In the world of preparedness, the prevailing focus tends to lean into any number of inevitably horrific “tomorrows” that are looming just over the horizon. Whether just a localized disaster or an all out societal collapse, we all desire to “be prepared” for just about everything. There are two other constituencies that are often set aside with this mindset however. First, truly learning and utilizing our own past experiences, as well as those of all humanity (aka – learning from the past), and second, actually living in the moment and appreciating all that life has to offer us today.
A few weeks ago, I spent the afternoon chatting with a friend, and we got into an existential conversation around which of these three focuses we felt would be most beneficial for one to lean into the most. Knowing there was no wrong answer, we spent some time just breaking each one down on a grand human scale, even if just for our own understanding, and the results felt worthy of sharing. Here’s a breakdown of each in the hopes that you may see which you resonate most with in the end. For the sake of this article, we’re just going to call them Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.
If we could all somehow store and access the entirety of history at a moment’s notice, imagine the utopia we could all live in. The reality however, is that we all too often completely forget what happened just days ago, let alone years or decades ago. It seems, at least based on what has been documented to date, that history is simply destined to repeat itself. One major factor in perpetuating this cycle comes from the fundamental truth that humanity has a relentless tendency to control our individual futures rather than simply allowing for what is possible. We hold so tightly to the reins and steer nearly every aspect toward whatever we’re most comfortable or familiar with (confirmation bias). Which by proxy, inevitably creates conflict with others on their own meticulously controlled journeys, especially those with more power and weight to throw around, as both realities sometimes can’t exist simultaneously. It’s survival of the fittest, ego, and greed all wrapped up together, and for the most part, a complete lack of possibility. We all too often ignore the many indicators the Universe drops in our laps encouraging us to allow for things as they are intended – well beyond our imagination in many cases. We can’t seem to just get the hell out of our own way. Why is this? One obvious reason being, we don’t like change… it’s uncomfortable. The irony is, that very thing (our relentless tendency to control everything) is what perpetuates the endless cycle of creating more uncomfortability for everyone.
There are a number of explanations and theories out there as to why we do what we do. Of course, everyone has different levels of awareness with no one really being any better than another, just maybe a little deeper perhaps. Could we all be better at learning from our mistakes and being more intentional at times? Sure. But this is less about us as individuals and more about the ongoing cycle that entraps us all. It can be summed up with the following statement:
“Hard times create strong people, strong people create good times, good times create weak people, weak people create hard times.”
To break this down further, this article by The Art of Manliness: How the Generational Cycle of History Explains Our Current Crisis goes super deep into generational “turnings” (periods of time) and human archetypes, and how they cycle over time. If you have a little time, read through the article – do you resonate with your role in what appears to be the current Crisis? While this is a theory and not based on fact of course, it certainly has some serious merit in the grand scheme of things. I love the sentence, “We are bad at seeing the next turning coming because just as in nature, ‘the season that is about to come is always farthest removed from memory.’” AKA – time for a repeat.
We are conditioned by the environments we live in, whether we like it or not. From the people we surround ourselves with and the foods we eat, or the books we read and the media we consume… it all plays a part in how we structure our lifestyle, and in many ways, defines our individual character. I wonder though, how much of this is choice versus subconscious influence based on our environment (referencing the hard times statement above)? Are we ever really in control of our lives, or just a product of our environment? Of course we make our own choices moment to moment, but again, how many of those are based subconsciously on what you heard earlier today… or last week, or the month prior? Let alone what you’ve been conditioned to choose based on your life experiences to date. The point I’m trying to make here is that we’re quite malleable when it comes to subconsciously adapting to the environment around us. If you think of humans as a body of water, at least generally speaking, most “flow” with the path of least resistance.
We’ve all been through hard times and can resonate with the drive that happens when faced with limited options and difficult decisions. Most people, when pushed, will do what it takes to survive and face a challenge head on. It’s what makes us stronger and allows us to think and grow outside our comfort zone. But how long can that last and are we predispositioned to revert back to our core tendencies at some point? All these questions continually occur to me as the days go by, and I can’t help but wonder how many others recognize the patterns we seem to inevitably fall into. Over, and over, and over again. We work and flow together, creating amazingly wonderful things only to find ourselves reaching a high point and then falling back to where we started, or at least just repackaging what we know into something else that will inevitably lead us to the same cliff. It reminds me of an MC Escher’s Waterfall illustration:
So how do we break the cycle, truly learn from our past and apply it… indefinitely? There are certainly anomalies to this cycle, where good times produce a number of strong people too, but tipping the scales and maintaining it would be extremely difficult, maybe even impossible. It would seemingly require the majority of humans choosing to paddle upstream, again, indefinitely. Maybe it isn’t possible. Or maybe, just maybe, it is with enough support from one another.
To bring this back to preparedness, knowing that we’re all but destined to repeat history, and dare I say, intentionally put ourselves (collectively) into harm’s way, why is it that the vast majority of people have little more than a few days of basic preparations in place? If we could simply just allow for the fact that having a basic level of preparedness knowledge along with at least a couple weeks of essential preparations is a necessary part of ALL humans lives, we might all act a little less frantic when faced with a disaster scenario. In fact, we might even be that much more willing to help others in need and work together, even if it means we all have to paddle upstream. Many hands, as we all know, make light work.
Living in the moment, in most cases, is much harder than it seems. For many of us, we tend to take things for granted more than we realize, and it often keeps us from truly appreciating what is right here in front of us. I’m not saying we don’t have gratitude for what we may already have in our lives, or for whom we’ve become and what we’ve accomplished, just that it can be extremely difficult to keep this at the forefront of each and every moment. We naturally seek more out of life: more wealth, more time, more experiences, better relationships, or just greener grass all around. While this is all a wonderful gift stemming from an awareness of our own potential, it is also in constant conflict with our ability to simply be content with what we already have. The true culprit in this conundrum is happiness, if you ask me.
Being content, in its simplest form, is sitting in happiness regardless of one’s life circumstances. A content person’s happiness and well-being is not sustained by his/her actions or outcomes, but entirely from within. I’m not sure about you all, but I have a little ways to go to feel that as a truth in my life. I am happy to say though, it is a consistent focus of mine on the daily, and I would by no means consider myself complacent. A complacent person simply doesn’t care enough to be anything more than what they already are, and unfortunately, their happiness bucket is typically far from being full. Hopefully you’re in the same bucket as I am and haven’t slipped into an endless cycle of “this is just the way it is.”
From a preparedness perspective, the past gives us our mental models to reference, and the future is entirely speculative… so the present is really the only perspective that requires actionable attention. What is happening right now is the only moment we can literally connect and engage with, each and every moment. With each moment that passes, it’s gone forever, except what we choose to hold onto in our minds. So how does one sit in happiness and contentment through each and every experience, regardless of circumstance? Great question, and one I have no idea how to answer. Maybe it’s simply learning to remind ourselves often enough that it becomes a habit. Or maybe it’s a matter of being pushed hard enough in life that we must make it a priority. Or maybe it isn’t possible… whether it is or isn’t, the path is different for everyone I’m sure.
Living in the present is also absolutely crucial to our survival. Without it, our ability to be situationally aware would be almost non-existent. This fact alone makes this mindset seem the obvious winner, but don’t sell the others short just yet. Situational awareness still requires those mental models of our past, which we need to make appropriate decisions for our future for starters. So how about preparing for tomorrow?
This seems to be the timeline most people focus on. We get fixated on the many potential disasters all but destined to happen at any moment, and all the preparations we need to have in place in order to survive them all. Many of us, especially preppers, are prone to living in one of these future scenarios in an effort to feel safe and “ready”. The harsh reality is that this only takes us further away from living up to our individual potentials on the day-to-day, which in turn makes us less prepared in the future. It’s kind of a catch 22 in that it’s obviously important to understand and plan for potential futures, but reeling yourself back into the now can be a constant battle. As written above in the Today section, living in the present is extremely vital to our livelihood, and more importantly, our level of happiness.
Prepping seems to be fundamentally based around Tomorrow, for the most part anyway. Threat assessments, preparedness plans, resource gathering, training and skill development, among many others, are all more/less meant to be utilized at a later date. So this one must be the most important then, right?
The decision we came to after nearly four hours of conversation, and maybe one too many glasses of bourbon lol, was one that you may have come to by now as well: Yesterday, Today AND Tomorrow all play important roles in one’s preparedness journey. The sweet spot includes:
1. Being fully aware of your past experiences and overall tendencies.
2. Maintaining a diligent approach to planning for potential future outcomes.
3. And keeping the bulk of your focus on the present moment.
The purpose of this article was two-fold. First, my hope is that it might at least encourage you to begin recognizing your own patterns, as well as those around you, and potentially start to shift the ongoing cycle referenced in the Yesterday section. And second, as a gentle reminder not to get fixated on all those catastrophes you’ve dreamed up, but rather to take a pause and bring yourself back to the present moment as often as possible. Not only will this allow you to better appreciate your preparedness efforts, it will also make life a hell of a lot more enjoyable.