Increased Awareness Study Guide
In the field of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind.
Louis Pasteur, French scientist (1822–1895)
It's important to be aware of what's going on around you. That way, you can spot problems that arise. This lesson is about increasing your awareness so you not only observe problems, but participate more skillfully in decision making and problem solving at home, work, and school.
To improve your critical thinking skills, you have to be more attuned to what's going on in your environment. If you consistently use focused, not casual, observation, you're more likely to notice when your input is needed. When you focus, you increase your awareness to what's going on and process the information more skillfully.
There are three important things you can do to increase your awareness:
- Use your five senses.
- Get information from another person.
- Actively seek information.
While all three can work well, there are potential hazards with each. Knowing the hazards and ways to avoid them will help you use your powers of perception proficiently.
You are continuously using your senses to observe your environment. For instance, you see that the gas gauge is indicating that your tank is near empty; you hear your dog barking when he needs to be let out; you feel the heat coming off a grill before putting your food on it.
But just using your senses to note things isn't enough to help you determine that a problem exists. You need to put things into context by making an inference, or an educated guess, to help you make sense out of things. In other words, you ask yourself, "What does this mean?"
For example, you are waiting for envelopes that contain information about pay raises. When the envelopes are passed out, a coworker who opens his envelope and reads their contents looks depressed. You have made an observation, but what does it mean? You can infer from the depressed look of your coworker that his raise is probably much lower than expected.
Think of things you've personally seen and done, as well as things you're read or seen in movies and on TV, to help you infer, or "read between the lines."
Sometimes you don't actually observe a problem yourself; it's presented to you by someone else. For example, Lisa's boss tells her he suddenly has to go out of town, but he's already scheduled an important meeting for the next day with four other top-level executives. The boss expects Lisa to reschedule it. Or, Mark's professor announces that she's going to include questions on tomorrow's exam from a section she hasn't covered in class. Everything Lisa and Mark know about their problems, for which they need to find solutions, was told to them by someone else.
Road Block to Increased Awareness
A potential hazard of the direct method is that the person informing you of the problem may not see the situation clearly. What he or she thinks is the problem may not be the true issue. Thus, you need to pay careful attention and not automatically assume that the information you have received is accurate. Try to substantiate it by seeking even more information about the problem before taking any action.
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