Despite what conclusions many may jump to about a virtually gun-free country, I have always admired our Australian friends. After working directly with the Australian Federal Police, Army, and various contractors, I knew that there was something about their culture of personal protection that interests me. I met Jordan Smith here through an online community and noticed for the most part that our views on proactive personal protection were parallel enough to have him write this guest blog. I enjoy collaborating with like minded professionals and hope that you enjoy this contribution. -Marc
My name is Jordan Smith, and today I want to share my perspective and experience with situational awareness. I am not an expert in this field; I have no military background, and I haven’t fired a weapon in many years. You may be wondering how I can contribute to this subject, but bear with me for a moment. Anyone can exercise situational awareness, even a person in the mining industry in one of the safest places in the world, Western Australia.
What I want to achieve with this article is to connect with people who aren’t military trained or experienced. I want to connect with the plumbers, accountants, engineers, electricians, mothers, fathers and anyone who has yet to experience the benefits of practising situational awareness.
I moved to Australia in 2009 from the US to Perth, Western Australia, one of the safest places in the world. I never thought I would have any use for situational awareness, but since practising it, I’ve learned many things and have experienced the numerous benefits that come from it. Despite Australia being a very safe place, bad things can happen in any country, to any person at any time.
On December 15th, 2014 a gunman stormed into a Sydney cafe taking hostages at gunpoint. It was a tragic day for the country and didn’t end well for a few hostages. This incident shows the reality that although Australia has different gun laws and culture, attacks still happen and it’s important not to get complacent.
There have been numerous incidents like this happening all throughout the world. The threat of an attack or shooting does not keep me from going about my life; it has however made me more situationally aware when I’m in public places. Take dinner for example.
I went out to eat with a friend recently. We entered the restaurant, and I followed him through to the seating area. We sat down, and I took a quick glance at the surroundings, the people in the restaurant and where the entries and exits were. I felt comfortable having done a quick scan of the area and was ready to relax and enjoy the meal.
I make a case for situational awareness for four reasons regardless of your occupation, experience or geographic location.
Situational Awareness is Empowering
People can grow fearful when they see things in the news of attacks and other violent crimes. When we are prepared, however, the fear does not take hold. Instead, we are empowered to carry on with our lives and live well. That is why I practice situational awareness. I feel empowered and more prepared should a worse case scenario happen. I feel confident to go where I please and do as I please knowing should be something bad happened I will be more prepared.
It Takes Seconds
For people who think it takes too much effort to practice situational awareness, it takes seconds! Seconds is all it takes to scan the room, choose a seat near an exit, plan a quick escape plan. I know that everyone has seconds to spare for this. The challenge I feel is that in places of comfort and relative peace there can be complacency. Taking a few seconds to exercise situational awareness may be the difference between life and death. It may buy you those few seconds you need to escape or fight. When life is on the line, I think a few seconds is a small price to pay.
Situational Awareness is an Exercise in Self-Awareness
Having a degree of situational awareness is an extension of self-awareness. Being self-aware has enormous benefits. For example, if we are unable to be reflective of ourselves how we can make any analysis as to what improvements we can make? If we don’t have a self-awareness of our posture or the body language we give off, how can we be effective communicators? Situational awareness and self-awareness go hand in hand, and if we can be aware of ourselves, we can surely extend that outwardly to assess and analyse our place in our external environment.
You Become More Observant
Being able to scan our environments is also helpful in social situations. We may scan the room to see who takes our interest to speak to at a networking function. It is helpful to be more observant and to see the non-verbal messages that are going on around us. It may be the glance you get from a woman who fancies you. Being more situationally aware will help us to pick up on these signals that are happening all around us all the time. Being able to see and observe more will help us tremendously in our social interactions and how we communicate with people. How a person is feeling’s observable without them uttering a single word. Being able to observe these things will help us to connect better with those around us.
Situational awareness for me starts with a question. What is the worst that could happen? This question guides my scanning and assessments of the places I am in and also the people in my general vicinity. People may argue that I’m too extreme, especially here in Australia where it is relatively safe, but we never know what could happen. The odds are in our favour here in Australia, but there is no reason why a few seconds can’t be taken to have an enhanced level of awareness of self and surroundings. Situational awareness is a good habit to be in. The beauty of any skill or habit is it gets better with time and practice. Soon it will be something that is second nature.
I have a challenge for you. If you’ve never practised situational awareness, regardless of the country you live in, or your occupation, have a go at it. The next time you’re at a restaurant or another public setting ask yourself a quick question, what is the worst thing that could happen? Take a quick scan around and make a plan of action should you be met with the worst case scenario. Start to observe your surroundings and be mindful of the people and things around you. It is amazing what we can see and observe when we take a few seconds to have a meaningful look at our surroundings. These observations and your heightened situational awareness will give you the slight edge you need if you find yourself in a sticky situation.
Jordan Smith is a writer, miner, consultant and sportsman with a passion for personal development. Jordan currently resides in Perth, Western Australia after moving from the US in 2009; which he sums up as being “an eye-opening experience.” He runs a company called Assertive Life which aims to help passive people become more assertive in business, at home and in relationships.