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On a road trip as a child, my older brother and I kept boredom at bay by playing the ‘I spy’ game.

“I spy with my little eye, something beginning with the letter ‘C’.”






He shook his head. I tried a few more. Nada.

“I give up.”

“Clouds!” my brother said, rolling his large eyes as he pointed upwards. I hit my head with my palm, peeved that my normally keen observation skills were a let-down this time. I had looked all around but forgotten to look up. He offered a sympathetic smile and a flash of white teeth.

Children are generally more observant of their surroundings than adults. With wide-eyed wonder and curiosity, they observe all the world has to offer with fascination. Birds, butterflies, flowers, bits of paper tossed about by the wind; all are scrutinized with keen interest, and if there’s an adult around, a barrage of questions will follow. Familiar?

Then we grow up.

We lose our sense of wonder. We’ve seen it all. No new discoveries to make. We get lost in our thoughts or flit through days on autopilot.

It’s said that there’s nothing new under the sun. True. Still, our knowledge is limited. And the opportunities for exploration every day are vast, reason to live wide-eyed. This can only happen if we learn to be observant; if we can re-learn the art of contemplating the world with the natural fascination of little children.

How well-developed are your observation skills? If not up to scratch, chances are that you’re missing important details. And, therefore, making less-informed decisions. Poor observation skills will also rob you of the potential to be inspired or intrigued, consigning you to an average experience of life. You may lose out on opportunities to engage meaningfully with people, places, and situations around you.

Splitting hairs? Not really. There’s a distinction between ‘observing’ and ‘seeing.’ The latter is passive. Take, for instance, your regular commutes. You probably see everything around you, but how often do you uncover new things, or note down information you could use later?

On the other hand, when you observe, you pay attention—intently and actively. You discern details that bring better understanding and help you connect the dots, enabling you to reach well-informed conclusions and to solve problems more effectively. These abilities can strengthen your interpersonal and workplace skills, improving the way you interact with people and the environments around you.

I have good news for you. It’s possible to develop your powers of observation. Yes, you can train your brain to observe more. Here are some tips––

·      Slow down and be present. Practice being fully in the moment, engage with what’s happening around you.

·      Be curious. Approach situations with an inquisitive mindset. Ask questions, seek to understand, and explore your surroundings actively.

·      Use all your senses. Listen carefully, feel textures, smell, and even taste when appropriate. There’s research behind this. Using all your senses promotes well-being and improves understanding and retention. It even activates more parts of your brain, giving you a greater sense of vitality. Looking things up on the internet does not have the same effect.

·      Keep a journal. Note down some of your new observations and any ideas they bring to mind.

Enjoy your newfound wonder lenses. The world is so much brighter when you observe it through them.

Copyright ©2024 by David Waweru. Photo credit:


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