What is situational awareness? It is the conscious and subconscious mindset of knowing what’s going on around you. “Around” implies 360-degrees – more than just what’s in front of you…

How many people do you observe during any given day who are ‘tuned out’ as they walk?

Maybe they’re looking only in one direction – typically down towards their feet or path in front of them or into their “smart device”.


Situational awareness is a mindset. A frame of mind. Awareness. The mindset itself is a learned and eventually habitual behavior of observing one’s surroundings – including your six.

It involves mental conditioning that might be considered ‘forced paranoia’ at first – but eventually becomes natural and almost subconscious.

We don’t have eyes behind our head. However we do have pretty good peripheral vision. Peripheral vision is a part of vision that occurs outside the very center of gaze and is good at detecting motion. 120-degrees or thereabouts.

Related: 3 More Drills To Practice Situational Awareness

A problem (with situational awareness) is that our world is spherical — left, right, up, down, and all around. To achieve the highest level of awareness you must have a mindset of 360 degrees.

A ‘360 mindset’ is one in which we keep tabs on what’s going on all the way around us – the entire environment that we’re in. We see, we hear, we smell, we “sense”.

How do we successfully utilize our senses to accomplish effective situational awareness?

First, WE MUST NOT BE TUNED OUT. Which begs the question,
“Why do so many people stare into their ‘smart phones’ all the time?”

Here’s what you need to do. Train yourself (force yourself) to be 360-aware. The next time you go out in public, do it.

Lets say you’re going to the grocery store. From the time that you walk out the door of your home, simply glance around to be aware of what’s going on. Same thing in the grocery store parking lot. What’s going on around you as you’re walking to the store? It’s simple really, but most people don’t do this.

At first it may seem odd to be purposely observing what others are doing around you. After awhile it should become natural as your subconscious begins to take over the task.

On a related note, there’s a “color code” of situational awareness that may help:

Cooper Color Code For Readiness

Condition White (unaware and unprepared)
Condition Yellow (relaxed alert)
Condition Orange (specific alert)
Condition Red (fight)

You should always be in condition yellow when out and about…

Another example, while in your vehicle and having reached your destination – before you get out, take a few brief seconds to have a quick look around first.

Give yourself a specific drill – Look at people’s hands. Look at their eyes. Read their body language. It should take a micro-moment to categorize most people as potential “friend or foe”.

Next time you’re out in public, observe how few people actually look like they even know what’s going on in front of them – let alone around them!

Observe how many people walk with their head tilted downward towards the walkway in front of them as they walk with their thoughts – tuned out of their surroundings and environment. Observe how many have their heads tilted down in their electronic gadget as they walk. It really is quite amazing. Don’t be them!

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