The Total Man: Be Observant; Be Successful

by Michael on June 18, 2009 · 0 comments

The Total Man series of posts will feature principles that will make you more successful in all areas of your life.

If there’s one single piece of advice I could give to every man, woman and child, it would be: pay attention.

Every day I watch people who stumble through their daily lives, not paying attention to the world around them. (By “the world around them,” I’m not referring to politics or environmental issues, but the actual physical area they’re inhabiting at that moment.) They’re so absorbed in their phone call or their thoughts that they missed the money on the sidewalk, the cute woman smiling at them, or the oncoming vehicle. Or they spoke to their girlfriend or client or boss and missed something very important in the conversation. I would go as far as to say that virtually everything negative that has ever happened to me had its roots in a lapse of attention.

Sign guy was too busy thinking about fishing.

Sign guy was too busy thinking about fishing.

It’s hard to be attentive, especially in the age of gadgets, where music players, cell phones and mobile internet mean we never have to be without external stimulation, and there’s always something going on. But when you’re texting and the car you’re driving rear-ends a police cruiser, the problem is still yours. (And a lot of you probably cringed when you first saw that story, because you know the feeling of “oops, I hope that light wasn’t red back there.”)

Getting past your own thoughts and beginning to take in the world around you can help you excel personally. Athletes, especially those in speed or team sports, rarely succeed by muscle memory alone – they must constantly adjust based on events occurring around them. Anyone in any job can get much further ahead by paying deep attention to what their boss and co-workers are saying to them, and to the changing conditions surrounding their work.

And in a post that’s coming soon to this blog, we’re going to discuss the initial steps to approaching women, and the very best way to make a first impression is with something you’ve observed about her, other than “you’re hot.”

So now you understand that it’s important to be observant. How do you do it?

1. Take the time to observe.

You can’t see something merely by being there. It requires putting down the phone or newspaper and looking around. When you’re driving or crossing the street as a pedestrian, don’t look just at nearby cars, look at the drivers in the cars. Read every sign around you (and note how many are ridiculous). Make sure you know where the exits are after you enter a room.

People-watching is great practice. Guess people’s backstories, their jobs, and more by looking at their clothes and mannerisms.

And once a day, take at least a few minutes to process your day. This is the time for a journal entry, or to update your task list so it isn’t clogging your mind. Also, make sure to use that list and take action whenever you can – mental “to-dos” take up valuable time and space.

2. Really listen.

When someone’s taking the time to speak to you, pay your undivided attention to what they’re saying. Formulate follow-up questions, and if you aren’t sure you understand something, try rephrasing it (“it sounds like you’re saying…”). If you’re on a cell phone, stop whatever else it is that you might be doing and pay attention to the call, and if you can’t step completely away from the physical task, either don’t take the call or call back when you can give your undivided attention.

3. Meditate.

The biggest stumbling block to being more observant is the clutter in your mind. One of the best ways to help sort out your thoughts is to meditate every day. Meditation doesn’t have to be done with candles and music, or in a full lotus position, or by repeating a “mantra.” It’s simply a time to sit quietly in a comfortable place, a quiet corner or outdoors, for ten minutes or more and try not to think of anything but your own breathing, the wind, voices in the distance, whatever. When those troublesome thoughts pop up, go back to feeling and hearing your breath.

You’ll be amazed at how much more you see and hear when your mind is clear.

These are all small steps. It may take a conscious effort at first, but as you observe more you’ll enjoy your life more, and notice the success that comes from seeing the world around you a bit more clearer.

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