What is Self Reliance?

May 10th, 20121 Comment

Defining self reliance is tricky.  It’s a bit like defining love or success.  They mean different things to each of us.

Self reliance is best thought of as a lifestyle.  A lifestyle centered on mastering ourselves and our lives, reducing dependency on external players and forces, and taking responsibility for the good times and bad.  One could argue that complete self reliance is impossible.  Even the vaunted mountain men of American history, the epitome of self reliance, were very much dependent on supplies, livestock, and materials sent west out of St Louis and other frontier cities.  So in a sense, self reliance is a journey, not a destination.  Through self reliance we prepare ourselves to face whatever life has to offer — crime, natural and manmade disasters, accidents, and so on — and, we can choose to prepare out of fear or confidence.  This is an important choice because the one gives away control while the other strengthens it.  For instance, I carry a gun not because I fear violent crime, rather I carry a gun because I acknowledge that violent crime is a very real part of modern life and I refuse to play the part of the helpless victim.  Popular media likes to play on fear and often portrays self reliance as a negative or fringe activity.  In reality, it is positive and empowering.  The beauty of self reliance is that the confidence, strength, and resilience you develop in learning to face a crisis will carry over into the rest of your life, improving your relationships, your business, and reducing your stress.

Self reliance includes a wide range of activities such as emergency and financial planning, self defense training, food storage, first aid training, survival training, and even physical fitness.  How much time and effort you give to a particular activity will depend upon your unique circumstances and lifestyle.  During your planning you will identify certain threats that have a high likelihood of occurring and that will have a high impact on your life.  Naturally, these will receive the lion’s share of your attention.  Regardless of the particular activities you conduct, self reliance has seven facets that should be addressed.


Preparing and training your mind is the central goal of self reliance.  No matter how well you prepare for an emergency, a business venture, or even a vacation, life will throw you a few curve balls and things will play out in unexpected ways.  The mental aspect of self reliance starts with accepting that it can happen to you.  Denial is easy and comfortable.  It is also dangerous!  After acceptance comes learning.  Knowledge is power and the more you know the better you can adapt and improvise to your evolving circumstances.


Shelter is one of your essential survival priorities.  The human body is susceptible to any number of environmental injuries and shelter encompasses all of those things we use to protect our bodies and keep them cruising along at 98.6 degrees.  Obvious examples are our clothes and homes.  Less obvious are things like fire, sunscreen, or a pile of leaves to insulate you from the cold ground.  Shelter is so important that it is the first thing I address in any emergency kit.

Food and Water

This is a no-brainer.  We can live a few days without water and a few weeks without food.  If your plans extend beyond that then you’ll want to address food and water preps.  For shorter duration emergencies, food and water have a powerful impact on morale, energy, and concentration, which has a direct impact on your ability to survive.  As an added benefit, long term food storage is a great form of insurance.  Imagine losing your job.  Wouldn’t it be nice to know that you can still eat and feed your family for a few months or even a year?  Don’t underestimate the value of food and water storage!


Your ability to handle any form of stress is directly related to your health.  Something as simple as an abscessed tooth will have a dramatic impact on your ability to deal with an emergency.  There weren’t any dentists operating in New Orleans after Katrina hit!  Deal with your health issues now and stock up on your medications!  Physical fitness is another important consideration.  If you are exhausted after walking up a flight of stairs, how will you be able to fight off an attacker or walk to help when you car breaks down on a remote road?  We don’t need to professional athletes but we do need regular, vigorous exercise.  Finally, we should all know the basics of first aid.  Learning how to save a life is easy if we are just willing to put in the effort.


Like it or not, we live in a violent world and counting on the police to protect you is the fool’s way out.  No amount of laws and legislation will eliminate crime. You can either accept the role of the helpless victim or you can learn to protect yourself and your loved ones.  Remember, when seconds count, help is only minutes away.  Take a look at the stampedes that happen every year on Black Friday.  How violent do you think people will become in a real emergency?


Self reliance focuses on controlling our lives, reducing dependency, and accepting responsibility.  How is this playing out in your financial life?  Excessive debt and uncontrolled spending are crippling many Americans.  If you truly want to be independent, confident, and ready, then start by getting your financial house in order.  What is more important, the new iPad or feeding your children?


In any crisis, a team or family or community is always stronger than an individual.  It’s called synergy.  This is holds true if you are recovering from the loss of a loved one, a bankruptcy, or a natural disaster.  The lone wolf, isolated survivalist is setting himself up for failure.  No one person can be cook, farmer, security guard, doctor, janitor, and carpenter, to name just a few, everyday all the time.  Self reliance and prepping are much more effective when practiced as a community.  The community may be your family or your neighborhood, and each individual adds knowledge and skills that make the group stronger than the sum of its parts.

Whether you are new to self reliance or an old pro, these seven aspects are the foundation of your preparations.  Use them to evaluate your current plans and to guide your future activities.  I’ll address each of them in more detail in future articles.  In the meantime, keep learning, keep preparing and enjoy your journey to self reliance!

© 2012, mjshozda. All rights reserved.

One Response to “What is Self Reliance?”

  1. KL Thatcher says:

    Hello Matt,

    Wow…this would be so interesting! And the knowledge along is priceless. We hope to have the time to attend and thank you for the invite!


    George and Kim 🙂

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