Situational Awareness (SA)

Imagine this:

  • You’re approaching a busy intersection with cars, trucks, and pedestrians whizzing by in all directions ...
  • You start walking through the intersection …

How is your ability to predict and avoid being hit?

  • If your head is down, looking at your mobile phone, you have poor situational awareness and a high likelihood of an unpleasant consequence (i.e., you’ll get squished).
Lack of Situational Awareness
  • However, if your head is on a swivel, you see the eyes of the drivers in your midst, and you are predicting which ones pose the greatest risk to your safety ... then you have good situational awareness.

The amount and quality of situational awareness we have can determine if our event’s outcome is successful or not.

Therefore, situational awareness refers to:

  • Knowing what’s around you
  • Understanding its significance
  • Anticipating its impact on your current activity

Situational awareness is a 12-dollar word that describes what goes into the decision when you bring an umbrella to your son’s soccer match because it might rain.

Simply put:

  • WITH enough situational awareness you have a greater chance of successfully staying dry.
  • WITHOUT enough situational awareness you have a greater risk of failing to stay dry.


Since its inception as a mental tool used by the US military, the concept of situational awareness (SA) has spawned its own, growing field of study.  

While SA remains a topic of research by cognitive scientists, my SA references here are purely tactical and for everyday use.

  • Every part of our life benefits from an increase in situational awareness.
  • Furthermore, maintaining a high degree of situational awareness is the secret weapon to preventing an issue from growing into a crisis.

So let’s examine how we can improve our situational awareness.

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