A term I’ve come across is situational awareness. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot, but it wasn’t until recently that I actually found a term for it. It was introduced to me by Antonio Centeno, a former US marine who runs an online business teaching men about style. I’m doing two of his courses on my spare time to obtain a diploma as a men’s image & style consultant. Highly recommend his stuff.
Back to the subject. Situational awareness means in the simplest form to be ‘aware of your surroundings‘. The term is widely used in fields such as security, medicine, aviation, military, and survival. In an article by Stratfor, situational awareness is described as “Situational awareness is very important, not just for personal security but as a fundamental building block in collective security“.
That ties in nicely with one of the most important points that I want to make in this article: Collective security. It’s not all about you. Being in a place with other people demands that you give some sort of hint, clue of sign of what you are doing, what direction you are heading and if you are a threat or not. The key here is eye contact. People in your surrounding must be able to know if you have seen them. The effectiveness of collective maneuvering depends on eye contact and that people acknowledge each others presence, for example to be able to make decisions on what direction to move. The obvious situation is in traffic. You need to make eye contact with other drivers in order to make sure they see you. A person with very low situational awareness is thus depriving the other people in the vicinity of the ability to read you. I argue that it’s not only bad manners – it’s downright rude. You owe the people in this space a part of your attention.
These days, I have found situational awareness more relevant to normal everyday life than ever. Why? Because for people in general, it seems to have plummeted to rock bottom. At the same time, the world is becoming increasingly dangerous. Any major city faces the threat of some lunatic driving a truck into a crowd of people. You better see him before it’s too late.
Since coming to Singapore, I’ve realized that the situational awareness in general here is EXTREMELY low, pretty much non-existent. When moving around in public places or riding the MRT, I often feel like the only alive person in a sea of mindless slow motion moving drones. I can sit on the MRT going in to town, and have a look around. A safe bet would be that everybody in sight will be lost in their screen and nobody would meet my eyes.
I consider myself to have good situational awareness. Trying to sneak up on me? Forget it. I’ll see you. When in public places, I make an effort to quickly locate exits, and monitor my environment – something I learned in my certification as a private investigator. Sadly, I can’t say the same thing about the friendly Singaporeans.
My personal advice to people who find themselves lacking situational awareness: Do yourself a favor and put your phone away. Limit your daily screen time. Start using your brain to actually think. And most importantly: Live in the present moment.