We look around us everyday, but how much do we actually see? Situational Awareness is important, but so is awareness of those things going on within ourselves. When we develop both, we’re better equipped to handle anything life throws at us.
I just finished watching Mary Poppins, one of my all-time favorite movies. There is a part in the movie where Mary Poppins tells the children, “Sometimes, through no fault of their own, people can’t see past the end of their noses”. She was saying that some people go through life without really even being aware of what is around them. They go through life, missing out on things, because they are so stuck in their own heads.
When I first heard this phrase, “they can’t see past the end of their nose”, I had the same reaction as the children in Mary Poppins did. I couldn’t comprehend what it meant. It didn’t make sense to me that someone could walk around and not see beyond their nose. As I’ve gotten older, the phrase makes more and more sense. I’ve met many people who fit this description perfectly.
What does it mean to be aware, to be cognizant of the things around us, or to have situational awareness?
All three of these things have the same basic meaning: we see, hear, and know what is going on around us at any given moment.
An example of situational awareness would be you noticing the people who walk in and out of a restaurant that you are at. It would also be you noticing that your waitress has been crying and is obviously having a bad night. It would be noticing who is around you when you’re walking from your car into a store. When you’re driving, if you’re aware of what is around you, you would notice if someone is making all of the same turns as you are, or if they are swerving all over the road.
I’m not suggesting that you have to know every single thing that is happening around you, and you have to study every single person that comes near you. The trouble is, a lot of people miss the really obvious things that are around them. Like when you’re trying to get by someone at a store, and they are so engrossed in their phone that they don’t even realize that you’re there.
Why is it important for us to be aware of our surroundings?
1) If we’re aware of what is going on around us, we will be more likely to see opportunities as they arise.
I listened to an interview that Lewis Howes did with Kyle Cease. In it Kyle said (paraphrased): people can be so absorbed in their own little world, that they can literally walk past a $100 bill laying on the sidewalk, and they won’t see it. If this is true, and I wholeheartedly believe that it is, what other opportunities are we missing that may be a little less subtle?
In the same respect, you never know who you might meet when you’re out and about. You could strike up a conversation while waiting for your food at lunch, and find out that the person you’re talking to is looking to hire someone. That job that is available could be your dream job. Or it could get you one step closer to your dream life.
You might see a sign while your waiting in line at the grocery store for lessons that you’ve been wanting to take, a club that you’ve been thinking about joining, etc. The universe gives us these little bread crumbs to help us along our path, but we have to be willing to pay attention long enough to see them.
2) If we’re aware of what is around us, we are more likely to see someone that needs help.
I’m not just talking about someone who is in need, although this is true as well. If you are paying attention to those around you, you will start to pick up on clues about people. You’ll begin to see when someone is having a really hard day and just needs a word of kindness. So often, we are absorbed in what we’re doing. If someone is short with us, or if they don’t act the way that we think they should, we jump to the conclusion that they are just a bad person. Like the example above of the waitress. If you were having dinner at a restaurant and your waitress was messing things up, and being kind of quiet and short with everyone, most people would assume she is just a terrible waitress. If you’re being aware of what is going on, you would notice that her eyes are red from crying. This doesn’t excuse her behavior entirely, but it does let you know that maybe she needs a little more understanding and kindness, rather than rudeness thrown back at her.
3) Being aware allows us to see the beauty that is around us every single day.
Becoming aware of what is around you gives you the opportunity to see the beautiful things that you may otherwise miss. Are there pretty flowers in the lobby of your office building, your doctor’s office, or outside of the grocery store? Are their trees on any of the streets that you walk on each day, or pass by as your driving? Do the houses that you pass every day have front doors that are painted in interesting colors? Is someone that you see day in and day out wearing a new piece of jewelry or clothing that you like?
“In all the chaos and hurry, do not forget to notice the beauty and miracle of this world. Slow down. Notice. Observe. Be Aware. Allow presence and awe to come back into your life.” – Brendon Burchard
4) When we’re more aware of what is going on around us, and who is around us, we are more likely to be safe.
When we’re watching where we’re going, and looking at what is around us, we are less likely to trip over something, run into something or someone, etc. Also, criminals are less likely to bother you if they see that you’re paying attention to your surroundings. They don’t want someone who may remember their face.
Which brings up a good question: If you’re being aware, does it mean that you are viewing the world through a lens of fear?
This one really depends on your motivation. If you are fearful of the world around you, and you’re trying to be more aware of your surroundings because you are constantly afraid that something is going to happen to you, then yes. But just because you train yourself to be aware of the things and people around you, doesn’t automatically mean that you are living in fear. Unfortunately, there are bad people out there. Being aware of what is going on around us gives us the possibility of seeing something coming before it happens. If someone is intending to do us harm and we’re paying attention to things, then we may notice that the person walking towards us is acting weird. We may be able to divert our path or call for help before something bad happens. Being aware is simply being prepared, just in case.
Being aware helps you to be more present in your life. It will help you to be a part of your life, rather than just floating along on auto pilot.
Situational awareness is important for all of us to develop. Some people are naturally more sensitive to the things around them than others, but everyone can learn this skill. How?
Make it a point not to be looking at your phone, papers, etc. while you’re walking in and out of places.
If you are going to be looking at your phone, reading a book, or looking over papers, be sure to look up every few minutes and see what is around you.
If you’re talking on your phone as you’re walking, or sitting somewhere, be sure to do the same thing: look up, look around you.
As you’re entering a room, an elevator, or any type of space, take a look at who and what is around you. Get an idea of how the space is laid out; where the tables are, if there are cords laying on the floor, etc.
Begin paying attention to the little things.
Below is an Awareness Calendar that you can use to get some ideas. If you click on the link, you can download it, carry it with you, and have an entire awareness month; or you can come back to this post for reference if you don’t want to download it.
You can also use it as a starting point to come up with your own ideas. Once you read it, you’ll get the thought process behind it, and you can create your own awareness activities.
Each thing on the calendar is designed to make you more aware of what is going on around you and how you are spending your time. A lot of times we don’t realize just how much we really are on our phones, or watching tv, or doing mindless tasks.
On DAY 11 I ask you to count how many times you say cuss words. None of these things are on the calendar to make you feel bad – for being on social media or for cussing, etc. This day, along with the days that you look for certain words, gives you the chance to see how you’re talking. Part of being aware is paying attention to what language you’re using with yourself and others. It speaks to the positive self-talk that I’ve mentioned in other posts.
Some days you’ll be asked to look for an animal – this can be a real version of this animal, a stuffed version, a picture, anything. Look for them on menus, billboards, advertisements, on tv, in movies, and in commercials. (I saved the best animal for last. =))
If you like this calendar and would like more ideas, or more downloads like this one, and/or if you have any questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send me a message on Facebook or Instagram.