How to Become More Observant

Learn how to develop this underutilized ability that has a massive impact on our life

Your observational skills are important when it comes to getting a job or building a skillset, but anyone who’s on a personal growth journey should make it a priority too. That’s because your observational skills impact every dimension of your life experience, and they’re a useful tool to speed up your growth process.

People tend to understand observational skills as solely acknowledging details in the world around them. If you notice the flowers growing on the side of the road, or a person’s body language when you’re talking to him, this means you’re being observant.

Even though it’s important to notice the details of your external environment, your observational skills also apply to your internal environment: To observe your thoughts, feelings, and all the intrinsic qualities that many of us are unaware of.

This information can be used to recognize patterns, connect dots, and learn from everything that’s happening around you, and within you. Thankfully, becoming more observant isn’t difficult to do. It’s something you can start doing immediately, and it has a big impact on your life at whole.

Here’s why you should develop your observational skills if you’re on a personal growth journey, and how you can do it. Otherwise, follow the link below to learn more about recognizing internal patterns.

Why should you become more observant?

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Being observant means that you have a heightened awareness of your internal and external environment. This heightened awareness allows you to absorb more information, which leads to more knowledge, and a quicker application of that knowledge.

Of course, you want to keep an eye out when crossing the street, but your ability to observe has far more practical use than solely survival. If you don’t observe everything that’s happening in your daily life, your growth is stunted. As someone who is always striving to grow, you should be soaking up as much information as you possibly can.

If you’re highly observant, you might be able to pick up on a friend’s mood by whether they use a full stop, how thought out their responses are, and how long they take to respond. You begin to pick up patterns in people because you’re paying attention to all the little details.

If you’re not observant, you won’t notice the minor changes in your environment, people, and situations. You might miss out on critical details that are essential to the healthy function of your relationships or career.

With that said, here are some things that you will be able to do if you are highly observant:

Enhanced self-awareness

Observing the world around you, as well as your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can lead to greater self-awareness. You are more likely to notice patterns in your actions and reactions, identify areas for improvement, work on your weaknesses, and build on your strengths.

Read cues

You’ll pick up on subtle signals that people give you during interactions. These signals could be the amount of eye contact you’re given, what their posture is like, or how receptive they are to conversation. These signals indicate what the person is feeling, which helps you navigate social interactions better.

Noticing patterns

You’ll notice certain trends or patterns that tend to repeat themselves. If you regularly snap into the victim mentality every time someone gives you constructive criticism, you are likely to pick up on this habit where you can look at why you feel victimized when people are just trying to help.

Connect a cause and effect

You will see when a certain action or behavior leads to a particular outcome. You may identify some of the root causes of challenges you face in your life, such as childhood trauma leading to self-worth issues. In this case, your observational skills help you resolve the issue, to produce a better effect.

Pay more attention to details in your work

You become better at noticing the little details in your job, work, and avocations. If you notice that you’re attracting a particular type of client with your business, or perhaps noticing anomalies, you can use this information to improve the results.

Learn new skills and replicate the process

By being highly observant, you become better at learning new things which can improve your life. If you’re learning how to overcome limiting belief systems, you’re going to absorb more information as you’re more attentive to that information, leading to a quicker application of that knowledge.

Pick up subtle changes

You become better at noticing subtle changes in your environment such as a dint in your car, if something’s out of place in your home, or if one of your pot plants needs water. You might acknowledge the haircut a friend got, the new jacket they’re wearing, or when they’re out of character

Read between the lines

Reading between the lines means that you pick up incongruencies, and see what’s really going on rather than what is being conveyed to you. For example, if someone tells you they’re fine with a forced smile, you will be able to recognize what they’re trying to cover up and offer support.

Effective Problem-solving

When you are highly observant, you gather more information about a situation, which allows you to analyze it thoroughly. This can lead to more creative and effective solutions to challenges in your life and ultimately leads to a better decision-making process.

How to become more observant

Man sitting on a bench observing nature

In general, our observational skills have been pushed to the background as we don’t need them as much anymore for survival. We have gotten lazy with them, but it doesn’t mean we can’t awaken this dormant skill that has such an impact on our daily lives.

In saying that, the skill of being observant is arguably more useful today because there’s so much happening around us at all times. There’s so much information that you can tap into that can help accelerate your growth.

Knowledge is power, and if you’re on a personal growth journey, you should be trying to soak it up like a sponge. Luckily for you, there’s always an enormous amount of information that you have access to, right now. You’re just not tapping into it. So here are some ways that you can pick more of it up.

Pay attention to the smaller details

Observation is a microscope. Everything contains a bottomless pit of information, it’s just a matter of being receptive to it. There are countless details in everything that are so often missed. The reason why we only see the surface level is because we don’t give most things much attention.

Think about it this way. A car salesman is going to have a different understanding of cars compared to your typical family man. They will know the design, the engine, the brand, the speed, the history, and the materials they are made from. They aren’t gifted with this knowledge, they have just looked into more details than a family man.

If you’re like most of us, you probably haven’t really looked at the details of any given subject. But if you were to look at the details of your mental health, or your social relationships, you’re going to discover a whole lot more depth than you’ve previously been exposed to.

Utilize your senses

All the information you pick up about the outside world comes through your senses. So when you pay more attention to each sense, and allow yourself to be present with the experience of that sense, that’s when you’re naturally going to start noticing more things about your external and internal environment.

Below are some ways that will take you out of your mind, and bring you into your senses. I also suggest practicing mindfulness to get into the present moment.

  • What do you feel?
  • What is the texture like?
  • What is the temperature?
  • What sounds do you hear?
  • What is the pitch like?
  • How loud are they?
  • Are there any background noises?
  • What do you see?
  • How many things do you see?
  • What are the colors like?
  • What are the tones?
  • Is it bright or dark?
  • What are the main shapes in your current environment?
  • What do you smell?
  • How can you describe the smell?
  • Does that smell remind you of anything?
  • What do you taste?
  • What is the texture like?
  • What flavors do you notice?
  • Are there any spices in it?

Cultivate an awareness about your inner reality

Your environment can be separated into 2 brackets – the external and the internal. Someone who is observant is also aware of their internal environment, such as what they’re thinking and what they’re feeling. In order to develop your observational skills, you need to work on your self-awareness. They are synonymous.

Here are some things you should keep in mind about your internal environment. To learn more about cultivating an inner awareness, check out the article below.

Be more inquisitive

Noticing new things about your internal and external environment is only half of the journey. If you want to develop your observational skills, you need to develop a curiosity about them. If you’re curious about something, naturally you’re going to look into it and learn more about it. That’s why it’s important to not only follow your curiosity but develop it too.

With any subject that comes to mind, think about how knowing more can benefit you in some form. Whether you’re looking into history, economics, spirituality, or your own healing, wonder why things are the way they are. Think about them. Try to figure things out and be inquisitive.

The more you build upon this skillset, the more you’ll find links between things that once appeared to have no connection. Simply by being inquisitive, you’ll get all the benefits without really doing anything besides wondering about them.

Stop distracting yourself

Being highly observant requires some focus. If you’re constantly getting distracted, you’re never really giving anything much attention. This is why it’s important to slow down and learn to concentrate on one thing at a time.

If you’re engrossed in your work, really focus on the task at hand, and learn what you need to learn to get it done. If you’re going for a walk in nature, focus on the sights, the sounds, the nature itself. Stop thinking so much and be present with the experience.

Regardless of what you’re doing, you need to learn to focus on what you’re doing. By concentrating on one thing at a time and devoting all of your attention to it, you’re bound to pick up a lot more information because you’re not constantly distracted by surface-level stuff.

Think critically

Put your critical thinking to the test by trying to find logic or reason in any given thing that you’re paying attention to. If you’re working within a business, think about how the business operates, and why they operate the way they do.

If you’re looking at some beautiful architecture, think about how the building may have been built. Why did they design it like that? Likewise, if you see some birds flying in a V shape in the sky, ask yourself why. If you’re not sure, research it, and see what you can learn.

By being critical, you’re going to consolidate these observations to memory and integrate the information better. Developing critical thinking is also a big part of improving your intelligence, which you can learn more about in the link below.

Exercises to become more observant

City skyline

You’ve learned why it’s important to become more observant, and some ways that you can begin to cultivate this ability. Here we’re going to look at some practical exercises to build this muscle of observation. Below are three exercises that I suggest you try.

Exercise 1: People watching

Go to any public location and spend a few minutes picking out as many details as you can about the environment you’re in. Try to find some things about that environment that have previously gone unnoticed.

If you’re sitting on a bench, people watch and see what dynamics you pick up between people. If you’re in a café, pay attention to what’s happening around you. Do the employees look happy, nervous, or bored? Is the environment clean, dirty? What sorts of customers come in, and what do they use the space for?

If you devote your attention to picking up more of the smaller details about that environment, you will learn much more about it. Make this a practice in every new environment you find yourself in, and take a couple of minutes to look at the little things, and write them down.

Exercise 2: Inspecting the details

Pick an object that is in your immediate proximity. Maybe it’s your phone, a light, a mug, or a couch. Write as much as you can about that object until you run out of ideas. You can write down details about the color, texture, size, shape, wear and tear, and any information you can observe about the object.

I’m sure if you give it a few moments to designate all of your attention to one thing, there’s going to be plenty of things that you’ve never noticed before. Do this as often as you like with as many things as you like, to build a habit of noticing the tiny details.

Exercise 3: Discovering more information

Pick an event, subject, or occurrence, and spend ten minutes researching it. Try to cram as much knowledge as you possibly can about the history, the reason, the idea, and anything that comes to mind.

If you choose lightning, research why lightning occurs. Research the different types of lightning, how quick the speed is, and what exactly happens when it hits something. If you pick the topic of trauma, look at what creates trauma. Why people develop it, how people can heal it, different types of trauma, why people repress it.

Every day, pick out one subject that you’re curious about and spend ten minutes researching as much as you possibly can about that given subject. Do this with something different every day, and you’re very quickly going to become more knowledgeable, and more observant of the depth of information that everything has.

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