Situational awareness in modern life

Building on our natural gifts for situational awareness

Situational awareness and rapid decision-making in modern life are becoming rare skills. People are constantly distracted by their cell phones and also, depending on where they live, by the relative safety of their surroundings. Then when something does happen they find themselves with their backs against the wall because they have squashed their natural senses to the point that their situational awareness is almost zero.

So now that we’ve discussed some of our natural gifts in the last blog post, let’s move on to how we can use and improve those skills. You should not have to or should you spend every second of your day on high alert. However, you need to be able to adjust on the fly given your current situation. What is normal in one environment is taboo in another when it comes to situational awareness. The key is to establish a nice flow from one state to the next which can and should happen naturally as conditions change.

Methods of analyzing

Marine Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Cooper developed a chart that can help you gauge your situation and respond accordingly. It’s a color-coded system that is intuitive and easy to understand.

Code White is sadly where most people spend the vast majority of their day. Its a completely tuned-out mode that we have all seen as someone steps off of a curb into oncoming traffic while looking down at their cell phone. To them, the world around them has stopped moving and what they are doing is far more important than surviving a simple day of modern life.

Code Yellow is a relaxed but aware state which everyone should strive for throughout the majority of their day. One pitfall is that it is easy to slip back into Code White simply because you are relaxed.

Code Orange is when you pick up an issue and are quickly developing a course of action. ( Quickly because hopefully you have prepared yourself for these circumstances) For instance, you notice someone following you, someone looks out of place or is acting erratically, you hear a car quickly accelerating and coming toward you when the speed limit is 25mph.

Code Red is go time! You must execute your plan with swift definitive action. This however shouldn’t feel like jumping into a freezing river because you have worked your way from white to orange in a calm, methodical manner. If you’ve done your homework you shouldn’t feel completely surprised or overwhelmed.

Quick decision making

The OODA loop, developed by Air Force Colonel John Boyd,  is a method of decision making that uses the available information putting it in context, and quickly making the most appropriate decision based on that information. It also leaves room for changes should more data be presented.

The full version looks like this ( don’t let it overwhelm you)

While the shorter version looks like this

The nice thing is that these two methods, through proper practice and planning, can become nearly instinctual.

Here’s an example of the thought process.

  • What is immediately affecting me?
  • What is affecting my opponent?
  • What could affect either of us later on?
  • Can I make any predictions?
  • How accurate were my prior predictions?

Of high importance is the things discussed in the last blog which references natural instincts. You need to shut out all unnecessary distractions. Luckily our brains can do just that very quickly because we have been doing it for survival for thousands of years.

Putting it into real-world use

Now after going through all of that, it is not required that you memorize of name the methods you use to take in information about your environment but I wanted to offer these examples. Personally, I have never used charts or acronyms and simply developed my own skills over years of being in different situations. You have to decide what works for you.

In order to develop these skills and situational awareness, you have to exercise the “muscles” that help you move through the modern world. Let’s end with some exercises.

The next time you are out and about and you walk into a business, simply take note of alternative exits. Yes, you’ve seen this in movies a thousand times but there’s a reason it’s in those movies. It’s a basic skill.

Now do a quick overview of who’s in the room with both your eyes and ears. Does anything stand out? If so then let your wheels start turning and move accordingly. proper decision-making requires proper input!

Lastly, keep that cell phone put away unless absolutely necessary! Reading this blog or checking your social media accounts is NOT absolutely necessary although your being here is greatly appreciated.

As you develop your skills all of this will flow naturally. Down the road, we will discuss how we can exercise that daily but the above few points should be a great place to start.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.