Their is a heightened awareness to the realities of one’s surroundings in the outdoors. Far from help, the consequences of each step, handhold, or change in direction can bring catastrophe. This creates in the mind of the outdoor traveler an inherent astuteness, a hyper-awareness of the environment and one’s own place in it.
The hiker, choosing a place to bed down, will semi-consciously weigh important considerations before ever setting up camp. What is the proximity to water? Is there wood for a fire? How will this site fare in foul weather? Are there animal tracks in the vicinity? Is there a breeze to deter mosquitoes? Are there branches overhead — widowmakers — that threaten to come down in the night?
Yet, the hiker carries no master checklist. Those experienced in the wild take in all these at once, ingesting the attributes of the site wordlessly and objectively. They breathe in situational awareness as easily as one might the mountain air.
Though the parameters of the situation will change in the air conditioned world, the situationally aware mindset can be just as valuable. Take the sales rep entering the conference room to deliver a pitch. One with the narrow, prevalent mindset will walk to the front of the room, introduce oneself, and plow through the presentation just as they did in their hotel room the night before.
By contrast, the situationally aware person will “breathe in” all the other mitigating factors that may contribute to success. What are the ages of my audience? Do they appear at ease, or are they restless and short on time? What time of day is it— am I catching them sipping their morning coffee, or standing between them and lunch? Is this room quiet or noisy? Comfortable or warm? Sufficiently lit?
Be it in traffic, meetings, social engagements, or any other facet of modern life, advantage is to be had by the person who enters each situation receptively and studiously. Widowmakers abound. Condition yourself to be situationally aware at all times and you alone will be able to anticipate while everyone else is left only to react.