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Emergency Preparation: Survivor Mentality - July 29th 2014


"e should periodically cause ourselves to experience discomfort that we could easily have avoided. We might accomplish this by underdressing for cold weather or going shoeless. Or we might periodically allow ourselves to become thirsty or hungry, even though water and food are at hand, and we might sleep on a hard bed, even though a soft one is available."
A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William Irvine

a-guide-to-the-good-life
Learn how negative visualization, trichotomy of control and voluntary discomfort can help develop a survivor mentality.

Developing a survivor mentality starts long before an emergency event. The good thing about survivor mentality is it can be practiced everyday. Hopefully, you will never need to test your survivor mentality:


  1. Develop a survivor mentality by making, testing and evolving an emergency plan. Always have an alternative plan. People with a plan tend not to panic. Panic, fear, grief and ignorance kill more people than extreme events.
  2. Develop a survivor mentality by making, using and evolving a first aid kit. Every able person in the household should have basic first aid training and update that training every five years.
  3. Develop a survivor mentality by being physically fit enough to camp and develop bushcraft skills. Everyone should be able to start a fire, build a primitive shelter, and find and treat water. More advanced survival skills can be learned by fishing, hunting and gathering seasonal foods.
  4. Develop a survivor mentality by expanding your physical and mental comfort zone. This means also recognizing when you are reaching your physical and mental limitations and knowing when to rest.
  5. Develop a survivor mentality by expanding your creativity and intuitive knowledge. To the creative and knowledgeable, everything has multiply uses and even waste can be re-purposed into useful items.

Developing survival skills takes time and practice. It's obvious that these skills will be useful to a survivor mentality. But how can one expand our physical and mental comfort zone? A surprising answer comes from a book called A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William Irvine. When these skills are practiced regularly they can help a person remain calm and joyful even under difficult, uncomfortable or boring situations:

  1. Find out what's really important by using negative visualization. Negative visualization is the opposite of "counting your blessings". By imagining bad things, one learns to value what one has. Negative visualization helps identify what's really important in life while minimizing hedonic adaptation, which is the human drive to acquire more and more to have a base-line level of satisfaction.
  2. Practice the trichotomy of control in all aspects of life. The trichotomy of control helps identify the things you have complete control over, things you have partial control over, and the things have no control over. The practice is to focus life's energy on the things we have total or partial control over and ignore areas we have no control over. William Irvine states, "e waste our time and cause ourselves needless anxiety if we concern ourselves with things over which we have no control."
  3. Don't just imagine bad things happening, make bad things happen by undertaking a program of voluntary discomfort. Take a few days and live like the poor: "Instead of merely thinking about what it would be like to lose our wealth, we should periodically 'practice poverty': We should content ourselves with the 'scantiest of cheapest fare' and with 'coarse and rough dress'."

This program of voluntary discomfort isn't some sort of punishment, rather a technique to help increase our enjoyment of life. By welcoming discomfort we can see more clearly how good our lives are right now, while learning that we are tougher than we might have thought. We can also put away any fears we might harbor about losing our wealth or status in society.

"Most of us are "living the dream" -- living, that is, the dream we once had for ourselves. We might be married to the person we once dreamed of marrying, have the children and job we once dreamed of having, and own the car we once dreamed of buying. But thanks to hedonic adaptation, as soon as we find ourselves living the life of our dreams, we start taking that life for granted. Instead of spending our days enjoying our good fortune, we spend them forming and pursuing new, grander dreams for ourselves. As a result, we are never satisfied with our life. Negative visualization can help us avoid this fate."

If these techniques sounds intriguing, here is a lecture by William Irvine. He starts his lecture 7:00 minutes into the video.



SOS TIP:GO BOX Storage wants to help with your emergency preparation.  On August 22, 2014 GO BOX Storage will be giving away a Adventure Medical Day Tripper First Aid Kit on Facebook. Watch for the giveaway!

SOS TIP:If you don't use Facebook but would still like to enter to win, finish the following sentence in the comment section below: I'd like an Adventure Medical Day Tripper First Aid Kit because… (your answer). We need your answer to the question so we know who wants to win!

For more information please see the Emergency Preparation Series.