If I told you that armed criminals are going to attack your house 10 minutes after you get home from somewhere today, how ready are you to respond to the threat?  What "wishlist" items would run through your head, such as "I really wish I would have practiced shooting my handgun in the dark more." or "I really wish I would have cleaned my rifle after the last time I went to the range."?

There are a couple lines in the Special Forces Creed that have always stood out to me:  "I will keep my mind and body clean, alert and strong.  I will maintain my arms and equipment in an immaculate state befitting a Special Forces Soldier, for this is my debt to those who depend upon me."

(And for the record, somewhere along the line this changed.  When I learned the creed, this was worded, and broken up, differently.  However, the important points are still there.)

They key take-away from this is that you may have taken your eye off the ball.  We need to maintain a constant state of readiness, because crisis and attack can strike at any moment.  You can not sacrifice a high state of readiness to a more complete state of readiness.  For example, you are better off with some basic first aid knowledge today, than holding out for that ultimate first aid course you can take next year.

We must pay attention to the details, and be continuously improving our skills and preparations, for whatever dangers we may face.  One pitfall, that is both a curse and a blessing to civilians, is choice.  In the military, you have very little choice over anything... what you wear, what you carry, the weapons you use, the training you attend, etc. are largely all decided for you.  There, it's not really possible to hold out for something better, but as a civilian you can.  You have the choice to put off cleaning your rifle to play Xbox, or not replacing a broken canteen in order to buy a night out on the town.

It's imperative that you set realistic levels or preparedness for yourself, and be vigilant in maintaining them, then keep improving them.  Get your CCW permit and carry your sidearm ALWAYS, not just when it's convenient or when you plan to drive through a bad part of town.  Store some non-perishable food, even just some cheap cans of beef stew if you can't afford fancy freeze-dried rations.  Get those bald tires replaced today, before the next snowstorm hits.  Get out on the range and shoot, and maintain the discipline of "training how you fight".

Think about what your "wishlist" of regrets would be if you needed to respond to an emergency right now.  Don't just stop at the hypothetical either - go out to a defensive pistol match, take your gear camping, go to a firearms training simulator (Review: 2XTap's new Firearms Training Simulator (FiTS)), or pretend the power is out for a weekend, to see where you are truly deficient.  Take that list and start making baby steps toward correcting the points.  Start out small, with the 80/20 solution ("20% of the effort gets you 80% of the fix"), and build up from there.

You have to do these things because this is your "debt to those who depend upon" you, and "Today is the day before.  Are you ready for tomorrow?"