Observe the world around you.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Not as simple as you’d think!
While this section will be dedicated to observing the natural world around you, I think we should start with the basics, which for me means spacial awareness. These two terms go hand-in-hand.
If you increase your spatial awareness, your levels of observation will deepen. In my experience, spatial awareness is something that people really tend to struggle with. What exactly is spacial awareness? Well, when you plug in “spatial awareness definition” into Google, this pops up:
“Spatial awareness is the ability to be aware of oneself in space. It is an organised knowledge of objects in relation to oneself in that given space. Spatial awareness also involves understanding the relationship of these objects when there is a change of position.”
Unless you grew up or studied a trade where spatial awareness was crucial, your skills in this are probably limited. Never fret! This is something you can work on and grow.
“How?” you ask. Here are some suggestions:
Let’s start with your immediate environment. Are you inside or outside? That’s the temperature? Time of day? Day of the week? Month? Season? Year? Weather? What do your five senses tell you? What can you see out of the perimeters of your eyes without moving them? How close are you to other objects or creatures or people? When you close your eyes, can you get a sense of how far away or close you are to inanimate objects or other people? While it might seem like a lot to think about, this is about where most of us function on a day-to-day basis, so you’re probably already at Level One. Yay!
Note: The main thing at first is to NOT analyze anything. You want to just paint the picture. Observe. Without comment or remark, just notice that the tree you pass every day has a ribbon around it today and the dog that normally barks every day at 1:32pm is not.
“Okay, got it. What’s Level Two?”
You know those spy movies and tv shows where the lead is painfully observant of everything around them? Sherlock style? This is a level you can achieve with practice. You want to work towards this level, and you want it to be easy. It might seem daunting, but it’s not. It’s just practice. And remembering to practice. All. The. Time.
Make mental notes and pictures. Write things down. Narrate the scene around you like you think an author (or a consulting detective) would.
Most importantly, be patient with yourself. If you look at the same Where’s Waldo picture for five minutes every day for a week, you’re going to discover something new each time. It’s the same with your kitchen, or the street you live on or the route you use on your way to the bus. Get your face out of your smart phone and take note of what is passing you by, what you’re passing by and expand the observations from there. This practice will soon become a habit which will soon become natural. I swear the hardest part is to remember to do it! 😉
“Okay, I’m regularly aware of my surroundings, and it might satisfy even the likes of Mr. Holmes. It’s natural for me to know where things are and when they’re absent or moved, and I feel more at ease in my surroundings as a result. What’s next?”
Once you get used to observing your surroundings, just simply observing things as they are, you are ready to move on to the next level – thinking about it. Asking questions about your surroundings. Wondering. Speculating. Imagining. Ah, this is a nice step! “Why is that ribbon around the tree? I’ve observed that the owner of the the cafe by the tree has a little girl, so maybe she put it there?” “The dog isn’t barking! Is it not passing by today? Maybe it’s at the vet? I finally saw the dog and it was looking pretty old…maybe it passed on?” Things like this. The best part is that you have the freedom make it all up and be wrong! It’s okay! You’re not trying to impress anyone. You’re trying to observe your surroundings and then explore them. Entertain the thoughts, but don’t accept them as truth or hold onto them. Someone wise said something like that once, right?
Congratulations! You are now at Level Three! What does this mean? Funny you should ask…
You have officially reentered the state of childlike observation. I know, right? This is what children do. This is how children experience the world. We are trained out of it as we’re forced to focus and narrow our attention on “learning” in school, then in university and then again in the workplace. I could go on, but I think you know where I’m going with this. How sad is it that we have to train ourselves to get back into a childlike state of mind so that we can easily observe the world around us and the connections between us all? To use our imaginations?
The good news is, at least we can! Yay!!
I wish you all happy observing.