How Observant Are You?

by Justin T. Palm

Are you oblivious to the world around you? Or do you have a keen eye for the lessons life can teach you?

When you walk into a room, what do you see? Do you see a chair missing from the front row? Or the light bulb burned out in the corner? Or do you miss all of these details, remaining lost in your own thoughts?

It has been said that everyone falls into one of three categories: (1) those who make things happen; (2) those who watch things happen; (3) and those who don’t realize anything is happening.

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Which group do you fall into? Be honest with yourself.

Now ask, in which category would you like to be? This has everything to do with how observant you are.

Being observant is more than just noticing the minutiae in a room; it is a way of looking at life itself. Becoming a student of the world and paying close attention to your environment will help you grow in numerous ways.

Why Pay Attention?

One of the biggest reasons you should want to be more perceptive is that it is a great way to learn. Just as there are three different types of people, described above, there are two different ways to learn lessons: (1) the hard way and (2) the easy way.

Most successful people observe the right and wrong ways of doing things, learn from it, and remember and apply those lessons. You can be one who learns everything by making mistakes yourself, or one who learns from other people’s gaffes and successes. If you see the right or wrong way of doing or saying something in a given situation, be observant. Remember the details of the situation, and do not make the same error.

If you learn from your mistakes, or those of others, even your teacher or employer will notice. Managers look for employees who perceive what needs to be done around a jobsite, or in a restaurant, for example, and then accomplish it.

Becoming more attentive helps you to grow in wisdom. The Bible records, “Walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise” (Eph. 5:15). A wise person is aware of his surroundings. Not much “gets by” him. Learning by observation is one of the best ways to become more knowledgeable.

You can also increase your understanding by observing how things work. Study the world around you—analyze what you see. How does a car engine start? How does the human body function? In the past, people were generally more resourceful and could fix things. They could take items apart, repair them, and put them back together. Strive for more knowledge and understanding of how things work and you will become a more interesting and well-rounded person.

Use Your Senses

Before examining different aspects of life to observe, recognize that human beings are not automatically attentive—it will take work to become more observant. But you can grow in this area! Start with the realization that you are not naturally this way, and that you have room to improve. Do not let laziness limit your potential!

Observing people is one of the best ways to become more attentive to your surroundings, and is often the most valuable. Watch how they dress, what gestures they use, how they talk, and with what words they choose to express themselves. Visit a mall, nearby park or store. There is nothing wrong with watching people to see how they interact with others, but do not take this as license to outright stare at someone! This is considered rude and strange.

If you have eyes and ears—and you all do!—you can make certain simple judgments about people as long as you do not condemn them, or view them as inferior. Being observant means being able to make judgments and exercise discernment. There is no harm in realizing something about a person, as long as it is with the right attitude. You can learn much from watching those around you, whether good or bad examples. But be careful not to assume that their way is the right or the only way. When in doubt, ask someone! Observing people, including yourself, and committing the details to memory, will improve your skills in this area.

One of the keys to being observant is developing your five senses. See the trees around you. Smell the lilacs. Touch a cat’s fur. Taste flavorful food. Hear a beautiful orchestra. God gave our senses as gifts to receive information. Do we take them for granted? By continually using your senses, you will more fully develop them.

Events and activities are another time when observation is critical. Study how a Church function is conducted, whether it is a Sabbath service, Feast of Tabernacles or Ambassador Youth Camp. Although this should not take away from enjoying the activity, notice the order in which things are done, and how they are done. If you are at a baseball game, pay close attention to what is taking place around you. What are some of the rules—and are they enforced? What kinds of people are attending the game? Once you make this a habit, you will start to notice things you never thought of before. And as you begin to examine the world differently, you will be able to share what you learn with others.

Also, look to the Bible. Look for lessons from the Scriptures and “observe.” Ponder verses, and think on them. Look for elements of a common scripture you may have previously missed. Since the Bible is a living book, a verse can be applied in many different ways depending on your circumstances.

Reaching Your Full Potential

The points in this article are by no means a comprehensive list of what you should observe. Be resourceful. Apply your mind to other areas you can observe. Do not always assume someone will teach you how to do something. Teach yourself! Think of it as the most important class in the school of life! If there is one class you should excel in at this “school” that provides you with the most opportunities to learn, it should be “Observation 101.”

Becoming more observant will also teach you to think outside of yourself, and not about only yourself. If the majority of your thoughts are internal, strive to think more externally. When you catch yourself thinking only about you, focus instead on the elements of life that don’t involve you—there are many! Changing your focus will reap great rewards.

By paying closer attention to the world around you, you will increase your effectiveness and drive closer to reaching your fullest potential!