Things seem to change blindingly fast sometimes, like the nearly last-minute recommendation last week from CDC to not gather as extended families for Thanksgiving. Let’s put aside for a moment whether or not that advice makes sense or if you’re going to follow it, and pretend for a moment that it’s a mandate, an order, something you have no choice but to obey. What’s your backup plan? If you don’t have one, how fast can you put one together? Either way, how long will it take you to spin up and make it happen?
In our year of cheap and free videoconferencing and months of quarantine, most of us have had a lot of experience with events being canceled or moved to a virtual setting. Some of us may have anticipated not getting together in person, and already started to put together ideas of how to celebrate anyway. That’s the advantage of having seen a situation before, knowing how you might need to respond, and even having practice with some of the tools and skills you need for your alternate plans. Rather unlike those very first video meetings many of us suffered in the early days of the pandemic, if you remember the troubles that came with trying to get cameras and sound working, not to mention the horrors of trying to share screens. These days, even complicated presentations and meetings go much more smoothly, and the idea of hopping on a video call hardly seems challenging or unusual at all.
So, too, staying safe and defending yourself.
We can make all the plans in the world, and have every expectation that our strategies will protect us. Often, we’ll even be right. We’ll have spotted the shady dude coming down the block and ducked into a brightly-lit store to get away from him. Our locked doors will discourage the casual burglar. Trouble neither looks for us nor finds us, and we live our everyday lives.
Sometimes, though, we’re wrong. Life turns out to be a little more dangerous than we thought. We get lost and end up driving through a bad neighborhood. That suspicious-looking character follows us when we cross the street away from them. Someone you don’t recognize keeps trying to open your door and get into your home. And then what?
If you already have a Plan B, if you’ve already thought about what you can do instead and have already prepared yourself to do it if needed, you’re way ahead of the curve in responding effectively. Nothing puts you behind more than being faced with a completely new or unexpected situation, and having zero experience with how to manage it. Better is to not be so surprised, even if you have no idea what to do with what you’re now facing. But maybe you not only foresee that the situation could occur, and have put a few minutes into thinking about ways you can deal with it…that helps, doesn’t it? Now imagine that you’ve not only thought about those ways, but have practiced them. Less intimidating now, I bet, as you only have to worry about whether practice translates to real life. And it’s a worry that recedes if you know you’ve grounded your strategies and skills in the experience of others, and if you’ve practiced them enough to know that you can perform them even if you’re not sure they’ll actually work against a real bad guy. Then there are the times you’ve actually had to implement Plan B, so you have the confidence that next time around, you’ll just do it again if you have to. Might not be your first preference, but you’re ready for it anyway.
With Thanksgiving, we’re evaluating the situation and making those adjustments over days and hours. When it comes to our personal safety, we might only have minutes or seconds. But the process is the same, so working your way through one is working your way through the other in figuring out what can change, what your options are, what option you’ll pick, and what steps you’ll take to put that option to action.