Personality and Prepping: How to Boost Survival Savvy

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Until the COVID-19 lockdowns, I never thought about how my personality and prepping were related.

Although dismayed by the lockdowns, I was ecstatic my overbooked schedule was suddenly wiped clean. Perhaps I could finally recover from my perpetual people hangover. This sounded wonderful to an introvert like myself.

Contrast that with my 80-year-old friend who is ecstatic because a recent fall means she now has an excuse to leave her home for physical therapy. The lengthy drought of in-person interaction has been difficult for her; she misses people and the thrice-weekly outings cheer her immensely. She’s an extrovert. She gets her energy from being around people.

Can you relate to one of these responses?

My friend’s extroversion and my introversion influence how we feel about and approach human interaction. She’s energized by people and I’m not; I need interaction, just not as much.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that there’s a relationship between personality and prepping. Your personality influences how you tackle survival and preparedness, and as you become more aware of this connection, you’ll make better prepping decisions.

Big Picture + Details = Whole Picture

Not long ago a switch in my brain flipped, and I realized that my family wasn’t prepared for emergencies, at all. So, I jumped into gear. I wanted us to get prepped and fast.

We needed water, so I bought the requisite amount.

Check.

We needed food, so I bought large quantities of ramen noodles and beef stew, both items we rarely ate.

Check.

Boom! I was done. Two weeks of emergency supplies checked off.

And there I was. A Prepared Person. Ta-da!!!

Such was my novice approach to prepping. I wanted to “be prepared,” but, ugh, the details. So tiresome for someone who isn’t a detail person. I’m a “big picture” type of person.

Do you also struggle with the particulars? The lists in this article can help you gain traction.

But maybe that isn’t you. Maybe you’re good at details. Perhaps you’re so good at them, you sometimes get mired in the minutiae, arguing whether canned goods or buckets of wheat and a hand grinder are better. Take a step back and use these emergency plans, here and here, to help you think more holistically about prepping tasks.

One example of getting mired in minutiae is the years-long debates and discussions on survival and prepping forums over what should be in a bug-out bag or which brand of knife you should carry. Discussions are fun but it’s easy to spend more time talking than doing, and when it comes to getting prepped, a good motto is, “Done is better than perfect.”

The problem is that it’s easy to get too generalized with prepping — just throwing some extra cans of soup under the bed and calling it good — but it’s also easy to get bogged down in details. The sweet spot is a combination of the two where you understand the big picture of needing to be prepared but then also have enough detailed information so you can prep in a way that is just right for you and your family.

Is optimism or pessimism a better prepper trait?

An optimist is confident they can overcome whatever comes their way. They believe there’s a silver lining to just about any situation.

The power went out but it’s okay because you’ve been wanting to make shadow puppets with your littles. You don’t have spare batteries, but not to worry. The electricity will be on soon.

It’s great to be an optimist, right? So how could this attitude be a prepping negative?

First, normalcy bias is thinking that life will be “normal” forever and nothing bad will ever happen, and in a survival scenario, making this assumption can be deadly.

Second, there is something called “optimism bias” — thinking that while something bad could happen, it will be transitory and manageable. In both cases, normalcy bias and optimism bias, risks are minimized and preparations inadequate.

So ungrounded optimism can lead to insufficient prepping and bad decisions but so can unfounded pessimism.

For the pessimistic prepper’s kids, there’ll be no frivolous shadow puppets during power outages. Their battery-operated, hand crank, and USB rechargeable flashlights are emergency use only. Same for the wax and paraffin candles, camping lanterns, oil lamps, solar lamps, headlamps, light sticks (they read they’re useful for underwater emergencies), and shake lights.

The pessimistic prepper personality trait tends to see emergencies as out-of-their-control, long-lived, and widespread. They may acquire more supplies than necessary in a category, or they may try to prepare for everything making them ill-prepared for their most likely emergencies. This type of personality might also panic and make rash decisions they deeply regret later, such as moving the family to an obscure location in Idaho without prospects of a job.

For a more balanced approach, consider these resources.

The hard truth of a messy personality trait

Do you have a system in which your emergency supplies are inventoried, stored, and regularly rotated? Then you are the envy of messy preppers everywhere. We half-jokingly offer plane tickets and our first-born children for you to visit and bring order to our chaos.

All kidding aside, though, organization is crucial to being prepared, and a messy personality and prepping are like oil and water.

To those of us for whom organizing does not come naturally, I offer a cautionary tale. When my in-laws were preparing for a move, they discovered closets full of sorely outdated foodstuffs that had to be tossed. They meant well, and they likely felt pretty prepared at the time they stored those items, but they lacked methods to maintain them.

The lesson?

If you can’t find what you need or it’s unusable when you need it, you’re not any more prepared for an emergency than the person who has done nothing to prepare.

It’s a harsh truth, but there is hope.

A workable system often evolves through trial and error. Begin corralling the mess with these ideas on whipping your stash into shape.

When life happens can you roll with the punches?

Life happens, and when it does, you have to adapt, which might include making changes to your preps and plans. I confess it’s easier to stick with the status quo like my packages of ramen and cans of beef stew than it is to troubleshoot and modify, but preparedness is never one-size-fits-all, and adapting and customizing is a necessary part of it.

For example, one plan of mine was to assemble a bug-out bag for my husband. My purpose was to increase his chances of safely returning home from work. To fulfill my purpose, I had to be flexible and alter my plan, though because the generic backpack, assembled from an online list claiming to be “The Only BOB List I Would Ever Need” weighed almost as much as his tiny electric car. I had to think critically about what he might actually need in our location, and eventually, his BOB became a customized Get Home Bag with items suitable for the urban terrain and a major river he might have to traverse.

If your prepper temperament leans toward rigidity and always coloring inside the lines, so to speak, consider these tips to help you find ways to adapt.

Change the way you think, change the way you prep

My breadmaking journey had a rocky beginning. Rocky as in I baked beautiful, golden stones.

I watched videos. I read articles. I tried different flours. I asked questions, but everyone I knew used bread machines, which I would have done if mine hadn’t broken. Curse that bucket of bolts.

One day Facebook, benevolent social media snoop that it is, decided to put me out of my misery and a free breadmaking class displayed in my newsfeed. Glutton for punishment, I signed up. But this time, I learned the one thing that hadn’t clicked during all the other research, and my next loaf was delectably delicious.

Now let’s back up.

My first attempt was awful. But if I had stopped there, said I can’t do this, and never researched, never tried again, I wouldn’t have figured out how to make manna. That’s not to say I didn’t feel like giving up. After a half dozen or so mistakes rolled out of my oven, I absolutely felt like throwing in the oven mitts.

The difference between what I did and what I didn’t do is the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset.

Growth vs. Fixed Mindset

Briefly, people with growth mindsets recognize:

  • they don’t know everything about a topic, but they’re capable of learning
  • learning is, and will be, a process
  • mistakes will happen, but it’s okay because they’re valuable learning tools

A prepper with this mentality knows that with effort and perseverance they can improve their ability to face risk.

On the flip side, people with fixed mindsets believe:

  • everything should go right the first time
  • mistakes are bad
  • failures are personal flaws

If this is you, know that you can begin developing a growth mindset. Here are a few things to know:

  • Scientific studies indicate challenging your brain forms new neural pathways and connections.
  • Struggling is okay. Confusion, mistakes, and failures are part of the process.
  • Learning takes time.
  • Negative self-talk is self-sabotage.

Preppers who seek to continually develop themselves will be better equipped for survival.

They may also end up baking three loaves of bread per week to satisfy family demands, but that’s another story.

At the intersection of personality and prepping is opportunity

The reason we prepare is to provide some stability for our families at a time when it is in short supply. And just as an improved understanding of my introverted personality helps me better manage my schedule, a deeper understanding of the interaction between personality and prepping will boost our survival savvy.

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Renee Russell

Renee is a writer, reader, and avid watcher of disaster flicks. She lives on the west coast with her family where they're all preparing for their own disaster reality show--The Big One--to occur.

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