How Modern Life Destroys Survival Instinct

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Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course

Our world today would seem magical to our ancestors. Our needs are met almost immediately, we have clean water at the turn of a knob, heat at the push of a button, and light with the flip of a switch.  Food is purchased in a box, ready to heat, and a person can prepare a meal in under 6 minutes using the microwave oven that’s a fixture in most modern kitchens.

Our world is clean, convenient, and loaded with abundant resources, things that took significant time and effort to produce in days gone by. And all of these resources are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We don’t even have to go out and get the resources if we live in a town of much size – Uber and Instacart will bring your conveniences right to your door.

But all of this convenience comes at a high price, one we don’t even realize exists until a situation arises in which the ready answers aren’t there, the food is not available, and the dial on the thermostat no longer has any effect at all.

Modern life destroys survival instinct. Most folks just buy the answers to all of their problems and they have lost the ability to think. Self-reliance is an act of epic rebellion against the status quo.

Quick solutions reduce problem-solving ability

In the midst of a challenge a few years back, I discovered I was out of oregano.

Normally, I’d hop in the car and go to the grocery store. I’d buy some oregano, some other interesting things that caught my eye and grab a coffee on the way home to fight that mid-afternoon crash.

But, since I’m participating in the Once-a-Month Shopping Challenge, running to the store was not an option, and wouldn’t be for 3 more weeks.  Since the tomatoes I was processing wouldn’t last that long, I had to think about solutions – real solutions that did not involve running to the store.  (I substituted thyme and basil, by the way.)

This got me thinking about how we usually solve problems in this day and age.

We buy the solutions to our problems. Slow food has turned into fast food. We replace instead of repairing.

We go to the store.  We order a new whatever from Amazon and it arrives at our door the next day. If our central heat goes out, we plug in a space heater and huddle beside it until the repair guy arrives. When he does get there, he replaces parts instead of taking them apart and fixing them.

What does this mean?

It means that the solution to nearly every problem that occurs can be purchased. Almost anything we feel that we need can be purchased, often within 30 minutes of the thought popping into our heads.

The ability to solve problems is nearly extinct

We need to get out of this replacement-based instant-gratification mindset. Because sometimes, you can’t buy your way out of a problem. Sometimes you have to fix things yourself, come up with substitutes, and solve your own problems.

The trouble is, most folks are no longer wired that way. It’s been bred out of them over the past two generations of convenience. Children are sensitive weenies, everyone gets a trophy, and the phrase “This makes me uncomfortable” is like a magic chant that people use to protect themselves from an offense of any type.

People who can solve their own problems are becoming further and further in between. In another generation or two, if we continue on this track, it will go the way of the dodo. You might catch a glimpse of an independent person here and there, but no one would really believe you saw one. Sort of like the Sasquatch.

But in reality, it’s the inability to solve problems that will mean a person’s demise.  Everyone will be great, even smug in the comfort of their conveniences, during good times, but when a crisis strikes, they’ll be helpless.

Case in point: remember when Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast a few years ago?

Within THREE DAYS, people were completely out of food and begging the government for help. Many were unable to survive without assistance for even a week.

Problem Solving 101

When a crisis strikes, you do not want to be in the situation of the folks mentioned above. Here are 4 things you can do to enhance your ability to solve problems.

1.) Repair and substitute.

Before purchasing a replacement for your broken widget, figure out how to fix the widget. Use a whatsit instead of a widget. Figure out how things work and really use your brain instead of waiting for others to solve your problems. Start now by learning to live without running to the store or logging on to Amazon to buy a solution.

Learn to repair and mend simple household items. Learn to change a tire. Learn to cook and figure out substitutes if you’re missing some vital ingredient. Learn to use tools.

Don’t just replace things – channel your inner McGuyver.

2.) Live it. Don’t just read about it.

Furthermore, try to figure things out without turning to the internet for an answer. This isn’t to say that I don’t use the internet a lot. (I can’t even tell you how much of my farming information comes from Youtube.) But, learn to observe and use your instincts and inherent skills too.

You can watch videos about raising baby chicks all day long, but until you actually raise them, you don’t develop that indescribable ability to assess when something’s wrong, the understanding of their needs, and the ability to resolve concerns. You can’t feel a chick’s crop to see if it’s full unless you’ve felt when it’s empty.

This holds true with a lot more than just baby chicks, of course. Most skills are not innate. You have to try, fail, and learn from your failure before you can succeed. A lot of people have magnificent plans to “live off the land” or “homestead” but they’ve never done any of these things and their inexperience will get them killed.

You have to live your life, not just read about it on the internet.

3.) Predict and prepare.

This is what prepping is all about. We think ahead about the worst case scenario. We build our supplies accordingly. We have a full pantry, a preparedness plan, and a host of supplies to help us through situations that cause a loss of the grid. We have a stash of natural home remedies and a set of survival tools to help us through a disaster.

By thinking beforehand about the things that might happen, we’re more easily able to accept them when they do occur. We’ve already prepared Plan B and can glide into prepper mode with confidence.

4.) Accept, plan act.

When disaster strikes, there are three steps you must take at any point in the crisis.  You have to accept that the worst has occurred instead of retreating into cognitive dissonance. You must make a plan quickly. You must act immediately and decisively.  And if your plan doesn’t work, you must start over with accepting it and move on to Plan B. Or C. Or however many letters it takes you to save yourself. (Click here to read about these three steps in more detail.)

In The Unthinkable, one of my favorite books on the psychology of surviving a disaster, Amanda Ripley wrote about interviewing the survivors who had been in the World Trade Center when the planes hit on 9/11. The main difference between those who lived and those who died was the ability to wrap their brains around the imminent danger immediately. The survivors 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.

Just think.

Think about our current society, obsessed with the latest family dramas on so-called reality television and the newest fast food restaurant.  How high are the chances that those folks will be able to accept a dramatic change of life, one that means that they must produce their food, dig a latrine, and solve their own problems?

Don’t let our lifestyle of convenience spoil your ability to make decisions and rescue yourself. Take steps to make problem-solving your lifestyle. Be ready for the day when the answer is not as close as a 30-minute round trip to the store to pick it up.

Don’t wait for someone to tell you the answers. Figure things out, learn from experience, repair, substitute, and create.

Be in the minority.

Think. Just think.

What about you?

Do you think modern life is making you soft? Do you practice the skills on which you plan to rely when the SHTF? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

About Daisy

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, gun-toting blogger who writes about current events, preparedness, frugality, voluntaryism, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, The Organic Prepper. She is widely republished across alternative media and she curates all the most important news links on her aggregate site,

Daisy is the best-selling author of 4 books and runs a small digital publishing company.  She lives in the mountains of Virginia with her family. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter.


Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • Best article ever. It is amazing that you have lived so long. People get killing mad when they read these kind of articles (what few there are). Good stuff, enjoyed every word, and wish it was required reading in Congress.

  • You are right on about most people buying all their solutions and not having the experience to think their way through problem solving. If access to the internet was to go down long term many especialy the younger generation would not even know how to communicate. So many text or Kick or use twitter or facebook instead of actually talking. The number of people I have met who don’t know how to cook a simple meal from scratch is amazing. (I am a bit of a recluse and most untrained people were met at work. It seems in the case of couples the guy more often can cook!)
    If you have skills and survival tools use them and offer to teach these skills to any one who shows any interest. Cultivate community cooperation among friends and neighbors. Share your surplus and help those who need help. I the worst case SHTF possibilities happen it will take groups of people working together as family and community to survive. Other wise in the final end there will be no one to bury the last survivor.

  • Regarding that video you posted. Wow. Just Wow. I would have thought it was staged, it was so crazy. Talk about frightening. There is actually someone out there like her just begging the government. And that she owns no other clothes but what she claims to have on? What? She lives in New York for crying out loud. What on earth will happen to her and her mindset when things really go bad in our country? I pray for wisdom for all who would listen and do for themselves.

  • I rechecked the comments today, hoping there would be hundreds of responders. Evidently, people don’t even know how to react to the truth of your article. Two comments and no more! Maybe we have truly reached the point in our push button world that we can’t understand how far we have fallen. So sad.

  • Great article and so very true. I couldn’t even get through the whole clip of that woman…it was pathetic.

    This is the whole reason in a nutshell as to why there would be such a huge die off in the event of a true TEOTWAWKI.

    Thanks for speaking the truth, you rock!

    Melissa in SC

  • Thanks for the great article. It reminds me of what my Grandad would say … “Eat it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”.
    He would say that whenever we’d run out of something, or something would break or if we were wishing for something that we didn’t have.

  • Actually, what I remember from Sandy was, after it was over, one of my readers emailed me with the most wonderful letter. She had been reading my blog and decided to put some things in action. When the storm hit, she had about three month’s worth of food – and water – put away, and alternative ways to heat and light her home. She and her family sat there cozy and comfortable, listening to the radio, until everything was working again.

    My eight year old was very confused by that video and wants to know why they need gas and food and clothes after only three days. And he says they should put a fire in the wood stove to keep warm. 😛 Last winter we were snowed in for one three-week period and then “mudded in” when the roads thawed for another three-week period. We hardly noticed.

    I need to explain to him a little bit more why cities are terrible, terrible places to live.

    • What a wonderful letter. I know that it must have warmed your heart to hear that your words made a radical difference in someone’s life. 🙂

  • The first time I saw that Staten Island video I thought it was fake, a setup to make the politicians look like caring human beings whose services were so desperately needed by the people, necessitating those high taxes and high salaries, when, in reality, they could care less, other than when it’s time to vote.

  • Great article. Unfortunately, there are MANY others like those in the Staten Island video who have become so dependent on others to survive.

  • Wow, so true and at the same time disturbing. Let’s face it … most city dwellers above the 3rd floor may not have a chance and maybe they give up or maybe they just don’t think about it. Country folk who have been brought up to be self sufficient may fare better …. but not in all cases, I am afraid. We have become, as a group, so dependent on the generosity of the government that we slack off …. way wrong! The calculations are that 90% of the US population will succumb in an EMP scenario within 2 years …. way too generous! I give them 30 days and not because I am mean or evil … but because water runs out quickly. If no one has a supply – then thirst and disease from dirty water take over. Food? most only have a 3 day or less supply. It’s time folks to belly up and take responsibility for your own and your family’s survival. Or, you can hope the beneficent government will save your bacon.

  • Holy Cow! That woman in the video was going bonkers…3 days?? Never, Never wait for government to save you! We are in Pennsylvania. No power for 10 days after Sandy. I just used some preps and rolled with it. Made an outdoor fire, roasted some “camp style” cuisine and slept in one bed with kids, cat and dog!

  • I give 4×4 tours during the Summer in the San Juan Mountains near Telluride Colo. My point is the subject of how on earth these folks worked and mined in these rugged mountains, it is just beyond their comprehension. I always comment that if the west was dependent on modern man to be settled, well, you get my point 😉 It will certainly be some interesting times!!!!

  • Hi,

    You are right 20% as per my experience. But planning for worst just makes you prejudiced. It does not help you cope with failure. Also if you see nature all animals evolve with each generation to cope with new environmental challenges. You cannot learn 19th century skills to survive in 21st century. You cannot afford wasting time on low skilled activities which can be done in more productive ways. This is just evolution. Guys you cannot just go back to forest living if you are not able to cope with the pressures of modern life. The worst issue of modern life is people are not able to tolerate others. You cannot cut yourself from humanity. People start sulking at the

    Aravind R

  • You said about the 911 attack and those who perished

    “”””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.”””””

    How were they supposed to know the building was wired with explosives and it was going to be demolished by megalomaniacs? According to the laws of physics and reason, they should not have had to get out immediately to survive. All they needed to do is avoid the fire above them, or get below the fire if they were above it.

    The ones who fled in panic were not of the best survival instinct. They were cowardly and selfish, while others were more in control of themselves and the expected situation. That the building was collapsed with explosives in a planned demolition does not change that fact.

    • While paranoia and hallucinations perhaps have some evolutionary value, your analysis flowing from those personality traits holds no utility for those who need to learn to endure. There was no explosive added to those buildings, despite all the widespread, nonsensical ponderings. Fly a big airplane into a structure and you’ve added huge mass to the loads that structure carries, while inflicting powerful oblique stresses and then worsening it all with metal-melting heat weakening the structure arising from the fire caused by the crash & leaking fuel from the plane.

      But even if your nutty theory were correct, your conclusion is still absurd. When such bad things happen, the most rational response is to evacuate. That’s why all modern buildings are designed to permit speedy egress, why they are required to post clear signs clearly indicating the way out. What in heaven’s name is cowardly about escaping fire and unknown hazards? There was nothing for them to protect, nobody they could shelter. Flight was the only intelligent thing to do. And selfish? I would hope so. Everyone’s first duty is to protect himself. Only then can he help others.

      You seem to think that after the catastrophe of impact, all those folks should have done a rapid structural analysis, then said to themselves that they calculate that the additional imposed forces, shock, and heat would not overwhelm the design capacity. In the absence of such structural overload capacity, of COURSE they should have evacuated. And since they would not have the data to properly conduct such a series of complex calculations in a timely fashion, then the only logical reaction to that horrific situation is flight. There’s nothing cowardly about acting with the most self-protection. Indeed, since there was no obvious benefit to anyone else for them to remain, I cannot fathom how you can suggest that such behavior is “cowardly”. Perhaps if there were people in wheelchairs, and others fled without helping them, then you could so label them. But in this context, you are just plain wrong, even ignoring your other errors.

      • “metal-melting heat weakening the structure arising from the fire caused by the crash & leaking fuel from the plane.” Hmmm, That’s what must have dropped WT7. No conspiracy, Nothing to see here, now I finally understand what happened. Thanks for clarifying.

    • Any time there is a fire or explosion anywhere, getting out of the building is always your best option. Saying that those who ran were selfish and stupid is… selfish and stupid. Save your own ass so you can help someone else on the way.

  • On point, as usual, Daisy. The biggest problem that we now face in the execution of this strategy is that things are not designed to be repaired. Parts are glued together, spare parts are not made, and so much is now run by circuit boards and software that the problem may not be a broken part but a broken line of code, encrypted code that we have no access to. All of us need to assess our “stuff” to determine what can be repaired, and if it can’t be, we need to think about replacing it with something that can, while there is still time. Even my new chainsaw has a computer controlled ignition. I’m having my old one rebuilt because it uses points and a condenser.

    • Clay, you are correct. I am having transmission trouble on my 2010 Camry. While getting it looked at, I was told to not buy a new vehicle with a specific transmission because it is DISPOSABLE!!!! As in NOT REBUILDABLE. Not that I would buy a new car, but this information was startling to me.

  • Yes. Modern life has made us all soft. But, there remains folk like me who live with one foot in the past. We’ve lived it most of our lives and we aren’t likely to forget our woodcraft, animal husbandry, and agricultural skills.

    We remember how to solder, weld, build structures, make repairs, diagnose problems and ad lib solutions. Create our own electric power grid.

    We hunt, we fish, we prospect for gold. We can make our own beer, wine and whiskey, as well as distill elixirs, tinctures and make poultices. We know the difference between an elderberry and a pokeberry.

    Hard? Definitely.
    Impossible? Not by a long shot.

    The main impediment to these activities will, of course, be security. You can’t start rebuilding society until the bullets stop flying. But, for every problem, there IS a solution.

  • Estimate your degree of addiction-captivity-slavery by how much and how often your need and use of money is required to make your life go well. As much effort and time required to sustain that amount is the measure of the degree of slavery. The richest people in the world are those who own their own time, whether rich or poor, they and not slaves to the system. True Freedom and Liberty are unknown perspectives these days. It is called “Money Magic” of ancient Babylonian origin and most likely much further back than that, has been on the planet for ever; it is “The Beast”, controlling all human activity except for those who are conscious enough to avoid it!

  • #2 and #4 are probably the most important. I found to get things done is very simple to understand but very HARD to do.

    It’s called, JUST DO IT!!!

    Remember when your father use to tell you that when you argued with him? You did it didn’t you? 😉

  • Reminds me of when my poor 40 year old refrigerator decided to quit working right. No one repairs them any more, so I was forced to buy an new one. The delivery “kids” complained about how heavy the old one was. Well, duh, they were made to last and be repaired. Sad state of affairs. You can’t fix the fridge yourself any more and you can’t even buy the freon to recharge them yourself now.

  • Back in the 1880’s if they ran out of oregano they would have substituted hemp and later laid in the hammock on the front porch mesmerized by the trails left by the fireflies.
    Or did without.

    Even the Amish have adapted a little. It’s sobering to realize life was ‘short and brutish’ before sanitation and knowledge in general. There’s a balance between old and new, what works learned by trail and error. Up to the Civil War medicine wasn’t something you would want. Maybe being dumbed down is the residual effect of trying to be an Empire to the World and talking more than doing? How many talk shows on on tv are there? Oprah to MSN.

  • Excellent story. I would also like to share with you that every day I get 30-40 emails. I always look for the ones from you so I can open them first. I find your insights to be relevant & interesting in many ways so thank you very much.

  • i trust in Jesus. since most of what we prep
    for is the end of our world, as predicted…in the bible…caused by the minds of fallen men… there the soution is…in the bible.

    trust in Him and know all these things will come to pass.

    we arent
    in Kansas anymore, dorothy.

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