Discipline and Balance by Hamilton Tyler

There is always talk about the ‘survivalist mindset’ and how important it is to anyone who is going to prepare themselves and their family for whatever crisis they foresee. Some people get this mindset from previous experience (like Katrina survivors who we can hope will become advocates of personal preparedness), others from their religious convictions (Mormons, awaiting the Tribulation, etc), others get this mindset from objectively viewing world events and decide the world is risky place, and many others get this mindset from other places. All of these people, however, have at least one thing in common in their survival mindset – the need for discipline and balance.
As anyone who has prepared, or is preparing, for uncertainty can tell you, there are a lot of things to do. There are things to be bought, mapped, planned, diagrammed, learned, prepared, tuned-up, sharpened, sighted-in, oiled, cleaned, built, dug and stored. There is, it seems, no end to the things to be done. The one thing more than anything else that will get these things done is discipline – the discipline to stockpile food when the supermarkets are full, the discipline to store ammo when the stores are open, the discipline to save money when you’ve just gotten a raise, etc. However, discipline without balance is almost as bad for your plans as no discipline at all.
In good times, when we have our jobs, heat in our house, water in our taps, food in our cupboards and gas in our cars it is incredibly easy to slack off or even ignore our plans to prepare. And when a blizzard or hurricane shows up and knocks out the power, the pumps and the petrol we start kicking ourselves for not keeping up on our preparations…and then the lights get turned back on and we go right back to neglecting our plans for ‘next time’. I’m sure we all know someone who says he’s going to be prepared for the next hurricane or tornado or whatever. He buys a case of bottled water, maybe he gets some food, and a few weeks later he’s the owner of a shiny new pistol. And then he starts tapering off… He buys a little food one month and then does nothing for six months, after that time he might buy some batteries and flashlights and then he seems to lose interest and nothing more becomes of his great plan and desire to be prepared. The intentions were good, but the follow through was weak. This is a classic example of a lack of discipline.
Balance, the other important aspect of the mindset, is completely absent in the person who goes in the opposite direction than the one just described. He sells the jet skis, liquidates his investments, builds a concrete bunker, wears camo every day, spray paints his truck in a camo pattern, eats MREs for breakfast and has no time for anyone who isn’t in 100% agreement with him on his timetable for ‘the big one’. His wife is ready to leave him, his kids are embarrassed by him, his boss has put him on notice, the people in town call him ‘that crazy survivalist guy’ and his friends don’t know what to do with him. If the disaster he’s preparing for does happen he’ll probably come out fine, but if it doesn’t he’s going to be a lonely, miserable, tragic figure. Classic example of discipline, but no balance.
How does a person achieve the discipline and balance to prepare for an uncertain future while still maintaining a comfortable present? For each person it’s different. The easiest way to is to ask yourself if, in a future crisis will you be glad you did whatever it is you’re doing at this moment. Two years from now when the power is out and the blizzard is raging will you be glad you spent $35 on new computer games or will you be glad you spent it on 5-gallon drums of kerosene? In a year from now when travel is restricted due to bird flu concerns will you be glad you spent $150 on designer running shoes or will you be glad you spent it on canned food and bottled water? I’d say it’s a safe bet that as people were standing on roofs waiting for help after Katrina none of them were thinking “Man, I’m glad I spent $700 on SuperBowl tickets and didn’t waste it on gasoline and a generator.” Discipline is being able to stay focused on the ‘big picture’ – being prepared – even while the everyday world provides you with limitless distractions and reasons to not prepare.
On the other side of the coin, you have to have enough balance to sometimes decide that, yes, you’re going to spend $20 on a movie, popcorn and drink simply because you want to. Or you’ll compromise and see the movie for ten bucks, skip the snacks, and take the remaining ten dollars and squirrel away some D batteries or a couple gallons of white gas. That’s the sort of compromise that is a win-win situation… you still move forward in your preparations but you still have a pleasant and happy life outside of your survivalist interests. A good sense of balance will keep you from sacrificing your present happiness for future security. You could probably use the words ‘balance’ and ‘judgment’ interchangeably in this example. Do you have the good judgment to know when you should live it up a little and when you should knuckle down and get busy? There is nothing wrong with ‘splurging’ every once in a while as long as it isn’t at the expense of other things we should be doing. All work and no play does make Jack a dull boy, but then again Jack was never preparing for the end of the world as we know it. There is a middle ground where you can still have a good time without being neglectful of your plans to prepare, finding exactly where that middle ground is will make your life much easier.
Discipline keeps you on track, it keeps you focused, and it keeps you always moving forward towards your preparedness goals. Balance keeps you from losing sight of everything other than your preparedness goals. It makes you stop from time to time to enjoy what you’ve got going on in your life, now, in the present. Balance keeps you from sacrificing the good times to prepare for the bad times. In a nutshell, balance is what keeps you from ‘going too far’ or ‘over the top.’
If you can balance your ‘civilian life’ with your ‘survivalist life’ in this manner, not neglecting either one but not sacrificing one for the other, then you’ll have developed the discipline and balance to keep both lives stable and on-track. If your big disaster occurs, you’re ready for it and if it doesn’t occur you won’t be moaning about how you wasted opportunities and time that you’ll never get back.