. And now I have a good excuse for my very large box of duct tape in the garage.
Good article and thanks. Here is a little tidbit of info that has worked out extremely well for us, concerning identifying edible plants and living off the land. Every county in this country has a government employee commonly called in layman’s terms, the ‘County Agent’. He/She is also called the ‘Agriculture Agent, The County Extension Agent, and probably some I don’t know about. But anyway, they work with the Department of Agriculture in each State and are experts at identifying plants of all kinds. We regularly take wild plants to the Ag office, or send pictures, and sometimes he comes out and just walks around with us and teaches us about edible and toxic plants. Our tax dollars are supporting these people and it is very wise to utilize these people. They have a treasure trove of knowledge are very helpful in this area of prepping. thanks for your time.
Practice alternatives. Live the way you think your grandparents lived. Act like a tribe. Use power failures as training opportunities. Re-establish communication methods without electronic devices. Learn to dress for utility instead of appearances.
As a prepared person:
I try very hard to be invisible or at least faded gray. This means I don’t want anyone to notice me. My vehicles are standard old models and colors, I dress like everyone else in a country setting. My property is fenced but with the same old country agra fencing everyone else has. The house looks a bit cluttered with tree limbs and some weeds; I left the 40 year old TV antenna up on the roof and the satellite dishes cannot be seen except from the back of the house which faces the woods. Anyone driving by sees nothing that anyone would want.
I avoid crowds; I shop early in the morning, during the week and don’t frequent popular gathering places.
I like saving money all the time.
When going to work, instead of driving there, bike it or jog or walk it there if possible..
I get most of the things I need from, liquidation stores & garage/yard sales.
I also look for things that I need on Kijiji & buy & sell ads.
I never buy things at full retail price, I’m always looking for them to come on sale price.
Look through the swap/trade ads, this way your getting rid of things that you don’t need or want & getting the things that you do need
Buying a demo model of most things are usually cheaper & they usually come with a full warranty.
I’ve been called a cheap skate a few times, but I always have money left over for other things needed.
If I can grow things & make things my self, I’ll do it to save my money.
When grocery shopping I buy on sale,1can for now, one to put away for emergency
Hey there, Daisy this is a fantastic article and website as a whole!
I couldn’t find an email address to reach you at so I figured this is the next best thing 🙂
This is Cory from survivethewild.net, just wanted to get your opinion on a recent article. My goal has been to make the content more engaging and action oriented, not just fluff and facts but information that can make a difference.
Let me know what you think and if you have any information that should be added or modified.
Troll in the dungeon. It’s not nice to use Daisy’s website to advertise your own website.
Here is an inexpensive stove that would fit nicely in a get home bag.
Esbit Ultralight Folding Pocket Stove with Six 14g Solid Fuel Tablets
$10.99 at Amazon
“The Esbit stove was invented in 1936 by a German company that contracted their stove to the German Wehrmacht. During WWII, the stoves were “discovered” by American GI’s, who often kept them as souvenirs. After the war, the Esbit company continued to manufacture the stove for the West German Bundeswehr. Many American soldiers who were stationed in Germany for the next 60+ years personally bought the stove for their own field use.
Other fuel types can be used. Small pieces of wood, charcoal, a tea light and an alcohol burner all can be used in the stove.”
I included this stove in an emergency kit I gave my niece for Christmas. She recently moved out on her own and lives in a hurricane and flood-prone area.
For those of you that go the Esbit stove route…put your tablets in food saver bags and vacuum seal them until needed. They have a fishy smell that can get annoying in storage or in a GHB.
I’ve read some of your other articles/blogs and always have good info. This one is great to. As a Paramedic, I have most of the 10 but could improve on being more active. I’ve been ‘getting ready’ for about 5 years now, still a ways to go tho. Thanks for all you do.
Personally, I love dumpster diving. Cans of dented food are discarded by our local grocer that are perfectly fine. Hundreds of pounds of frozen foods still perfectly edible but are thrown out due to the fact that an imaginary date has been past. In other words the food must be eaten by midnight of a certain day or you’ll get sick and die. My wife, for instance, has canned hundreds of jars of potatoes, the store throws out bags of them because a potato or two has rotted, no problem ,dispose of the bad and use the rest. Plus another benefit is my animals have a ready supply of fruits and veggies which cuts down on my feeding bill
Another thing I have been able to do is to cultivate a relationship with a tree trimmer, he drops off his cuttings on my property saving him time and money and I get free fire wood. The branches I can’t use are burnt ,larger pieces are used for heating and cooking. I use an antique cast iron wood burning cook stove for all my cooking needs in the winter and are completing a summer kitchen with another cook stove for the summer. Finally people who tear down old structures bring the debris here to my farm and we have a good supply of building materials There are numerous more things a person can do to save money and survive if we’ll just look around and use our imagination
I think the first daily habit is to have a positive attitude.
It is great to carry an EDC kit, but “preppers” tend to overly rely on things, like an EDC kit.
Which makes them not have a Mac Guyver’s mindset.
If you remember, he did not carry around an EDC kit,(though sometimes a knife ), but rather used what ever was at hand, at the time.
If you rely solely on your skills, then you can have a knowledge problem. Not everyone has every skill, but if you have a basic knowledge about that skill, then you can Mac Guyver your way through it.
So in the long run, you will be able to successfully handle more situations and have a better chance at survival.
How many people carry a EDC kit, but would be lost if they did not have it. Because they don’t have the knowledge to say, start a fire with out their usual “tools”.
How many preppers or homesteader’s would be lost without their preps or their homestead?
Could you survive with out that?
If not, you have a real problem.
Most people also mix up Experience (acquired knowledge) with skill. Skill is the ability to do something well, Experience is just a form of acquiring knowledge. Many times experience will fail you, because it is the wrong experience or was not deep or varied enough.
Practicing something, does not guarantee you do it well, you could be making the same mistakes over and over again and not realize it.
So you go target shooting; that does not qualify you to handle the fear generated by the ‘target” shooting back at you, does it? Or shooting a stationary target vs a moving one? At that point your “skills” mean very little. Most targets will not “stand still “, for you.
So just because you practice a “skill” it does not mean it will be a useful one, come SHTF.
Besides which most “skills” are like riding a bike, you might get rusty, but you never lose the “skill”.
So you may be wasting a lot of time practicing old skills,, rather than learning other, new ones.
Not a smart move.
I don’t need a skill or to practice once a month to build a lean to. But I know not only how to build that, but to build a log house, sod house, etc. I know the basics, needed for constructing all types of primitive buildings, but I don’t need to go build one on a regular basis.
I don’t care how skillful or good your shelter looks, as long as mine is functional.
The one thing that I would add would be to keep abreast of the news and weather. I have a friend who didn’t know about the Capitol Hill riot until she saw it in the next day’s paper at the store. She almost never checks the weather aside from looking out the window. I don’t have to tell you how bad that is on a bunch of different levels and it makes me crazy as a prepper to see an “adult” avoiding the news because “it’s depressing”!
11. The habit of regularly looking for things that are not there
Before you mistake that topic title for being about behavior that gets you committed to an asylum, here’s an explanation. The know-how of preparedness is scattered all over the map. It is in various websites, print books, courses, articles, ebooks, magazines, subscriptions, lists of all kinds, etc, etc. Much of that overlaps. Some of it is occasionally either dead wrong or totally inappropriate for whatever your circumstances, capabilities or likely risks might be. So you get to decide.
Whether you are a rank beginner or a seasoned old hand … conceptually the process is similar. As you look through the various resources there will be the ongoing hunt to look for how-to capabilities — whether in skills, gear, supplies, etc. Some you’ll have and some you won’t. One search is for capabilities you don’t have that are both possible and reasonably justifiable for you to acquire. A related search is for such capabilities that you already have but need some practice to keep them polished and usable.
Does that explanation of regularly looking for “things” [ie., preparedness capabilities] that are not there … put that practice into a practical light? And out of some Jack Nicholson “Cuckoo’s Nest” movie script about asylum inmates?