Build observation skills – Supercharge your imagination
Our senses are doorways to our world. They are what we use to observe and perceive reality and make decisions, judgements and connections. They’re how we recognise our loved ones, communities and environments. They’re how we perceive patterns, changes and flow. Without them we would go hungry, be unable to communicate and be totally unaware of anything around us, or even of our own bodies. We would even be unaware of time. We would be utterly insignificant and lonely. Thankfully life’s not like this.
Our bodies are extremely complex sensory instruments feeding our minds with billions of elements of data, helping us to make sense of the world, and most of this happens without us even being consciously aware of it.
But you can hack into these senses. You can become consciously aware of them and the plethora of data that streams in through each one individually. You can sharpen your mind’s perception of this data and learn to see the world from entirely different perspectives. With this ability to observe from so many different angles, you can learn to excel at the important bits of life; deduction, decision making, building connections, leading, advising, consulting, caring, empathising, treating, fixing, building, making … and the list goes on.
You can become an observer, an imagineer and a creator.
So let’s dive in and have a look.
How many senses do you think you have?
Aristotle is the guy responsible for the recognition of the five senses. Sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. And good on him for that, but what about pain, balance, hunger, time, etc.
Actually most researchers agree on around 21 or so.
I’d like to take you on a flyover of that sensory world and show you how to access and sharpen these senses to enhance and sharpen your world view.
To start with here’s a list of 18 different senses that you’ll probably relate to immediately. I’ll give definitions of the more complex ones.
(Hiskey – Sourced from here)
To practice observance we typically think of using our sense of sight, but with this amazing arsenal of senses constantly pouring data into our minds we can observe in much more detail and from so many different perspectives. Even though some senses are more dominant than others, and some we barely use consciously at all, we are a walking sensing machine far more advanced than any fancy military or surveillance system devised to this day.
How do we hack into these other, less dominant senses? How can we sharpen them and become a true observer?
Although these less dominant senses are most often used subconsciously, they are actually part of our ‘Somatic Nervous System’, meaning we have awareness of them and control over them. Sensing makes up half of our ‘Somatic Nervous System’ and uses what we call ‘Afferent’ nerves. The other half uses ‘Efferent’ nerves which are used to control muscles. “The a- of afferent and the e- of efferent correspond to the prefixes ad- (to, toward) and ex- (out of).” (Wikipedia)
So hacking into these senses is preprogrammed into us already. We just need to work on it regularly, shifting our awareness into each sense individually and practicing the skill of keeping it there.
As with any muscle, ability or skill, you will only increase your observance skills by putting in the hard yards. It’s like a martial art in so many ways. You learn how to do a roundhouse kick effectively after a couple of months but to become good at it, it takes a couple of years. Then to become formidable, a true expert, you’ll be at it for many more years. It’s the same with observance. The more you do it, and really challenge yourself with it, the better you will become. This is great discipline and affects every aspect of your life in very positive ways.
For example, when I’m walking down the street, I use my eyes to glance occasionally at where I’m going, then spend the rest of my sight on absorbing my surroundings. You don’t notice this much, I keep it pretty subtle, but If you were to watch me carefully you’d see my eyes going all over the place. To aid with this, I use my hearing to sense what’s around, where it is and how far away it is. I find that I usually don’t have to look at most things to recognise them and navigate using them. Recognition of the acoustic space using hearing to navigate and sense what’s around me and what kind of space I’m in is one of my favourite ways to view to world. I also use proprioception to sense where my body parts are in relation to the footpath, feeling it’s inconsistencies through the relative position of my feet to the rest of my body as I walk along. Sensing using pressure recognition under your extremely sensitive feet is one of the most amazing senses you’ll experience when you tap into it. A lot is lost through shoes but it’s still there, like the princess and the pea. And there are more.
You already use these senses, you just have to shift your focus and become fully aware of them.
Freeing up your sight for simple enjoyment of your surroundings or just being more present at any given point in time is a more efficient and fulfilling way of living. With all the visual stimuli that we’re bombarded with every day we’ve become accustomed to cluttering all of our sensations in through mostly our sight and secondarily our hearing. Doesn’t it make sense to start using the other less dominant senses to experience life and become excellent at observing reality.
I’ve outlined in a previous article a simple and very practical 12 step process to observing effectively as a daily practice. This can be used with any of the senses or even a few at a time.
Go on back over there and skim over that orange section again but do it with a particular sense in mind that you’d like to work on. Maybe proprioception, which is the ability to sense where your different body parts are in relation to each other. Then go over it again with a different sense again.
There are many benefits of having a daily practice not least of which is that you get better at what you practice. But the best result of practicing daily is that is becomes part of your life. It becomes a part of who you are.
Yo don’t refer to Yo-Yo Ma as some guy who plays the cello; He’s a Cellist.
You don’t say Serena Williams is a woman who sometimes hits a ball around; She’s a champion Tennis player.
You don’t say Sherlock Holmes is a guy who figures things out; He’s a Detective.
The common denominator – Daily practice.
I was talking with my daughter Jayde and my wife, Silvana today about superpowers. Yeah, that’s right. Superpowers. We were coming up with the most useless superpowers possible, but useless aside, it made me think of these incredible senses we already possess. They’re already like superpowers. We have incredible observing ability using any combination of these senses, but I want to put this out to you: