4 Tips for Becoming More Observant in a World Full of Noise

I have shared the “8 Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset” for several years, and the one characteristic that seems to get the least attention and is the least “flashy” for many people is the ability to be “observant.” The more I think about it; this ability is becoming more critical in our world than ever.

From “The Innovator’s Mindset“:

Observant – Great ideas often spark other great ideas. The notion of “Genius Hour,” which is an idea that has spread throughout schools all over the world, came about because educators noticed what was going on outside of schools and modified those ideas to meet their students’ needs. The power of the Internet is that we have access to so much information from schools and other organizations. Although an idea observed in the business world might not necessarily work “as is” for a school, if we learn to connect ideas and reshape them, it could become something pretty amazing.

So why do I believe the ability to be observant is becoming more valuable than ever?

As more and more information is thrown our way, and the “noise” becomes louder, the ability to slow down, listen, find great information, and make deep connections is becoming much more essential.

For example, if you are new to Twitter, finding relevant and meaningful information when you first start is the equivalent of finding a needle in a needle stack. It seems impossible and overwhelming.  But developing the ability to find those nuggets of wisdom and powerful links to information is a skill that is developed over time.

This skill can also be tied directly to two of the “21st Century Literacies” as presented by The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE):

Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information

Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts

I can not find the link, but I was listening to a Tony Robbins video during a morning workout, and he shared that when you have a focus on something, you notice that ideas connected to that seem to pop out of thin air.  The reality is that you are just getting better at observing. The ideas and connections were always there.

Think of this analogy. You get a new car and then all of a sudden, you notice the same make and model of your vehicle seemingly everywhere.  This isn’t a “Truman Show” stunt being played on you. It is that you are paying more attention.

When I started to focus more on innovation in education, I began to see it everywhere.  Whether it was how a person ran a business, watching a YouTube video, or even listening to music, ideas on “innovation” started popping up everywhere because I wanted to make a connection. Here are a few things that I noticed that I was doing when I saw these connections more:

  1. Listening more.
  2. Slowing down.
  3. Taking the time to write and process my reflections.(the last one will seem weird)
  4. Cutting out as much unnecessary negativity in my life as possible.

What does the last point have to do with becoming more “observant.”  I noticed that when negative thoughts (and sometimes people) crept into my thoughts, I would lose focus on what was important. For running, the longer I run and the more tired I get I notice that negative self-talk creeps into my head and can often sabotage my goals for the day, week, year, and life.  A trick that I was taught by a student-teacher was to say the word “PACE” in my head over and over again until I regained my focus.  PACE standing for “Positive Attitude Changes Everything.” It seemed cheesy at first, but then I started using it, and it has helped tremendously and has helped me to stay focus on the task at hand.

There seems to be more noise and negativity in the world. There is also more good stuff.  I know that where, as Tony Robbins says, my “focus goes, energy flows.”

Being observant is a characteristic, like all of the others, that is not natural but can be developed and harnessed in a way where we can create something better for ourselves and for those we serve.

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Source: George Couros