By Andrew Leigh
In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king. It’s one of those sayings that seems universally acknowledged for its truth, and equally universally ignored. After all, haven’t most people got two good eyes? The thing is, the saying isn’t about how many eyes you’ve got, or how good they are, it’s about how well you use them.
One of the strangest things about being a human is the way we have to unconsciously ignore most of the information available to our senses
We have to do this to continue functioning – otherwise we’d probably end up like those old fashioned sci-fi robots – all flashing lights, warning buzzers and smoke pouring from our ears as we shout overload – overload! Then of course, there’d be a sparky flash and we’d blow a fuse.
So the ability to be blind to most of what we see and deaf to most of what we hear is quite useful. It helps us get by in life.
Unfortunately there’s a flip side, because we also miss a lot of very important stuff – and especially when it comes to our increasingly complex work environments, where office politics and competing personalities can leave us baffled and floundering.
Whatever our role we tend to be so busy just getting along that we rarely make the time to sit up and really take notice. So in this particular land of the blind we may well be with the blind. Those that have taken the time to properly look about them have a tremendous advantage over us.
Habit of not looking
It’s an advantage that has been handed to them because while they have the habit of looking, we are in the habit of not looking, of not hearing – of not noticing . Making the decision to change that habit can offer immense paybacks. Many of my coaching clients have cited their new found observation habit as their key to unlocking their personal power and their ability to change things for the better.
Here are just a few of the benefits of enhanced observation skills:
- Better understanding of friends and rivals, bosses and staff
- Improved decision making skills
- Recognising and emulating ‘success behaviour’ (whatever your own definition of ‘success’ is)
- Learning the best ways to help people
- Learning the best ways to influence people
- Finding new ways to solve persistent problems
- Seeing opportunities and problems before they happen
With benefits like these it’s no surprise that confidence and self belief improve too.
But isn’t all this talk of observation a bit creepy, you may ask. If what we mean by observation is spying, I’d agree. However, every day observation skills need not be even remotely underhand. That’s because the amazing and powerful things you are likely to notice are already plainly in view.
As Jonathan Swift said: vision is the art of seeing things invisible to others. And why does so much of what’s in front of us seem invisible? Well, perhaps because people only see what they are prepared to see (Ralph Waldo Emerson), and because: what we see depends mainly on what we look for (John Lubbock).
Getting the Observation Habit.
Building the observation habit is surprisingly easy. It takes little more than choosing a focus for your budding observation skills, and the willingness to practice. I’d recommend focusing on one kind of event or one person at first. And it’s also useful if there is some kind of challenge you wish to address. This might be something like how to be more effective in meetings by observing behaviours and reactions, or perhaps how to communicate better with an awkward member of staff. It can also be very effective for learning to handle someone who intimidates you.
Once you get into the swing of being more observant you’ll probably find an interesting by-product – it’s actually great fun. In fact you can enjoy it so much that your observation habit can seem more like a hobby.
If you want to get the best out of your enhanced vision I’d recommend one tool above all others – a journal. Journaling is a fantastic learning tool. It consolidates the things you’ve learned during the day and often leads to fantastic insights that you would never have had otherwise. How do you journal? Simply make yourself some quiet time and write about the new things you’ve seen, and what that means to you.
So – are you really happy to keep the blinkers on – or would you prefer to try a little experiment with your ability to really see what’s going on around you? Start today. You’ll be surprised.
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Andrew Leigh helps people achieve better work and business performance, whole-life wellbeing, achievement and change, and fulfilling new life directions.
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