How Indecision Can Endanger Your Life

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How Indecision Can Endanger Your Life via The Survival Mom
My karate instructor often makes us do “kill me” drills. We, the students, have to stand with our eyes closed, wait to be “attacked” by a partner, and then execute a self-defense technique within one second of being attacked. If, when we open our eyes, we freeze or merely shriek in dismay, then my instructor says, “You took too long, you’re dead. He got you.”
My husband and I have been taking karate lessons for a very long time, and there are times that we still don’t do very well with this drill. Sometimes the most difficult part isn’t the execution of the technique or the timing, but trying to decide which cool technique out of all the many cool techniques in our arsenal we should use, because all of them are pretty awesome and have exciting-sounding names like, “Tiger Climbs the Mountain” and “Monkey Beats the Drums” and “The Dizzy Dragon.”
For the purpose of the exercise, it doesn’t matter which one you do, you just have to pick one. By the time your partner is stepping forward for the attack, it’s too late for hemming and hawing. The time for, “Umm?” and dithering has passed. It’s time to react.

Sometimes indecision doesn’t matter

Even during normal times it can sometimes be difficult to make a decision, especially in regards to the little things:

What color shirt should I wear today?

What flavor of ice cream should I buy?

Should I order something I already know I like from the restaurant’s menu, or branch out and try something new?

We dither, go back and forth, ask others for advice, etc. (“What do you think about this new entree? Is it good? What do you recommend?) Ordering lunch is hardly a crisis. A restaurant is (normally) a perfectly safe place to sit and think “umm” for as long as you need to.

However, in a real crisis, that indecision could realistically cost lives, including your own. I could cite many, many examples of this: fatalities as a result of Hurricanes Rita, Katrina, and Ike; or little Mary Ingalls who, when the chimney of her house caught fire, sat in a rocking chair gaping at it until her younger sister Laura saved her.

The time to make decisions is now

This is the “preparedness” part of “emergency preparedness.” If you know ahead of time what to do in a crisis and plan for a variety of contingencies, you will be much more likely to get through it to the other side. Think of things you must know immediately and instinctively to react in a sudden, possibly dangerous crisis. What decisions should you make now so there is no question at all when you must respond?[aweber-form]

Every person’s list will be unique, but here are a few questions to get you started:
  1. Where do you keep our Go Bags and what should you put in them?
  2. Where is there always a set of spare keys?
  3. Which compartment in your purse has the pepper spray?
    Imagine, if you will, needing it right then but having to dig to the bottom of your purse first, having to pull out extra diapers, little Johnny’s collection of toy cars, and a box of crayons.
  4. Is there a specific place in the house where you keep band-aids and antibiotic cream?
  5. Who are your emergency contacts, are their numbers pre-programed into your phone, and can the kids find them?
  6. If you have specialized emergency gear (HAM radio, water purification gadgets/ tablets, solar-powered cell phone charger), do you know how to actually use them?
  7. If you have to evacuate when you’re at home and the kids are at school, where/ when/ how will you meet up?
  8. What, besides, your Go Bags, should you take?
  9. In the event of a planned evacuation,at what point will you pack up and leave?

Practice, practice, practice.

In a lot of ways, answering the questions on your list will involve not just thinking things through but doing dry runs. This is why evacuation drills are so important. American embassies and military bases do evacuation drills on a regular basis for this very reason.

BUY NOW! Emergency Evacuations: Get Out Fast When It Matters Most by Lisa Bedford.

If you must execute an urgent evacuation and have 15 minutes to load up your car, buckle your kids, and get on the highway, there will be no time for panicking, and no time for “umm.” If, however, you have practiced, you will know what to do, where to go, what to say, etc. These things should be automatic and mindless.

Some decisions, like the ones listed above, can be made well ahead of time. Training yourself to react when you have fractions of a second to make a choice is more difficult. And there will be times when you will have to choose to do something, even when the pros and cons of each choice are not clear. Do you swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid the deer, or take your chances with the deer? Do you evacuate into dicey conditions to avoid the hurricane, or stick it out, not knowing exactly how your neighborhood will be affected by the storm?

If you wait too long to decide, the decision will be made for you, and it may not be the one you really wanted. And there won’t be any take-backsies, either: You will have to be committed to your decision and its consequences.

Being prepared

Back to the discussion about the karate drill. Ideally, in the seconds before the attack comes, as far as the drill is concerned, you’ll be able to think, “OK, I’ll do such-and-such and it will be fine.” But what if, in the heat of the moment, you find that your opponent is coming in at the wrong angle for your chosen technique to be effective? Or he’s moving too slowly? Too quickly?

If you’ve practiced your martial arts techniques enough, in the heat of the moment your training will take over and your muscles will know what to do, even if your brain is still a few seconds behind. This may mean altering the technique to your circumstances or choosing a different technique at the last nanosecond. You’ll be able to adapt to the unexpected, without consciously realizing it, thereby effectively defending yourself.

Put another way: The time to prepare is not in the seconds before the attack, but in all the time you’ve been taking karate lessons up to that point. (Ever thought of becoming involved in the martial arts? Here’s how to choose a dojo!)

If you haven’t discussed things with your family, sit down with them and do it as soon as possible. Pick a time and have an evacuation drill. Thinking ahead and planning out your overall plan for a crisis will not only make the experience more effective, it will also make it less stressful on all concerned.
How Indecision Can Endanger Your Life via The Survival Mom
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Beth Buck lives in Utah with her husband and three children. She has a degree in Middle Eastern Studies/ Arabic, a black belt in Karate, a spinning wheel, and a list of hobbies that is too long to list here.

9 thoughts on “How Indecision Can Endanger Your Life”

  1. Pingback: Prepper News Watch for December 14, 2015 | The Preparedness Podcast

  2. What a great article! Making instantaneous decisions is very difficult. Remember how some people in the towers on 9/11 sat at their desks, rearranging and tidying up? That is the mind freezing and refusing to deal with a right now emergency.
    It is good practice for the entire family to do drills on quick thinking. Everyone is afraid to make the wrong decision and practice helps the mind to reach decisions quickly. I liken it to driving on ice, through a forest. Just when you think it is all under control, a deer darts into your path. Right? Left? Slam on the brakes? All of us need to work on this problem until it is habit.

  3. We are trained, actually, not to be spontaneous. How many times have you been told to raise your hand and be given permission before you can speak.

  4. Good article and valid points to follow.
    As ablack belt I hope you know and understand that your learning in the martial arts has only just begun. Achieving your black belt only means you have completed the “prerequisites”, not unlike our HS courses we completed to qualify for college.
    This spring I assisted a friend with a martial arts demo at a fitness fair. He was to man the microphone and his students had a “routine” planned. Problem was one guy didn’t show up. The young 31 y/o black belt wanted to know what I wanted to do. I told him, “attack me anyway you can, punches, kicks, clinch and knee, tackle take down, etc. Just make it fast, hard, and real. The audience will see if it is choreographed. ” I’m the old guy at age 57 but the young guy never hit me. My friend and the young black belt were very surprised.
    Two books I suggest you read and study for defense training, survival training, or even starting and running a business are; The Book of Five Rings and The Art of War. Preppers will find these books very helpful.
    Keep training and preparing.

    1. Student, you are exceedingly correct! Every time I go into the dojo I’m struck by how little I actually know. Being a mom, I’ve had to slow down a bit every time I have a baby, so my progression has been a little slower than most. My goal is to stick with it until well after my hair turns gray!

      Thanks so much for suggesting those books!

  5. Pingback: Indicision? – Wolfdancer's Den

  6. Excellent article. Many forget emergencies happen in a split second. I am an FCC licensed Ham operator, highly involved in ARES/RACES emergency management, and teach all about grab and go bags and what specific contents must be in them, and replenished at least twice yearly. It’s common sense to many, others have no clue.
    Keep up the informative posts, and let’s hope people get educated.

  7. Pingback: How Indecision Can Endanger Your Life – Survival Mom – Wolfdancer's Den

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