It amazes me how many people look without actually seeing. Actually, I should say, “how often we look without seeing”, because we are all guilty of that at one time or another. I’ve grown up in rattlesnake country and was taught to always be on the lookout for the rascals, yet I’ve nearly stepped on several. I watched a highly qualified defensive instructor walk right by a man who had a Smith & Wesson nickel N-frame revolver stuck on the front of his belt and never saw it until I mentioned it. Truth be told, every one of us could tell stories about times that we looked without seeing.
Of course, some of us are better at actually seeing what is going on around us than others. Experience, for one thing, can be a great teacher. The veteran street cop will see far more than the rookie will. The same goes for the combat soldier with two tours under his belt. And, I would just suppose that the person who has already survived one car jacking just might be paying a little more attention whilst motoring down the road.
I was once working a felony assault and just caught a glimpse of the suspect driving away in a blue pickup. He made a few turns, I made a few turns, and I lost him. About that time, I saw two boys in their early teens standing on a street corner.
“Did you boys see a blue pickup come by just now?”
“Sir, do you mean that blue 78 Ford short-bed, with the headache rack, dual pipes, and a fancy grill guard?”
“Um, yes, that would be the one.” And just like that a crook went to jail because two kids really liked trucks.
Regardless of our own innate ability to observe, we can always find room for improvement. I do it by being my own worst critic. When I catch myself wandering along in a daydream, I mentally kick my own butt and make a forced effort to start paying attention. I do a pretty good job of seeing when I am in an unfamiliar situation; it’s the usual routine that causes me to backslide. Knowing that, I make a conscious effort to improve my performance. It works even better when you have a spouse or partner so that you can help each other pay attention.
The simple fact is that we are all guilty of looking without seeing. It is, however, a fault that we can work to correct. And, make no mistake about it, it is critical to your personal defense. How do you increase your power of observation?