Can buying less actually give you more safety?

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The concept of minimalism intrigues me, because of its emphasis on personal growth rather than the acquisition of things. It forces one to ask “what’s important to me?” and “what do I really need?” rather than “oh, look, free shipping if I spend more money than I originally intended to!”

Sadly, in this case the self defense and firearms media is always working against you.

Thinking of less

This came immediately to mind the other day when I saw an article that purported to show the reader “26 pieces of necessary self defense gear”. Inside was an advertising sales manager’s idea of a good self defense article: things you can buy that are in some way connected — however tangentially — to the desire to be protected. And, just coincidentally you understand, things their advertisers just happen to sell.

It consisted of some potentially useful (but untested) products, some well-intentioned but unrelated to actual self defense items, and (naturally) a bunch of really ridiculous things. All of which, of course, were presented as vitally important to you and your family’s safety!

It should have been titled what it really was: “26 gadgets to add to your already overfilled garage.” The only issue was that it would have been truth in advertising, and we simply can’t have any of that!

Fear is a useful sales tactic

Articles like this prey on two powerfully motivating fears. The first is the fear of victimization; defensive  preparedness is all about facing the reality that evil does occasionally visit good people, and being ready to protect ourselves from that evil if and when it should appear. Left unchecked, this fear can lead to paranoia — and paranoia sells product. After all, if I could show you a way to defeat evil by simply handing over your credit card, wouldn’t you be interested?

The second fear is one that has been around forever, but has become most insidious in the age of the internet: the Fear Of Missing Out (aka FOMO.) It stems from the early part of man’s existence, when not knowing something, or not having something, could mean injury or death.

As it happens, the part of our brain known as the amygdala is very adept at sensing when something is a threat to our survival, and not having or not knowing (or even not being a part of the group that has and knows) is enough to activate the amygdala’s systems.*

The result is a tiny amount of undefined but very real stress, a feeling that you’ll do almost anything to reduce. As it happens, a very quick way to reduce it is to buy something that makes you feel like you’re more prepared than you were before you bought it — until the next “must have” item comes along, of course.

Fight the fears with real preparedness

Real preparedness, on the other hand, is knowing and understanding where the threats to you and your family actually come from. By identifying them, ranking them in terms of their impact and their frequency, and then making solid plans for protecting yourself from them, you come away with a very real feeling of “well, that’s not so bad. I can handle that.”

Acknowledging the danger, and taking steps to mitigate its impact on your life, is the best way to get rid of the  fear of victimization. Believe it or not, it’s also a great way to get away from FOMO.

If you know what the danger is, and what things you need to deal with that danger, you can make a shopping list. Just as making a shopping list for the grocery store is the best way to prevent you from buying foods that aren’t healthy, a preparedness shopping list keeps you away from gadgets that don’t get you closer to your safety goals.

Once you have the things on your list, the things you know for a fact are what you need to be safer, the allure of dubious purchases dies. If you’ve properly done your job of identifying the dangers you face and what will really help you stay safe from them, you won’t be worrying that you’re missing out; you won’t be so tempted to hit the “Buy Now!” button to satisfy your fear that you don’t have what you need. You’ll know what you need and already have it (or have the plans to acquire it.)

Enough is plenty

Because preparedness isn’t tied to any specific place, you’re often required to carry what you need with you. Knowing what you need and how to use it, having it with you and not being weighed down by what you don’t, is important to being ready no matter where you are. It is the essence of preparedness.

As it happens, it’s also the essence of minimalism.

The next time you’re tempted to read one of those articles purporting to inform you of things you didn’t know you needed, stop and think deeply. If you feel anxiety pushing you to “just take a quick peek”, it’s a sign you probably need to make a preparedness shopping list instead of being seduced by junk food.

You’ll be happier in the long run.

— Grant

P.S.: No sales message here. If after an honest appraisal of your needs you decide that one of my books or classes would truly help you, you know where to find them.

* — http://www.slate.com/blogs/quora/2015/09/30/fomo_what_s_the_psychology_behind_the_fear_of_missing_out.html

 
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About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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