Intentional Observation

I have a thing that I'm constantly working on: not being oblivious.

Let me explain. It's not ignorance or a lack of emotional understanding. I have a habit of laser focusing on what I'm doing (or the people I'm with) and not noticing what's happening around me. That can be handy - when I'm at work, I have the capacity to plug in and do a thing with no distractions. It's great on a date, too - Jeff and I can go to dinner and it's like he's the only person in the room.

But then there's moments where it's not so great. Like when my boss and I went on a business trip a couple of years ago and met with a couple of new clients. We walked out of the meeting and I saw her turn to me.

"Did you get the sense that they kinda hate each other?" she asked.

No. I did not get that sense. I didn't get any sense, except for the fact that they liked our proposal and I got a better feel for their business model and goals. I was completely oblivious to the tension between the people right in front of me - because I didn't think to look for anything other than the task at hand. That observation would have been pretty useful.

That moment has stuck with me, and I've tried to intentionally observe a little more. The problem: when you are trying to remember to do a thing that you never remember to do, the occasional snafu arises. Meaning that I'm still more oblivious than not.

I read an article on Medium the other day that may, perhaps, aide in my goal to be more intentionally observant. It comes down to forming habits and tethering the goal to something tangible: in this case, a list.



Intentional observation is important to me when I'm abroad.

I want to notice.

I want to see the nuances in people, in place, in sensation.

I want to see what's different and what's the same.

To do that, I must notice.

So - I may steal Conor Dougherty's habit of writing down ten observations a day. I'll collect moments from cities around the world, little snippets of memory and observation to remember and notice a place in a way I wouldn't otherwise.


Taylor Coil is traveling the world with Remote Year, living in 12 countries in 12 months, while working as a marketing manager. Follow along to read more philosophies on work, stories from the road, and general (mis)adventures. Sign up for the weekly email, or else read more from the blog.