Situational Awareness (Like Jason Bourne)


A seemingly extraordinary ability to observe one’s surroundings and make detailed assessments about one’s environment is illustrated in the following short video segment from the movie, “The Bourne Identity”

It’s not just a trait of top secret special operators, it is a skill known as situational awareness, being highly aware, and you can possess it too.

Situational awareness is a simple concept. It is knowing what’s going on around you.

It sounds easy, doesn’t it?

The only thing easy is noticing the very obvious things – and even those things often go unnoticed in today’s modern world of technology where people’s heads are buried in their smart phones…

In reality, situational awareness requires practice. It’s something that is taught to law enforcement, soldiers, and others. You can learn it too.

Recognizing a situation that might potentially turn dangerous, or being aware of a risk even seconds before, can make all the difference.

Situational awareness is a way of saying “pay attention to what’s happening around you”.

But it can be more than that. You can take awareness to the next level.

…by practicing – scanning your environment (which can actually be a fun and interesting mental exercise). While practicing, you will notice all sorts of new things in the world around you. It helps to open your eyes, and your mind…

There’s a scene at the beginning of ‘The Bourne Identity’ where ‘Jason Bourne’ (Matt Damon) is trying to figure out who he is and why he has a bunch of passports and a gun stashed in a safety deposit box.

Bourne also notices… Watch:

Jason Bourne analogy inspired from the ‘Art of Manliness Collection’ by Brett and Kate McKay.


  1. I guess being aware of my surroundings comes from my occupations over the years.

    Being an industrial mechanic, working on all sorts of equipment and also being in the surroundings of other people using that equipment while you are there repairing stuff, you pay attention to everything around you while you work so you do not get run over etc.

    I remember one time taking the wife to see her parents in the city, as we turned onto the street her parents lived on, there were vehicles on both sides of the road, with about a dozen typical city skumbags in the street as well.

    As we approached, one vehicle pulled out into the street as if to pull into a drive way and stopped. Instantly, out came the 9MM. The wife asked me what am I doing? I said don’t you see what just happened? They just blocked the road!

    Yes I had to stop my truck to wait at about 50 foot distance. I checked my mirrors of coarse and nothing behind me, but I kept my eyes glued to all those people. My truck had a plow frame on it so I would have no problem with ramming the car if need be and I think they sensed that so they did pull the car into the driveway.

    I then proceeded to drive through them, pistol in hand until we pulled into her parents home. Being aware of your surroundings also includes predicting the near future, or say looking ahead for potential problems to occur.

    This is also something I developed working on all the things I do, because if I did something stupid, it may very well cost me my life, or the life of those around me. Heavy equipment and 480 volt 3 phase electricity can nullify you in a second.

  2. I have was very young when I ended up with ptsd even though I didn’t know what it was at the time

    my head was on a swivel all the time ALWAYS looking around for bad shit to happen

    situational awareness has saved my LIFE in todays world if you DONT have it you are a victim waiting to happen

    paying attention to whats going on around you is KEY if you don’t want something bad to happen to you

  3. I like to people watch while waiting in line or on a bench waiting for a family member or in my car waiting for a someone. I pick someone out and watch them and try to figure what their story is and what they might do next. The most interesting ones are the ones watching other people. Are they sizing people up for something or are they practicing situational awareness as well? Those are the ones I watch the closest. The oblivious ones are no threat as they are walking and texting at the same time.

    1. @Peanut Gallery
      While true that most texting walkers are oblivious, never underestimate a possible opponent. Someone could use their phone as a mask, pretending to be texting while they are actually using their peripheral vision to scan the environment. What better way to blend in in today’s world? Observe everything. Especially the things hiding in plain sight.

  4. Always check out their hand placement and items carried. Footwear can tell you alot too.

    1. Chameleon
      A BIG DITTO on the footwear. I caught more than my fair share of thugs*back when I could actually spring for longer than one block)
      Foot wear gives a LOT away when it comes to sizing threats up.
      And ALWAYS watch the hands. If you can’t see their hands, you’re already screwed.

  5. Situational awareness not only applies to other people, for example:

    my wife, her sister and I just finished an evening walk here at the ranch. After about 1 1/4 miles from the house we walked past my herd bull (1500 lbs) that I hand raise (docile right).

    They walked past him & then I walked past him, about 40 feet away. I was looking back at him and he charged.

    Thankfully, there was an oak tree that I stepped behind; I kept the tree between us. I never let my guard down fortunately.

    He could have crippled or killed me easily. Over the years I have seen dogs come at people. So, the moral of the story is “animals can also present a danger”.

  6. No joke….I had to go wrangle my own bull earlier this week. Also hand fed, bottle baby, so makes him easier to call home ( he had jumped the fence to service the neighbor’s lady herd) He’s still young at only 2 years, but he good put a good hurt on anyone if he wanted to. We also have a heifer that we did NOT cut the horns off. she too was a bottle baby, and doesn’t realize that when she comes to get her ears rubbed she could do some serious damage.

    Keeping the small herd happy requires a lot of attention. We have bears, lions, bobcats, coyotes that we are always on the watch for. Good practice for those days in town when we have to keep an eye on the two legged predators!

    One item I can share with you is this….MAKE EYE CONTACT. I can not tell you the number of times I have made eye contact, after looking at their hands, and they actually cross the street or turn around and go the other way! (scary folks in my local “city”) It is a “border town with alot of transient traffic. I ALWAYS watch the people when I am in town. Never in condition white!

  7. While getting gas the other day my situational awareness noticed that a white suv with 3 males almost collided with a 1 male in a silver car in the parking lot. Saw the stare downs. The suv was leaving but then after the near collision pulled into a parking space on the side of the gas station.

    First thought was here we go again. Seen it happen too many times before. Young, dumb and full of piss and vinegar boys are going to fight over nothing.

    Then the silver car pulled up next to them. Wow that’s guy has some balls. But wait the passenger from the white suv gets out and jumps into the silver car on the passenger.

    That’s when I realized I think a drug deal is about to go done. I admit I have some dealings with this type of stuff from younger days.

    After I finished pumping gas I had to go into the store and low and behold the guy gets out of the silver car passenger side and I follow behind him into the store he needs change for a 20. Nothing else just change. I make my purchase directly behind him and follow him out. Watched the deal get done and they drive off.

    Nobody else around had a clue what just took place at a very busy gas station that usually has a high amount of LEO’S stopping by. Crazy.

    Not trying to toot my own horn. But it is amazing what you can see if you keep your wits about you.

    Adapt and overcome.

  8. One thing to add, we often think that because we notice stuff that most don’t and are constantly scanning we are “aware”. We often are only aware to our own environmental norms and experiences. Often when you are able to look from another’s point of view you realize how much you may have missed. Don’t be afraid to compare notes or seek additional training to constantly improve skills. I don’t want to pick on 11he9, but he saw a situation possibly going down and still managed to follow a person he deemed to be possibly dangerous into a confined space and separating himself from his auto and means to flee. It’s actually quite difficult to stop a routine habit like running in and paying for gas rather than waiting out the unfolding situation, especially when odds are everything will be fine. Been there done that.

    I was just at a situational awareness / safety training the other day which was tailored to a group which does a much different job than I do. Part of the interaction was video taped so we could critique it afterward. The scenario was we were to meet with a recently released convicted felon at his new apartment and access for safety/compliance. So all we knew going in is the guy could be dangerous, and seeing that this was a training my instinct was be that we should expect something so I already had that advantage. In my interaction basically nothing happened, I assessed the room asked a few questions and stayed longer than any of the other teams. When reviewed many of the teams that went through assessed the scenario much differently.

    Some saw kitchen knives in a sink and on the counter across the room as significant, even though they were all well out of reach of the subject. Some focused so much on the subject they missed the drugs and paraphernalia scattered about. Others were focused on audio distractions like the tv and radio volume levels.

    I personally missed most of the drugs because I was focused on physical threats and the subjects actual behavior.

    The point is it is VERY difficult to take in everything, and it is easy to by distracted on one type of threat while missing another. Also when you determine a threat don’t forget to underestimate what the potential impact may be and follow up with appropriate action.

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