The first day I stepped foot in US Navy Boot Camp, and in so many situations after that, I have heard the phrase “Situational Awareness”. We are told, “Keep your head on a swivel,” meaning to keep an eye all around you. In the military, this is beat into us constantly – and for good reason. Life is actually inherently dangerous, but in the military this increases exponentially. There are Sailors on the decks of Aircraft Carriers, manning weapon systems, working on electrical circuits, and driving billion dollar warships. We have Marines, Soldiers, and people from every armed service engaged in combat in Afghanistan.
Does situational awareness apply as a civilian? You bet it does! You can sit in your cloud of bliss, blocking out the world, and in complete denial that anything bad will ever happen to you – until it happens to YOU. The better alternative is to always think about what is going on around you, what “could” potentially happen around you, and then how would you react in any given situation.
I have a great friend I met in the military, and have known for nearly 20 years. When we walk into a restaurant, he has to sit with his back to a wall and so he can see the whole room including the entrance. He has always been aware of his surroundings and constantly thinks about his next move “if” something should happen. If he is in the car with me, and I am driving, I used to pull to close to the car in front of me when stopped at a stop light. He would tell me, “Why did you pull that close? Now if something happens, you will have no means of escaping.” When I was in my early 20’s I thought, wow – he is paranoid. Now I realize this is the kind of thinking that will help you survive in a life or death moment.
If you do not live your life day to day with this kind of thinking and planning constantly ticking in your mind, the best thing to do is to start practicing. Play the “what if” game with yourself. If you are in the grocery store, ask yourself, “What if XXX happened, what would I do?” Fill in the blanks with all kinds of scenarios and do this in various locations in your life. It will really make you think and act differently.
Colonel Jeff Cooper, USMC (Ret.) adapted the awareness color code for the US Marine to a personal awareness code. The color code applies to one’s state of mind and relates to the degree of peril you are willing to do something about and which allows you to move from one level of mindset to another to enable you to properly handle a given situation. Cooper did not claim to have invented anything in particular with the color code, but he was the first to use it as an indication of mental state. You can see it below:
How many of you already live your life with constant scenario planning in the background of your thoughts? How does it cause you to behave in various situations? What suggestions would you give to those who are just starting to become so aware? Do you know people who stay in the “white” state 100% of the time?