How to Survive ANYTHING in 3 Easy Steps

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You can have enough food to ride out 15 years of Armageddon. You can have a fully stocked retreat or a bunker. You can have so much ammo stashed that your floorboards are groaning.  You may have followed your favorite preparedness book’s guidelines to the letter, and thus have all of the physical aspects of survival in place.

But regardless of this, you may not be fully prepared.

Because surprisingly enough, none of these is an indication of “the prepper mindset.” Those items are a great start, but until your head is fully involved in the game, you’re not actually prepared.

To me, the pinnacle of preparedness is a way of thinking about pretty much everything you encounter. It’s a unique way of looking at a situation, assessing the options, and acting that defines the prepper mindset. Think about any stressful situation that has ever happened to you.  Once you accepted the fact that it had happened you were able to set a course of action. Once you had definitive steps to take, you probably felt much calmer. You took control of the things you could, and you executed your plan.  Only by taking that first step – accepting that this mishap had indeed occurred – could you take the next two.

There are 3 steps to handling any crisis with aplomb. While the execution isn’t always easy, making these steps second nature will greatly increase your chances of survival, no matter what kind of disaster you are facing.

1.) Accept.

No matter what situation comes your way, the first step is to accept that whatever the event is, it really happened.  This is tougher than it sounds, because our minds are programmed to protect us from emotional trauma.  Cognitive dissonance means that when a reality is uncomfortable or doesn’t jive with a person’s beliefs, that person may opt to believe in something false just to assuage his desire for comfort. Psychologist Leon Festinger, who identified the principal of cognitive dissonance, suggested  “that a motivational state of inner tension is triggered by logically inconsistent ways of thinking.”

If you’re wondering exactly how powerful cognitive dissonance can be, check out Amanda Ripley’s book, The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why.  Ripley, a journalist, covered many disasters of immense scale: plane crashes, natural disasters, and 9/11.  She became curious about the difference between those who survived, and those who did not, wondering if it was dumb luck or if there was some other quality that made survival more likely. She interviewed hundreds of survivors and got her answer.  The ability to immediately accept what was occurring was the quality most of the survivors possessed.

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.

When disaster strikes, you can’t spend 5 minutes thinking, “This can’t actually be happening.”  It is happening, and moving past accepting that propels you through the first step into the second one.

2.) Plan.

Once you’ve accepted that this incident is indeed going down, you must devise a plan. It’s a whole lot easier to come up with a plan if you’ve spent just a little bit of time doing that previously.

This is where more mental preparedness skills come into play. Last week I put together a list for “Prepper Movie Night.” To build your prepper mindset, develop the habit of watching situations unfold and thinking through them.  What would you do in such a situation? What are the potential pitfalls? What is likely to go wrong?

Watching movies and reading books with survival situations is like a dry run for actual events. Obviously, it’s not the same as having an actual experience, but it’s a good way to practice the skills of assessing a situation and making a plan.

You can also work on building your awareness.  My friend Graywolf told me about “Kim’s Game“.  He said,

Groups including everything from the Boy Scouts to sniper schools to government spy agencies and surveillance teams use a simple game to teach situational awareness and develop your memory. This is a fantastic game that you can play with your kids or your team to get them to be much better at noticing and remembering details.

The game is based on a book by Rudyard Kipling, and it teaches you to immediately observe your surroundings and commit these observations to memory. I have played a version of this with my kids for years, asking them questions like:

  • What are 3 things you could use in this restaurant as a weapon?
  • Can you find 3 ways out of this building?
  • Can you close your eyes and tell me how many people are sitting at the counter? What do they look like?

The habit of observing and absorbing information before a situation occurs will help in the creation of your plan. You don’t have to spend the extra time taking in the specifics, because you’ve already done so automatically.

When you make your plan, don’t stop at just one.  The best-laid plans are at the mercy of a fluid situation, and disaster often comes in bundles. If your Plan A doesn’t work, you must immediately go back to Step 1 and accept that it didn’t work, then move on to Plan B.

3.) Act.

Finally, this is the step that will save your life.  You’ve accepted the situation and made your plan. Now, it’s time to act.

This sounds easier than it is.  Many people freeze in a disaster situation.  The ability to break this paralysis is paramount to your survival.

“Freezing” is called “tonic immobility” in behavioral science and it is a biological impulse.  A study exploring the “freeze response” to stressors, describes the reaction:

Part of Barlow’s (2002) description of an adaptive alarm model suggests that a freeze response may occur in some threatening situations. Specifically, freezing — or tonic immobility — may overwhelm other competing action tendencies. For example, when fleeing or aggressive responses are likely to be ineffective, a freeze response may take place.

Similar to the flight/fight response, a freeze response is believed to have adaptive value. In the context of predatory attack, some animals will freeze or “play dead.” This response, often referred to as tonic immobility (Gallup, 1977), includes motor and vocal inhibition with an abrupt initiation and cessation… Freezing in the context of an attack seems counterintuitive. However, tonic immobility may be the best option when the animal perceives little immediate chance of escaping or winning a fight (Arduino & Gould, 1984; Korte, Koolhaas, Wingfield, & McEwen, 2005). For example, tonic immobility may be useful when additional attacks are provoked by movement or when immobility may increase the chance of escaping, such as when a predator believes its prey to be dead and releases it.

Some of our data suggested that reports of freeze were more highly associated with certain cognitive symptoms of anxiety (e.g., confusion, unreality, detached, concentration, inner shakiness). This leads to some very interesting speculation regarding whether freeze responses are also manifested cognitively (i.e., the cognitive system, together with the behavioral system, being shut down). There has been some speculation that a form of cognitive paralysis occurs due to immense cognitive demands that occur in the context of life-threatening situations or stressors (Leach, 2005).

So, in the context of this particular study, the freeze response could be related to an overload of stimuli because of the demands of creating your plan.  By having thought through various situations and getting into the habit of quickly developing plans, you can override your body’s natural desire to “freeze” and you can take definitive, potentially life-saving, action.

In an emergency, hesitation can kill you. The faster you can move through steps one and two, and then act, the more likely you are to escape many situations.

Please keep in mind that sometimes, your action actually seems like inaction. For example, a person who is aware they would have little chance of victory in a direct combat situation against a stronger, more experienced opponent might take the action of hiding and being very still. Sheltering in place in some situations is a better course of action than proceeding out into more danger.  The key is to think clearly and assess each situation on its own merit.

Here are some examples.

You don’t have to be in the midst of a terrorist attack or on a crashing plane to apply the three steps above.  Here are a few examples of applying the three steps above to other situations:

Job Loss: We all know the possibility of job loss is not that far-fetched.  If the primary bread-winner in your home became suddenly unemployed, here’s how the 3-step Survival Method would apply:

  1. The job is gone. The income source is gone. You can’t go out to an expensive dinner like you’d planned, or take that pricey vacation because as of now, you have no income. You must not act as though your income is the same as it was yesterday.
  2. You go through your bank records.  You check how much money is going out, how much you have, and figure out what expenses you can cut. You check your pantry and calculate how long the food will last.
  3. You take decisive action, immediately canceling cable, pushing back the family vacation indefinitely, sending out newly-rewritten resumes, and dialing back the grocery bill. You sell some stuff just sitting in your basement and you fill out the paperwork for unemployment insurance.

Car Accident: Sometimes the aftermath of an accident is more dangerous than the accident itself.

  1. Your car is halfway down a ravine, held in place by a groaning tree that could give at any moment. Below you is a sheer drop off. You have to get your kids out of the car before it plunges further down because no one could survive that.
  2. You assess the kids and it seems everyone is conscious and relatively uninjured. The car, however, is not so great and could tumble the rest of the way down at any moment. The electronics on the car are working. You speak calmly to them and explain that they will be going out the back driver window one at a time. They are to immediately run to the left and get as far away from the vehicle as possible. You will be right behind them. The meeting point is the top of the hill by the big rock.
  3. You roll down the window, cut a jammed seat belt with the knife from the console, and wait for the kids to get out and clear of the vehicle. Then, you make your own escape.

Convenience Store Robbery:  Occasionally, you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  1. As you’re browsing through the cooler checking the price of a bottle of water, you hear a crash, then shouting up near the cash register. It’s not a movie, a robbery is actually going down.
  2. You listen and realize the criminal is armed. You are, too, but you have your small children with you, so taking aggressive action is not an option. You decide that your best bet is to hide, but be ready to defend if necessary.
  3. You duck down and whisper to the kids to be quiet. You direct them to a hidey-hole, you pull your weapon, and you get between them and anyone that might come down the aisle. Then, you wait.

Evacuation Order: This almost happened to us one year during wildfire season.

  1. There is a giant fire drawing near. It is entirely possible that everything you own will go up in smoke. You have 15 minutes to get out.
  2. You grab the bug out bags, the safe full of documents, the pet carriers, and the photo albums. You also get swim goggles for the whole family and respirator masks out of your kit.
  3. Pets, kids, and important items are loaded in the vehicle. You’re already down the road in 10 minutes, while other people are still trying to put together an overnight bag.

Have you ever had to use your prepper mindset to survive?

When I originally wrote this article, I’d never heard of the OODA Loop. It’s an even more detailed decision-making process that can help you make the best choices quickly.

Studying situations in which others have survived is a valuable way to develop your prepper mindset. Have you ever been caught up in the midst of a situation where your preparedness mindset was helpful?  Want to tell us about it?

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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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  • Damn…(+ deep sigh)

    Ya know Miss Daisy..’tis a cryin’ shame “WE” never crossed paths a few decades ago, methinks!

    …as “YOU’RE a KEEPER”…never doubt!!!!


    Mega kudos, per your ‘critical-thinking’ skill-sets / talents / other attributes(grin), ma’am!!!

  • I don’t know if I’d say you could survive anything, but the concept is a good one. Thanks for sharing.

  • I remember on 9/11, I was 23 (and a very inexperienced 23 at that) and working in Boston at the time. I barely knew how to drive, and the commute into Boston sucks anyway, so I was taking the subway back and forth from work to a parking lot a few cities away from Boston. I’d been watching the events unfolding on the Internet, getting eye-witness accounts on a discussion forum from one of my friends, who worked within view of the buildings that were hit in NYC. My cell phone was completely useless and I had no radio. All the news sites were so flooded with people, I found myself tuning into some online radio station in a place called Regina (and the way they said it, it took me a while to realize they *weren’t* saying “Vagina”) in Canada, who happened to have fewer people tuning in, so I was able to get the news about what was happening from there. (Thank you, Canada!)

    We eventually got word from our CEO that we were being evacuated for that day (because at the time, no one had any idea if there were more terror cells waiting to do awful things in Boston, rather than just having them hop aboard planes to go destroy other people’s lives in other states… as it turned out, over the next week, they did round up a few terrorists in raids), but anyway….

    It was so unnerving that day. It was remarkably quiet, given the number of people who were milling around looking lost and shell-shocked and not knowing what to do. There was no getting a cab that day. I made a bee line for the subway station, and it was something of a miracle that I got on. It was packed (packed in a way that makes a sardine can look like everyone’s got their own 5-acre property in between fish) and the conductor said it was the last train that was allowed to leave that platform. I thanked my lucky stars that my feet were working to get me there so quickly, even if my brain wasn’t fully functional that day, because I was seriously thinking I was going to have to walk home the 15 miles (because to this day, I have no idea how to get to the parking lot a few cities from Boston, unless I use a subway tunnel). I couldn’t even have paid someone to give me a ridge, because I had no money on me.

    It was after that day that I began taking an interest in how NOT to end up like the people who were left milling around the streets of Boston with no public mode of transportation to get them home.

  • Excellent article. The “three things” game is a great idea. Thanks for providing useful Information that has given me plenty to think about.

  • This was a large number of years ago; even before mobile telephones that preceded cell phones and Mapquest.
    I was driving a frozen food delivery to a new customer’s location. The salesman for the account was riding along to give directions and it was his first time in such a large vehicle.
    A very heavy rain began. there was a sudden shout of “Turn Here, we are about to miss the exit!!”. A quick lane change to the exit ramp and an unfortunate, immediate partial brake failure put the truck into a full spin.
    I was able to accept, observe and plan:
    1. this can’t be stopped
    2. when we hit the shoulder, the truck will flip
    3. warn the passenger to hold on
    4. twine myself through the pedals and steering wheel so I don’t fall on the passenger (who is now starting to babble in fright)
    5. put my window down so I can get out to kill the reefer engine to avoid fire.
    6. turn the truck engine off to avoid fire
    7. enjoy the view as we did 3 360 degree spins.

    I did not know at the time what “prepper” was but you can see that 1 through 6 illustrates the point of the article. Number 7 is just because I am strange that way. Once you have done all you can, make peace with your situation and be ready for the next step

  • Cannot thank you enough for all of the amazing and valuable information I get from you. You’re the best!!

  • The author, Laurence Gonzales, has written two books about survival, Deep Survival and Everyday Survival, both of which are excellent. He asked the same questions as Amanda Ripley, whose book I would like to read. Mr. Gonzales says research shows that only perhaps twenty percent of the population will NOT freeze in an emergency and that you can train yourself not to do that. Great article!

  • This happened to me when we had a teenager with two knives run it to our chess club. I hadn’t mentally taken myself through a dangerous situation like this before. I had a knife and I could have called 911 on my phone, but I froze. It really shouldn’t all 6 of us there up.

  • I got so much out of this article on 3 Steps to survive disaster. Really, really helpful. For me it was a laser focus on what I should already know. I do have an example from decades ago. I was about 15 years old. Riding my bike in a rural area, exploring, which was my favorite thing to do. A man in a station wagon kept turning around and passing me again and again. I got a creepy feeling that he was after me. I was young, pretty and alone. He was driving out of sight around a bend, turning and coming back. I knew that I was prey. I accepted the situation. The risk of telling myself he was just lost was too high. I did assess my options. I could not outrun him on a bike. There was nowhere to hide and no turns to choose. No houses and no businesses. Suddenly a woman in a large sedan was heading down the road toward me. I stepped out in front of her and flagged her down. I told her I was in danger and asked for a ride to anywhere but there. She was nervous, she wanted to say no. But I was aggressive. She was my only chance to avoid getting raped. I opened the door to her back seat and removed a tire from my bike, which I did very quickly since I had to do it frequently. I shoved my bike into her back seat and got in her front seat while she was still thinking about giving me a ride. The creepy man came back again and passed us. I pointed him out, I asked her to start driving. I told her I just needed to get to an intersection with any type of business. Anything. I was begging at this point. She never actually agreed. I just asked her to go wherever she was going and I would get out as soon as we came to anyplace that would have a phone. She never agreed. But I kept her focused on going wherever she was going. When it was safe I got out and thanked her profusely. She still had a bewildered look on her face. I had just avoided being raped.

  • Wow. This is why I detest this website, it’s full of pablum, nonsense, bad advice and misguided ideas.

    It’s obvious that you simply make up topics on topics you know absolutely nothing about and have virtually no experience with. You may be tickling a few ears, but certainly not mine. Your concepts are very weak, undeveloped and often wrong. You apparently don’t run your articles past more experienced people either.

    This is a website for the weak-minded, easily led, casual person who does not take much of anything seriously.

    • I’d love to visit your website, JR, and get the REAL information. Do feel free to share a link.

      Best wishes,

      • Daisy, love how you always take the high road..I’ve learned so much from this site..Love your hysteria -free ,well thought out information. We need level heads like yours , now more than ever.

        Thankyou, Susan

    • Jeez, JR – with an attitude like that, why are you even here? Obviously because you’re a TROLL who gets his jollies with ad hominem attacks. If you don’t like it here, don’t visit and definitely don’t bother to post. Ms. Luther obviously has better manners than I do when it come to idiots like you.

      Sorry, Daisy, the Devil made me do it!

    • What a brilliant contribution! What would we do without your imaginary unexpressed expertise.
      I guess the world isn’t grateful enough for proper appreciation of Pinheads…

  • “Survival is not the strongest instinct, familiarity is.” – Virginia Satir
    One of my favorite deepest quotes to understand human psychology.

  • Hello Daisy and all

    All the best for Memorial Day

    I’m not an American nor do I live in America, but have had quite a few assignments in your excellent country over the years, and the last quarter century I have almost always spent my vacation dollars doing a ride somewhere in America. Everyplace is different!

    Anyway, as a long-time reader, I wanted if I might feed back some thoughts on our current predicament, specifically with supply chain woes, once we survive whatever predicament is current…

    As a medic working in many remote parts of the world I have been at both ends of the supply chain – i.e. sending stuff ahead and waiting for it to arrive 🙂

    I think, as is true with many aspects of the current Chinese virus global poisoning, we have not yet begun to see significant effects from supply chain disruption, even though it is already happening – to torture the metaphor, it’s too far upstream at the moment for visibility, but it will make its way towards us building up speed and momentum as it comes.

    I have never seen so many ships idle waiting for cargoes, and being unable to unload existing cargoes (flash check Singapore port); and while I have visited the aircraft boneyards in Arizona, never in my lifetime has there been an additional airliner boneyard necessary in central Australia (flash check Alice Springs…

    From the preparation point of view, I don’t know anything different or know it better than anybody else. But if I may suggest, we’re probably not worrying enough yet about the second-order supply chain difficulties. In other words, yes, things we have learnt to need from China we will either boycott, or not get. But, a considerable amount of secondary manufacturing in other countries is done with Chinese raw and semi-refined materials; for example, most people know that India manufactures far more finished pharmaceuticals for the world than China does thanks to historical happy accident, but most people probably don’t know that almost all of the precursors for India’s pharmaceutical manufacturing come from China.

    And the same is true of many other consumer goods that we (think we) need, and perhaps more importantly, retail hardware and electronics.

    Forgive me, I’m taking up too much of your commenting space. I best get to the point 🙂 what I think we need to worry about less is guns, ammunition, redoubts, Golden Hordes and plagues… and more about seeing a deteriorating supply in engineered parts, clothing, footwear, over-the-counter medicines as well as prescribed medicines. In fact a whole range of other items which won’t appear on our radar until we gradually-then-suddenly run out; tires, hoses, belts and pipes; antifreeze and deicing; central heating parts and furnace components; hydraulic and other sorts of pumps; food production machinery; ropes, cables, and hawsers; pulleys, bearings, welders and polishers; and of course heavy equipment, be it cranes, tractors, compactors, engines and containers.

    Specifically for my concerns, medicines: a really long list to come here which I won’t bore you with, but I’d be particularly bothered by the imminent absence of antidepressants, tranquilizers and other psychotherapeutics; cardiovascular-active drugs; local anaesthetics, and anaesthetics in general; thyroid and other hormone drugs; and if you weren’t in America I’d be worried about continuing supply of anti-malaria and anti-tuberculosis drugs. Vaccines, diabetic testing kits, asthma drugs, and vitamins are also likely to be a future problem, and alternative sources will need to be sought I think quite urgently for dressings, suture materials, he most states, dental supplies and chemical contraceptive preparations. People who need ostomy supplies will be wise to stock up a few months ahead. And try to finish on a positive note (but not really) for everybody who uses KY jelly – expect a fraction more friction in the future.

    All the best!

  • Good article, haven’t seen the other comments, someone may have already recommended.


    May be hard to do, but in a bind, it works on all scales.

  • Good article and lots of things to consider. I think the “normalcy bias” is a big factor for many people. They just keep waiting for things to get back as they had been as they assumed that things would always be the same. Many will wait and wait for this……

    • Things are not going back to normal and even IF they did, they would not stay there for long. We can read the Bible and match it up with today’s headlines and KNOW that is true. Read Revelation, Matthew 24, and
      2 Timothy 3:12-13, “…12Indeed, all who desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13while evil men and imposters go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”

      The ball is rolling and it will not stop. However, there will be God’s goodness even in the midst of darkness for His glory and His Kingdom. The question will be, will we be children of the Light or will we be children of darkness?

  • The one thought that has stuck with me for days after reading the article is, “No matter what situation comes your way, the first step is to accept that whatever the event is, it really happened.”

    My husband had a heart attack on May 14th this year. As I read the article and read that statement, I realized that the Holy Spirit of God revealed to me that what was happening to him was REAL and I needed to take action quickly. Thanks to the Lord, my husband is alive, home now, and getting a bit stronger, eating healthier, and walking.

  • Yes, I did have a situation where the preps and prepper mindset was helpful. Without notice, the water mains were being repaired in the street outside my apartment. I was very grateful to have water in the house. This was a trivial situation, and I could have walked half a block to get water in that case. But life was a bit more comfortable. Prepping is not just about the end of the world, but being ready for more common things as well.

  • My family was never into prepping but I guess we watched enough disaster movies that I learned Act First, Panic Later (which was good since I was a nurse for 20+ years). I could never handle those whiny shrieking people – and there’s always at least one in every movie – that never know what to do or, even worse, they do something that makes things worse. I’ve always handled what needed to be handled, and then have my fit later.
    I will try the observation game with my family; seems like a way to introduce how to save oneself without a panic. Thanks for the info.

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