During the lecture portion of ECQC, Craig Douglas asked, "How do you become more aware?"

First we need an answer to this question's precedent, "What is awareness?" Let's narrow the discussion a little, and answer the question specifically with respect to civilian self-defense.

Situational awareness is the practice of discerning factors in your environment that:

  • directly threaten your wellbeing,
  • can evolve to threaten your wellbeing, or
  • disadvantage you against an undiscovered threat to your wellbeing

When we're home, with locked doors, a guard dog, and an alarm system between us and the world, curled up with a good book, we are not actively looking and listening to the world trying to discern threats. We have the locks and warning mechanisms in place precisely so that we will be alerted to impending danger with enough time to transition from our state of complacency into a state of readiness. Those layers of physical security and automated alarm act as a substitute for awareness.

When we walk outside, leaving our locks and alarms behind, we must instead devote our own mental resources to observing, reasoning, and intuiting the safety (or lack thereof) of our surroundings. The difference isn't that we see more, it's that we think more critically -- evaluate more skeptically -- the sensory stimulus we receive.

We predict the probable behaviors of other individuals, and we imagine how they might act if they wish us ill. Our prediction and imagination are informed, not by fantasies that serial killers and terrorists lurk around every corner, but rather by a well-informed history of common modi operandi of criminals.

So let's return to the question as it was originally asked. How do you become more aware?

My answer is that I devote more of my mental resources to observing the details of my surrounding, then use that information to predict and imagine how other individuals will or might act to threaten my wellbeing. I additionally attempt to maximize the advantage my physical position in the environment provides me, assuming that I have failed to accurately percieve and predict all of the threats that exist around me.