Planning for “What If” vs. Planning for “When”

Which Mindset We Have Can Make a Big Difference

The most recent series of mass shootings (think of what I just wrote there – the MOST RECENT mass shootings. Can you believe this is part of our language now?) brought home yet again that bad things can happen to anyone, any place, at any time. More than one survivor of this latest carnage said it well. “If you think it cannot happen to you where you are, you are kidding yourself.” It more likely is ‘when,’ not ‘if.’

This need not be a reason for living in fear and paralysis. But take it from someone who has spent most of his life thinking about and planning for the worst. It is best to think about the worst as a base case. As is often said, it makes sense to hope for the best and plan for the worst.

Why would that be the case? Wouldn’t that just be depressing? Especially since many bad things are actually not likely to happen to you. Sorry, but that is a mental and emotional trap best avoided, for several reasons.

First, we have zero way of estimating the probability of things happening. This ranges from a plane crash to a domestic terror attack. Both are pretty rare as things go, but that is small comfort if it happens to you. Your odds are simply unknown. Ask someone who has been through a couple of “thousand-year floods” in the space of a few years about the odds.

Second, if your mindset is “if,” when the event strikes, you are starting from scratch. You first have to take in what is happening, then develop and weigh options, then choose an option, then carry it out. That is a lot to process while you are being shot at by a madman.

Third, the shock of such a thing leaves you vulnerable to internal arguments about “Why me?” That is a waste of time you do not have to spare. Hey, it’s probably not personal. It’s just happening, and you are there. Get over yourself and move on with a survival plan.

It is much better to reflect from time to time about what you might do (I emphasize might) in such situations. Run scenarios mentally (flight, hide, fight, etc. Think about what factors might cause you to choose one option over another. There are tons of checklists and scenarios available online from local law enforcement and other credible sites to help you do this.

You can’t think of everything, of course. You cannot make a decision until the time comes. But going through the mental process in advance increases your odds of making a good choice, in time.

Life has always presented us with risks and challenges. It is awful that we now add to that the highest risk of any developed country in the world of being shot. But for the moment, we are where we are. Schools, government institutions, churches, and some businesses have accepted they need to assume such a thing will happen someday and they need to be as ready as they can be.

Unfortunately, we need to come to the same conclusion, and make at least minimal preparations mentally, as individuals. First responders have enough challenges trying to save people. The more of us that are calm and rational, the better odds for us all, not the least for the first responders trying to sort out the scene before them.

My experience is that no one really knows how they will react until it actually happens to them. It is different every time, for everyone. Let’s do some thinking and see if we can increase the odds of a better outcome, whatever the disaster or attack may be.

Not if, but when.

And while we are at it, perhaps we can get on with demanding a sane guns policy in our country. I don’t know about you, but I am really, really tired of innocent people dying for no reason.

     Bill Clontz

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