Ancient man survived through the use of natural instincts and knowledge of his environment. A failure to do so didn’t result in a bad day that ended in downing a quart of double chocolate ice cream to make themselves feel better but in mutilation, pain, and possibly death. There’s nothing like being eaten by a ravenous carnivore to cause the mind and body to fully engage!
Ancient man’s mind revolved around survival and safety first. In some ways that may seem much simpler than our lifestyle and some people might even find it refreshing. There is nothing quite like the clarity you get when things are either black or white. Fight or die is about as real as it gets as is find food or die, hide or die, run or die, etc. You get the point.
So with safety in mind, ancient man’s brain would have been constantly busy with taking in information. His eyes would be looking for movement of either things that could kill him or things that could keep him alive. His sense of smell would be doing the same thing as it searched for telltale signs of enemies or foodand water. His ears might be listening for the sound of running water which would be essential. Even his sense of touch would be on alert for changes in air pressure which might clue him into something moving nearby.
Contrast this with our modern mind which may be more concerned with work, bills, social status, social media, our phones, or any number of other things we face or interact with daily. These things can be important or they can be distractions from more immediate events that require our attention. Miss the wrong clue and things can get hairy quickly.
Our brains, just as ancient man’s brains, will replay situations or events so that we can learn and adjust tactics so that should we face them again we are better prepared and can hopefully come out on top. We can even play scenarios in our minds in advance in order to have a reaction already in the back of our minds should a circumstance arise. This is an invaluable tool!
So in our goal of being vigilant in order to remain safe and happy, we have to learn to use all of the things that ancient man passed along to us and apply them to modern society. We have to learn to use our eyes not just to look but to observe. Our ears to not just hear the indecipherable droning around us but to differentiate between important things and simple noise. Our sense of smell should help us in putting the puzzle pieces together in certain circumstances as well as our sense of touch recognizing the difference in normal activity or someone getting a little bit too close.
Don’t just look, Observe
Don’t just listen, Hear
Don’t just smell, Decipher
Don’t just feel, Visualize
One of my favorite things to have people do, especially people who aren’t used to it, is take a walk in the woods. No cell phones, no distractions except those in your own mind. What do you notice?
Now find a place to sit down and close your eyes. What do you hear?
Take along some earplugs and put them in after opening your eyes and start observing. Now walk around and pay attention to how you are scanning with your eyes a little more because you have handicapped your sense of hearing.
Now walk along and imagine you are in a forest that has hungry bears, mountain lions, and wolves. Is your head on a swivel? Are you looking around more? Did that squirrel running through the leaves sound like something much bigger? Were you able to lock onto its location a little more quickly? Hopefully, the answer is yes.
Now most of us don’t live in a world filled with those animals but we do live in a world filled with dangers and predators. Some are easy to see and logical while others require some understanding of people and the numerous different mindsets that they are capable of having and using for good or bad.
Another thing our instincts do is cause us to react certain ways both physically and physiologically when we are frightened, surprised, attacked, or sense imminent danger. This all takes place in the name of self-preservation. It’s there for a reason and we should use it to our advantage.
If someone jumps out from behind a door and surprises you what do you do physically? Does your heart rate go up? Where do your hands go? Do you move toward or away from the “surprise”? As you think about these things it will give you a glimpse into how we have evolved in such a way as to preserve ourselves.
So as an exercise let’s start trying to pay a little more attention to the world around us on our way to work. Mentally keep track of at least five things that you picked up on or that stood out on your commute.
Oh, and it can’t be something you saw on your phone!
This will be the first step in activating or reactivating some of your natural gifts of self-preservation.
Plan Prepare Execute.