The process of taking responsibility for your own personal safety can be quite rewarding. For some, however, it is not without unknowns, pitfalls and paradigm shifts. As you start down the path, you may find it a road less traveled. Avoidance and ignorance are the first hurdles to clear, but liberation is your reward. What keeps people from exploring further down this path? The biggest obstacles are lack of comfort, self-imposed limitations and mental toughness.
The final duty station of my Navy career was as a BUD/S instructor. In that job, I learned more about human nature than I ever imagined. We have a saying in our community: “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.” It is our way of getting students accustomed to the challenges that lay ahead of them. These challenges will push them to their breaking points. Those who persevered did so because being uncomfortable became comforting. They learned being pushed past their limits is what helped them discover their true capabilities. Instead of seeing obstacles before them, we had to convince them these were opportunities. For many who take their personal safety as a personal responsibility, it is indeed uncomfortable—at first.
There is a certain calm that comes with normalcy. At first, carrying a handgun for personal protection does not come across as normal. Part of the reason is the sudden understanding that the world is not a safe place. I am not saying there is a criminal around every corner, but crime does exist. Once you accept that bad people are out there, it is the first step toward liberation.
How do I see this applied in the self-defense world? Simple: The shockingly few people who obtain formal instruction. There are lots of reasons folks do not attend structured classes. Some are true challenges, such as time and funding. Others are based around ego and pride. The one I am referencing is comfort. For some, attending formalized instruction pushes them outside their comfort zone.
Attending professional training can expose our comfort level or lack thereof. At our instructor-level courses, I talk about the “two fears.” The first is the fear of not knowing. This comes across with those who do not want to look like they don’t know what they are doing in front of their peers. Tied closely to ego—which we will talk about shortly—this is somewhat easy to overcome. Focus on the why: Why are you opting to invest in your personal safety? For some, it was a close call, which shook them up. Others were not so lucky and were victims of a crime. For many of us, it is the recognition mentioned above that evil exists. Keep focused on your “why,” and let it be the driving force. It will steady your resolve and give you the motivation to put yourself in a place where you might be pushed out of your comfort zone.
The second is the fear of the unknown. For some, not knowing what to expect in a certain class is a major fear. I cannot speak for all classes taught across the country, but many do a good job of managing expectations. I am a firm believer in managing expectations, as it helps everyone, particularly students. We share major teaching points they can expect to learn. We provide them with various resources to help familiarize themselves with the content of our lessons. Lastly, I go out of my way to answer questions they cannot find the answers to via available resources. There is still a bit of an unknown, but now students will feel it is a lot more manageable.
I’m quite passionate about my job, because I am thrilled to share my hard-earned knowledge and experience in the hopes it helps prepare folks for what may possibly be the worst moment of their lives. I believe in every student. I believe they are not only capable of absorbing the information we are sharing, but also in applying their knowledge toward developing their skill level. With practice and training, it is not unreasonable to expect a high level of skill to be obtained. I have seen it countless times—if you set a standard and communicate said standard, the majority of people will move heaven and earth to achieve it.
From there, I have discovered self-imposed limitations. Students may doubt themselves or believe they cannot do what I’m asking. If you can drive a car, I believe you are more than capable of learning how to defend yourself. It won’t be easy, but it is a learned skill and learned skills are a process. You have to trust the process. There are specific actions you have to take in order to achieve the end state.
Mental toughness is a tough subject to discuss, but I cannot emphasize enough the importance of developing mental toughness for self-defense. The best way to define mental toughness is the ability to resist, manage or overcome doubts, concerns and circumstances that stand in your way. Life comes at you pretty hard, and it is not always fair. Many good people suffer, but many persevere and are better off as a result. Mental toughness is the cumulative effect of much of what I’ve been discussing. You have to challenge yourself to be OK with these feelings of unease, and yet keep moving forward. There will be setbacks, frustrations and even failures. These are to be expected and, while disappointing, if you change your viewpoint to one where you see them as opportunities, you will be surprised or even shocked by what you can achieve.
You may not be able to control everything in your life, and that is fine. Focus on what you can manage. When attending formalized instruction for the first time, there are steps you can take to make yourself more comfortable. You can prepare for the class by researching what to expect and by having the right equipment in advance. Some ways to do so include reviewing online resources and speaking with others who have already taken that class or a similar course. If you can make a pact with yourself to stick with your training no matter what, you will be committed despite any potential frustrations and disappointments that arise.
Don’t let your ego or pride get in the way. I always ask students to leave their egos in their vehicles. Instead, bring an open mind to class—to take on new information, you have to empty your cup and be ready to learn. The most important trait is maintaining self-belief in what you are doing. If you acknowledge there will be challenges, welcome them as opportunities and maintain your self-confidence, it will go a long way toward achieving success.
When it comes to formalized instruction, some people will be nervous because they are stepping outside their comfort zone. Just take the first step by putting one foot in front of the other. From there, so much is possible. You may have doubts that you impose upon yourself. While this is normal, don’t let it prevent your taking that all-important first step. Manage your expectations by learning a little about what to expect. There is something to be gained by taking on new challenges. They help build character, and they help build mental toughness. Stay focused on what you can control, make a commitment and stay the course. See challenges as a good thing. Understand they may be uncomfortable at first, but before you know it, they will become the new norm, building your self-confidence. From there, you’ll be able to improve your abilities to defend yourself and your loved ones.