Written as a guest post for the Urban Commuter Blog.
There are two very important constants that we need to address in order to remain left of bang: the humans and the environment. The environment is a key element that a lot of people often fail to understand, thinking it’s out of their control. But understanding what’s going on around us is one of the most important things we can and must do. This is true not only for people working in professions where their lives are at risk, and need to be constantly focused on the environment, but also for everyday life situations, such as walking around your neighborhood, commuting to the office every day, a sports event with the family, or many more cases where things can go wrong.
To begin understanding the environment, we need to create baselines, in other words, understand what the “vibe” of a location is. The mind needs those baselines to know what is normal in a situation, and what seems off for this particular place. This is called situational awareness.
Situational awareness is paying attention to the environment and to what our senses tell us about it. The more we do it and train our senses to pay attention, the more we will be able to detect things that are out of place and don’t belong. And this is key to safety. Every place has its own pace and patterns of life. The locations we visit during our commute have a “normal”, so do the supermarkets, or the hiking trail, or any place we might find ourselves. The sooner we can learn what normal is in a particular location, the sooner we’ll be able to detect things that deviate from this normal, making them something we need to pay more attention to, helping to avoid a potential threat.
If we stay in a constant state of “relaxed awareness”, we’ll become more attuned with the surroundings, and able to understand the things that might indicate something bad is about to happen. Being aware doesn’t mean being paranoid, but it does mean taking the time to observe, getting our faces out of the phones, and using our ears to listen to what's going on around us.
Taking the time to observe the environment, to feel what belongs there, and the everyday details that make a normal situation in that place is one of the first things we must do whenever we arrive in a new location. Understanding and taking mental frameshots of normalcy will give us the chance to quickly sense when we need to act. We can then begin assessing everything in the environment, learning it as we go, and manipulating it in our favor. When things begin to unfold and we are confronted with something we were not prepared for, having an understanding of the environment will always be beneficial, allowing us to quickly assess the situation, and find ways out. Always repeat this: “when in doubt, develop the situation”. Slow it down, seek a safe location, and let the situation develop to see what can be done.
There are a few things we can do to begin being more aware:
- Know that there is always a threat. The target of that threat can be you, or it can be the person next to you. It doesn’t matter if you don’t see it, the threat exists. Once you are aware of this, you can prepare yourself to deal with it mentally and physically, so when it happens you’ll know what to do. This is where the power of visualization comes in. Imagine the things that can go wrong, and imagine what you’d do. Rehearse in your head the steps to understand how you’d detect things going wrong, and what you’d do. Make this into “muscle memory”. Bad actors can have a lot of reasons to target you, some personal and some not. However regardless of the reasons, you cannot allow yourself to think that it will not happen to you.
- Make the environment work for you. Be aware of your surroundings. Remain focused on the people around you, the cars, the sounds, and the “electricity” in the air. People react to things, and if you can read the cues, you’ll be able to be left of bang.
- Change your habits. Habits play against you. A bad actor can build and plan an attack based on these habits. If you always commute at the same time, taking the same train, try changing the routes you walk, or the car you sit in. Always try to vary something in your commute. Change the patterns, change the way you do things. Don’t allow people to learn how and when you do things.
- Test yourself. This is the fun part: put yourself in the attacker’s shoes. See yourself as a bad person would. If you were to try to rob yourself, or disrupt yourself in any way, how would you do it? If you can find a way to do this, so does a bad person. Once you’ve done this, try to observe other people and see if you could “attack” them. Learn what looks out of place, and what other people’s patterns are. Make this work for you.
It is all about observation. This is the key. Learn to get in touch with the environment, and make it work for you. Move your head and take it all in. Smile.