Truth be told, I don’t do the New Year’s Resolution thing — at least, not in the traditional sense. I do take a look at the past year, figure out what I did well (and not so well), and make some guidelines to do better in the coming twelve months. I’m more interested in broad strokes, in general directions, than in the details; I’ve found that the more detailed my resolutions, the more quickly they give way to the realities of life. From what I’ve found, this is true for the overwhelming majority of people. As anyone who owns a gym can tell you, those weight-loss resolutions usually end before the month of January is out!
I think that’s because resolutions are made naively and idealistically and without sufficient consideration given to all the other things we need to do. Resolutions are also “soft”, in that they’re promises to ourselves and are therefore easier to break than promises to others.
That’s why I don’t make specific resolutions. Instead, I outline a broad direction for the year and move in that direction as much as I can, when I can. I find that, by the end of the year, I’m generally further ahead than when I started. Isn’t that the whole idea?
How about doing the same thing for your personal security and your family’s safety in 2016? I’m going to suggest one minor thing to you that, if done consistently over the year, will make you and your family far safer and more secure than you are right now: when you get up each morning, ask yourself “what can I do today to keep myself and my loved ones a little safer than we were yesterday?”
That’s all. It’s deceptively simple, but it’s also something that I don’t see a lot of people doing — even (perhaps especially) in the training world, where we’re focused on specifics rather than the generalities.
This doesn’t mean that you need (or even should) think about guns and shooting all the time; while the firearm can be a useful tool to respond to an attack, it doesn’t actually keep you out of trouble and it’s only useful in a very small percentage of human interactions. I’ll grant you that when they’re needed they can be critical to survival, but importance and frequency don’t necessarily go together!
Instead of thinking about the next gun you’re going to buy or the next match you’re going to shoot, get your head back to the basics. The reason we have those guns is so that we can survive a lethal attack on our lives by a criminal. That’s certainly the apex of personal security, but there are a lot of things which don’t rise to that level of urgency which may still pose a threat to our livelihood — if not our lives. Thinking about personal security and family safety in small steps allows you to get back to the basics: it’s about living a life that’s as free from danger as you can make it.
You might decide, for instance, that today’s step might be to not check your messages or emails while you’re driving. Now I know it’s actually illegal in most states to be doing things like that while driving, I also notice that a huge percentage of the people on the road are paying absolutely no heed to those laws. If you’re one of them, decide that you’re not going to do that today. Make a small step toward building a new habit of NOT picking up your phone while you’re behind the wheel.
On another day you might decide that your first step is to order a security camera system for your home. They’ve never been more affordable or easier to install, and with an app on your smartphone you can actually monitor them from almost anywhere. The security cameras give you two important things: a layer of protection through early warning, and a record of crimes for prosecution. By carefully configuring the software you can have alerts sent to your phone whenever something out of the ordinary happens and give you time to respond.
One morning’s answer might be to finally sign up for that tactical medicine or trauma response course. A course that teaches you basic trauma first aid can be completed easily in a long afternoon, and a suitable trauma kit can be carried just about anywhere. Since life-threatening trauma is far more common than a mugger with a knife, this is something you’re very likely to need to help yourself and the people around you.
Your answer might contain the realization that your CCW license class wasn’t really what you needed to know how to use your handgun against a surprise attacker, and that you really should sign up for a real defensive shooting course. There are a lot of good instructors out there, and you can decide which one is for you by following the advice in this article and in this followup article.
If you travel a lot, especially to areas where you can’t carry your firearm, that question might lead you to do something about your unarmed defensive skills. I’ve said before that I believe the most important self defense tool you can carry is a high-intensity flashlight. It is useful over a wide range of circumstances, fulfills several roles (early warning — search and identification; distraction; and defense), and can be carried anywhere. If you can take a class in how to use it as a personal security tool through those roles, like the superb one offered by Julie Loeffler, so much the better. Don’t have a good flashlight yet? Make yourself a promise to get one today!
One mundane yet critical thing you could do would be to control your distractions when you’re in a public environment. I’ve said before that one of the keys to situational awareness is controlling your distractions: your phone, for instance, is probably the biggest one but you can surely think of others. Controlling your distractions means that you consciously limit the amount of your awareness they consume, leaving that free to devote to your surroundings. You can’t magically make more awareness, but you can choose how to spend that which you do have. Not allowing distractions to consume an inordinate amount of that precious resource is a big step in staying safe.
A very good answer to that question would be to increase your knowledge of personal defense and safety. Of course you can read the articles I have on this blog, and sign up for my newsletter (there’s a link below), but there are other resources: the Personal Defense Network has a big selection of videos and articles; blogs like Active Response Training, No Soft Targets, Growing Up Guns and The Tactical Professor (to name just a few) all have great insights into the world of self protection, family preparedness, and home defense that will definitely help you in your planning.
It all starts, however, with asking yourself that question in the morning. It’s not hard to do, it’s easy to remember, and looking for real answers — no matter how small or insignificant they may seem — will go a long way to your being safer at the end of this year than you are today.
Ask and answer, every morning: “what can I do today to keep myself and my loved ones a little safer than we were yesterday?” It’s a little thing that anyone can do.
How about you?
– Grant Cunningham