“One of the ideas that pops up in almost every lesson in military training is that extreme attention to detail matters. That in every situation, focused and unbroken awareness matters. That, in the worst cases, it is the difference between life and death. And so this level of attention to detail is stressed at every turn.” - Patrick Rhone: Situational Awareness
If you make it a habit to stop looking at your phone while you're walking, remove the earphones when you go from place to place, lift your head from that device and look around, observing the world around you, paying attention to sounds, smells, and movement of people, that’s when you begin to notice things. You realize there are lots of little details everywhere.
You don't need to be Jason Bourne for this. You only need to pay attention to the details. Really be part of the reality unfolding in front of you.
Situational awareness is that. It’s paying attention to your environment and to what your senses are telling you. The more you do it, and train your senses to pay attention, the more you will be able to detect things that are out of place, that don’t belong. And this is key to safety.
Every place has its own pace, and patterns of life. The locations you visit during your commute have a “normal”, and the sooner you can learn that, the sooner you’ll be able to detect things that deviate from this normal, making them a threat or something to pay more attention to.
Observe, listen, and sense. That is the key.
I make it a point to not check my phone or listen to music as I commute, especially when I’m walking on the street, or entering the subway. You’ll be surprised at the amount of stuff you miss when you disconnect from the environment. Even the simple act of being on the phone with someone, or taking 5 minutes to text someone, can cause you to miss something important, or fail to read something in the environment that is telling you to cross the street because something bad is about to happen.
I learned a lot of things in my past life, but one of the constants across the different training I took, was the focus on situational awareness. Some good tips that were given over the years:
When things begin to unfold, and you are confronted with something you were not prepared for, always repeat this: when in doubt, develop the situation. Seek a safe location, and let the situation develop to see how you can react to it.
Observe and be aware of your surroundings. Lift your head from your phone.