Awareness – Part 3: Create Options

Create OptionsAll Personal Defense starts with being aware of your surroundings.  Awareness is a combination of observation, intuition, and mentally developing possible outcomes.

A person that has developed a good sense of awareness greatly increases their ability to stay safe.  They see problems as they occur – perhaps before they even start.

If we increase our awareness, we improve our personal safety.  This series of blog posts will discuss ways to develop and enhance our awareness.


Create Options

This it the third post in a series on awareness.  Post one examined how to expand our Awareness Zone.  If you are like most of us, you probably started this journey only looking out 5-6 feet.  We realized the need to greatly expand this zone out to 20 feet – and preferably more.  The second post looked at how to interpret this additional information you are taking in – specifically by looking for what is unusual and by noting safety items like exits.  This highlights what might be a threat to our personal safety.

The next logical step, after we have identified a potential threat, is to start creating options for how we will handle this situation.  Obviously we can’t develop every possible option for every scenario in a single blog post.  But we can kindle your own creativity so that you can develop your own options for whatever unique circumstances you find yourself in.

Options that you might create are pretty easily split into three categories: leave the area; divert their attention; or confront the potential threat.  Note that these are generally the preferred order – if we have a choice.  Sometimes we don’t.

Leave The Area

This one is often the simplest to execute and the most effective in maintaining your safety.  If you see a potential threat in the area, quickly and calmly leave.  Your goal is to get out of their field of vision, i.e. to break contact.  Most perpetrators will quickly give up if they lose sight of their prey.  Once you are out of sight, if they were not a threat, they will not follow.  If they were a threat – they will either try to regain contact quickly or will give up and move on to their next potential victim.

For an example, somebody at the mall has followed you into a third consecutive store.  You aren’t sure if they are an actual threat or just a potential one.  One way to test this is to try and break contact.  You quickly leave the third store to see if they follow again.  You could go back to the first store or head to the food court or the restroom.  If they don’t follow – no immediate problem.  If they do follow, that will require you to implement a different option – perhaps a more creative exit, a distraction method, or you may need to confront them.

Divert Their Attention

This one is not as simple but can be very effective.  If you see a potential threat, you want them to lose their focus on you.  It doesn’t really matter what they turn their attention toward – as long as it’s not you.  This is similar to ‘leave the area’ in that you are trying to break contact.  The difference is that with ‘leave the area’ you are fleeing, and with the ‘divert their attention’ you are staying in the area and – in essence – hiding.

There are many possibilities here: you take a quick side-step around a corner or behind a bush and allow the potential threat to pass by.  You blend in with the crowd, and thereby no longer have their focus.  Or you might enter a busy area with lots of distractions – like a row of individuals hawking their wares from their mall kiosks, or a variety of street vendors and performers, or maybe the food court personnel giving away free samples.  You might even put on a ball cap and sunglasses – anything that will take their attention off of you.  If the threat persists, you will need to implement a different pre-planned option.

Confront the Threat

This is the least preferred method for several reasons – including the likelihood that you will be in close proximity to the potential threat.  It may not be preferred, but sometimes we can’t merely leave or hide.

To ‘confront’ simply means to face.  If you cannot run and you cannot hide – then you have to face the threat.  Many times a threat – or a potential threat – will back down if you merely call their bluff.  Most predators do not want to tangle with someone who is aware, confident, and focused.

Part of your planning for a ‘Confront’ option is acknowledging that it may lead to a use of force encounter.  You must put yourself in the best situation possible – in case the threat attempts to use force on you.  We don’t want to use force or have force used against us, but we need to prepare for it.

Note that ‘Confront’ does NOT mean being aggressive – most states assume the aggressor has provoked a use of force encounter – meaning you could be criminally prosecuted.    But know that once you confront a threat, if they attempt to use force against you, then you MUST be as aggressive as you possibly can… until the force being directed against you stops.

Creating and Implementing a Plan

Creating a plan is very important.  But even more important is setting it in motion.  You must have a framework in mind for when you will set your plan in motion.  If a threat becomes real you must act, you must be able to execute.

In all three areas you can set one or more ‘triggers’ or ‘decision points’ to start the execution of the planning sequence you devised.  These ‘triggers’ provide great clarity in the moment, and increase your confidence.

What do these ’triggers’ look like?  Here are a couple of examples:

  • If this person follows me into third store, then I will leave immediately and backtrack to the first store.  If he follows me there, I will chat with the Security Guard next to the door.
  • If they get within 20 feet I will put my hand on the pepper spray in my purse and quickly walk toward that group of people.

Know the Law

You should also know the law regarding the use of force in your state.  As crazy as it seems, some states actually mandate that if a route of escape is available to you, then you must use it.  This applies wherever you are, even if an intruder enters your home in the middle of the night.  Ignorance of the law is no excuse, it is not a way to avoid criminal prosecution.


As you identify potential threats, develop options on how you will handle them should they become a real threat.  These options should include ‘triggers’ that put your plan in motion.  You also need to become familiar with the use of force laws in your state.


Remember – Personal Defense is not a destination, but a journey – and awareness is a great example of this.

Share how it’s going on our forums at  It will be a huge encouragement to me – and to others on their Personal Defense journey.

Be Safe!