Awareness, Attitude, and Adaptability. Developing, practicing, and mastering these 3 physical/mental skills will help you with almost anything life throws at you. Our first blog post in this 3 part series covers AWARENESS.
Modern life, although full of safety, cushion and comfort, still has its own stresses and downfalls. One of the major downfalls is that with more technology we use, the less aware we become. Cars now have programming to help you stay in your lane if you lose awareness. We listen to headphones when we run, which dulls our awareness to what is going around us. We walk on perfectly flat, smooth surfaces so that we do not have to be aware of the next step. Technology is great, but having awareness is better, and we have to practice it just like any other skill we want to get better at!
As you are sitting or standing reading this, what is going on around you? Are there other people talking? Is there a television or radio on? Is it sunny outside? What is the temperature? Which way is the wind blowing? How do you feel? Do you have a hurt muscle? Are you slouched or sitting up straight? What phase is the moon in? What color shirt was your spouse/child/friend wearing this morning? Are you a little more aware now that you have answered these questions? Asking yourself questions throughout the day is a great way to remind yourself to be more aware!
We modern humans typically do not have to worry about being hunted, so our natural awareness becomes numb. How many people have you watched so engulfed in their phones that they do not hear a thing you say to them or even worse, almost walk right into a wall or traffic while their head is down? (I have seen too many to count, but luckily only their ego was bruised.) Their awareness is severely lacking. In a society of “me”, “I” and “mine”, we often find it hard to escape our very own bubbles. Practicing awareness skills daily will help to escape the self bubble. Do not get me wrong, as I am not perfect…far from it. My wife can attest that if I am looking at my phone, I am not really listening to what is going on around me, (Multitasking is a myth!) but the first step of awareness…. is being aware that most the time we are not aware at all.
Humans use our eyes as our primary sense, so we will start with that. The “drill” goes by many names such as “owl eyes” and “wide angle vision”, but I have always just thought of it as “unfocused focus”. This is best practiced outdoors when first starting out. First, focus on the horizon as far away as you can see, while just standing there. Now raise your arms so they are parallel with the ground and your hands stretched back. Next slowly start to wiggle your fingers while keeping focus on the horizon. Gradually swing your outstretched arms closer together while still wiggling your fingers. While staring in the distance, stop your arms from moving when you can see your fingers wiggling. This is the limits of your peripheral vision.
Once you realize that your peripheral vision is much wider than you thought, you can improve upon it with practice. Next time you are walking anywhere, don’t just look down at the ground for your next step. Slow down your pace, lift those eyes and look straight out in front of you at something in the distance. While focusing on that, notice everything in your peripheral vision. This will also force you to slow down a bit, which is beneficial in such a fast paced world. With practice, you will be able to see things to avoid stepping on, just by using your peripheral vision!
You can even practice this while sitting watching TV. Focus in on the TV, but let your eyes UN-focus a little, and pick up what is in your peripheral vision. If you can just remind yourself throughout the day to practice this (i.e staring at a computer or phone), you will eventually feel like you have been wearing blinders for years! The next time you hike in the woods and practice this, you will be pleasantly surprised how much more wildlife you will be able to see!
The next sense we are going to work on is our hearing. Just like our eyes, we can concentrate our hearing on everything and nothing all at once. While in a car or at home, start by listening to a song. Now while listening to that song, pick out just one instrument and focus in on that instrument. It could be a drum, a guitar or just the beat, but try to pick it out of the song. Then listen to the song as a whole for a few seconds, and back to the one instrument you were focusing on. Pick out a different instrument and try listening to that as well.
You can practice this next exercise anywhere as well, but it might annoy people around you. When you are walking with some friends and talking, listen to their conversation, but also try to hear what is going on around you. You will have to intentionally listen to a few seconds of the conversation, and then a few seconds of what is going on around you. Be forewarned, until you get really good at this, you will probably miss both things you are listening to, as you will constantly be jumping back and forth. (If the conversation is meaningful to you, then you may want to just focus on that!)
The next thing with hearing, is find a quite spot outside and just listen. Try to not have thoughts in your mind, and if you do, just focus on what you hear until those thoughts go away. (This could take a while if you have a really busy mind!) Once your mind is clear, try really hard to hear the furthest thing away from you. Can you identify it? Maybe it is a bird, or the low rumble of a train. Maybe it is a plane flying overhead. Next try to listen and hear what is closest to you. Maybe it is the soft chirp of a cricket, or the buzz of a bee collecting pollen in a nearby flower.
As you begin to awaken your sight and hearing, you will start to notice many more things that you never heard before. No longer will you walk in a forest and just see green and hear noise, but you will start to pickup on all that is going on around us all the time!
Possibly the most important awareness is situational awareness. How many times have you heard of people driving to a mall or store and forgetting where they parked? A lot! How can we be so unaware? Again modern technology. It has allowed us to plug an address in a phone and it tells us step by step on how to get there, instead of studying a map and learning the “lay of the land”. Situational awareness can help you avoid danger as well. If you are walking on one side of the street at night, and the other side is more brightly lit, then cross the road and walk on the more lit side. It is not fear, it is situational awareness!
For all you office workers, if you commute to work, here are some ways you can develop your situational awareness.
- Drive to and from work a different way each day. You do not have to go a completely different route, but maybe take an exit or side street before or after the one you normally take. By driving a different way each time it automatically gets you out of the “auto pilot” of the same route. You get extra points if you study a map and try a different way from memory!
- Park in a different parking spot each day. This keeps you on your toes as to where you parked and forces you to be a little bit more aware each day. You can also do this by parking in different areas of the parking lot of the stores you frequent most.
- If your office building allows, go in a different way each day. The building I work in has 7 different entrances from the outdoors. There are also 4 different stair cases and 3 different elevators. I am on the 3rd floor and there are 3 doors to get to that wing, so by choosing a different way each day, not only do I help heighten my awareness, I also get to see different parts of the building that I do not normally see.
Another fun thing to do to build awareness is turn it into a game. Sometimes I will go in our kid’s rooms and move something or take something to see how many minutes, hours or days until they notice it is gone or moved. Sometimes I will ask them if something is different about their room just to pique their interest and force them to be a little more aware.
All of these can all be fun, but they are also very important to practice. Awareness helps to keep you safe. Humans have used their awareness since the dawn of our species, as we were not always the top of the food chain, so we had to be aware or end up as prey. This can still happen today with criminals lurking around. Your awareness may be the only thing that saves you from becoming a statistic, so sharpen the awareness sword and never let it dull!
The next portion of the blog will go into the second “A”……. ADAPTABILITY.