Mind Your Surroundings

In an era of nearly unlimited distractions, the best way to make yourself stand out is to mind your surroundings. Ironically, this should not be that hard to do yet so many people struggle today with keeping their eyes and ears clear of distractions. One of the main reasons for this phenomenon is the fact that technology has rendered us with the ability to avert the need to use our eyes actively in sizing up our environment by focusing instead on flashy advertisements, fluorescent smartphones, and glittering video board. Our eyes are being constantly assaulted by so many visual cues from inanimate objects that we have an increasing amount of trouble focusing on what’s real and what’s in front of us. Not only are our eyes being affected by this distracted kind of living but our ears as well. If you want to see the extent of this, go to any street corner, subway / bus stop, or any public park, instead of listening to nature with the sound of birds chirping and leaves falling, we instead close ourselves off from the natural world with our earphones, headphones, and even earplugs.

Now I’m as guilty as listening to loud music through my earphones and also focusing on my smartphone or a cheesy advertisement as much as the next person, however, I try to be as self-aware as possible in limiting the amount of time I devote my eyesight to screens and my hearing to artificial sounds. What I worry about and what I would encourage you, dear reader, to do is to know the time(s) and the place(s) to put the distractions away for good and to focus on the world around you. You may not think it is important now until something unfortunate or unseemly happens to you because you were not in touch with the immediate environment. Anything can happen in a split second and if you are not prepared for that to occur, especially in public, you may end up regretting your decision to look at your phone or to listen to music when you should have put the ear-pods away. ‘Mind your surroundings’ is a simple wish I have for everyone especially when you are not at home or in a private domicile. When you are in an unfamiliar environment, you have to be much more aware of your surroundings than you would otherwise because it could even mean the difference between life and death.

Unfortunately, it’s become well documented especially in recent years with the rise of mobile technology how a few folks have met an early end to their lives because they simply were not paying enough attention to their environment. These terrible accidents and freak of nature incidents could be avoided if people put down their phones, their headphones, and their smart watches to listen and look carefully at where they were going. Unless you have an important call, are lost in an unfamiliar area, or have to look at you watch for the time, it can wait. Minding your surroundings is especially true in public places. You need to be watching out for where you are going, or it could cost you. This is especially true when you are not familiar with the local environment or may not speak the language if you are traveling to a new country. Being able to hear the sound of cars / buses going by, of what pedestrians are doing or saying, and to orient yourself to find out which neighborhood or part of town you’re in, this is absolutely critical to do, and you do not need modern technology in order to do this.

While it’s definitely true that most people have good intentions, this is not always the case. Do not let yourself become an easy target especially when it would only take a few precautionary steps to keep yourself aware of your environment. Multiple people have died from texting while driving, looking at their smartphone as they crossed a busy intersection, or have fallen off a cliff from a ‘selfie’ gone wrong. While we live in an era of technological abundance, let us not also live in a time that is bereft of common sense. You owe it not only to yourself but to your friends and your family to make wise decisions in terms of managing your interactions with the immediate environment. The steps you can take are quite simple, but they take serious discipline which may not be easy.

A few tips that I personally think would make a big difference involve some measure of personal responsibility but are really not that strenuous in terms of total effort. Sitting yourself in a restaurant facing the entrance and exit of a restaurant is key if something unfortunate were to happen or if you would like to have a good idea of what’s going on throughout the place, especially if you’re seated further into the room than right by the entrance. I find this tip to be really underrated when you are with close friends or family members who you want to look out for when they are sitting across from you and facing away from the entrance and/or exit.

Another tip of mine is to put your phone on airplane mode or simply turn it off when you are on the go. If you are walking for a little while, driving in a car (all the time!), or are involved in an activity, which requires serious concentration, you should not tempt yourself to be on your phone, smartwatch, etc. because it may lead to deadly consequences if you are not careful. A public service campaign that I fully support is titled, “It can wait”, which shows how 99% of texts or phone calls can wait a half an hour or even more when you’re busy doing other actions such as driving. Having the discipline to use a hands-free method or to contact the person(s) before you operate a vehicle or other machinery is common sense and saves lives.

Above all, the advice of ‘mind your surroundings’ is also appropriate in terms of being able to assess your environment quickly and accurately. You cannot do this if you are listening to music, texting, or have your eyes peeled to the ground. Maintain your awareness, be vigilant, and be sure to maintain eye contact that is dead ahead. You may not think that these tips are important now, but you do not want to regret being distracted if it comes to backfiring on you in the future. Whether you are at a movie theater, the beach, in your car, hiking a mountain, kayaking in the lake, you need to be able to be aware of who and what is around you at all times. If you’re lying in bed or relaxing on the couch, then I would say it’s not bad to let your guard down. However, in public, especially when you’re traveling to a new area, city, country, etc., you need to put the distractions away, mind your surroundings, and pay careful attention to what is going on around you. Unfortunately, this needs to be said in today’s world where every minute, our senses are absorbed all of the time especially in urban environments.

Nobody’s perfect but you really have to adapt yourself to the various locales that you put yourself into. A seasoned traveler, explorer, or observer can tell you that being aware and mindful is a key trait to have that will keep you moving forward. Please do your best to follow some of the tips I have laid out and some of the cautions that I have listed. Keep the texting, calling, and Tweeting to a minimum when you’re on the go and you should be fine. Always mind your surroundings to the best of your ability.

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A Sense of Wonder

If you were to define the word ‘wonder’, you would characterize it as meaning a feeling of amazement or admiration caused by seeing or witnessing something beautiful, unexpected, captivating, and inexplicable. When you are a child, it’s easy to have that sense of wonder about the world. Your sense of curiosity and disbelief is quite high and your imagination can run wild believing in the possibilities of the unknown.

Even as we grow older and become adults, we still have a sense of wonder that never fully leaves us and is part of our essence as human beings. While you may not have the same sense or amount of wonder as you did when you were a child, it’s important to never fully extinguish that feeling and to let it stay within you even if you are an adult or in your elderly years.

Having a sense of wonder connects you to your childhood years and reignites the kid within you because that part of your being never truly goes away unless you let it. By maintaining that curiosity and desire to know about the world, this helps us keep our sense of wonder about life and its’ beauty. It can be easy nowadays to be jaded about the state of the world and to think that everything is going to hell in a handbasket.

While there are certainly serious problems to be fixed in our ever-changing and complicated world, being doom and gloom about it 24 / 7 won’t make you feel any better. You have to maintain the ability to never be too down or be too up about your surroundings. While there can be a lot of ugliness to be found, there is also a staggering amount of beauty to be in awe about.

I believe that it can be much easier to see things through a negative lens and seek out the ugliness in life. It’s harder yet much more rewarding to seek out the beauty and wonder that you can find if you know where to look. You also have to take the time to enjoy the beauty of things and open yourself up to the beauty of the world. While it may be cliché to state this, you have to have an open heart and an open mind. If you close yourself off to the wonders of life, you’ll never really be able to appreciate them fully.

A sense of wonder has to be cultivated over a long period of time and doesn’t happen overnight. When you are a child, you’re amazed by anything and almost everything new and unique. As you get older and you experience more of life, it can be more and more difficult to feel amazement or be captivated by life. Each person has a different sense of wonder, and different things amaze different people. When I think about wonder though, there are a few things that cause me to feel that unexpected thrill or captivation.

I think most people would agree that a sunrise or a sunset could really create awe and wonder in a person. The colors and the vibrancy of the environment when the sun lights up your world at dawn’s break or when it fades into darkness to make way for the stars and night sky; those moments can truly captivate a person’s imagination. You could also make the case that when you witness the sunrise from a mountain top or see the sun set from the backdrop of a vast ocean, witnessing those natural occurrences are too beautiful to be put into words.

Sunrises and sunsets never get old for me because they are never the same and they are always different depending upon which environment you’re witnessing them in. It only takes a few minutes to stop what you’re doing in your hectic day-to-day life to really enjoy the spectacle of the sun’s rising and setting. It’s also a reminder about how our time here on Earth is limited and that there are cosmic occurrences that happen beyond our control and our understanding.

I think this is mainly why solar eclipses are so powerful to witness in person because you’re seeing an event that is beyond human control and that only comes around once or twice in a lifetime. Those men, women, and children who traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to see the recent solar eclipse occur across the continental United States are in touch with their sense of wonder, and they believe in its’ ability to make you feel astonished, wowed, and even humbled.

Witnessing the sun’s and the moon’s movements aren’t the only ways to cause yourself to feel wonder though. There are hundreds, if not thousands of possibilities out there that will make your jaw drop in disbelief. I have always thought of photography as a good way to capture the wonders of the world, and I have taken many photos throughout my previous travels in order to really remember those special moments of life when I was on the road. Beyond just taking photos, it’s really wonderful to interact with your environment by jumping in a freezing lake, hiking up a mountain, smelling different flowers in a garden, rafting down a streaming river, etc. Those moments really make you feel alive and help to maintain a sense of wonder about the world.

You don’t have to travel, take photos, or be an adventure junkie to have a sense of wonder though. If you’re willing to challenge yourself by learning new things and bettering yourself, that will help you maintain a healthy curiosity about life and a thirst for knowledge. Whether its’ learning a new trade, developing a website, or speaking a new language, the pursuit of knowledge in different areas is a great idea and the things you will learn about yourself and the world around you will captivate and excite you. If you’re curious, confident, and willing to have an open mind, the world will teach you many things if you open yourself up to the possibilities.

Never let the flame inside you go out. As a child, you definitely did not have worry about wonder because you always had it and every day, you most likely had energy and a curiosity not easily extinguished. However, when you get older and more accustomed to the ways of the world, it can be very tempting to think of everything as mundane, childish, and routine, but that’s simply not how it should be.

However, The differences that occur when you’re a teenager or a fully-grown adult is that you have to pursue the wonder for yourself. You have to take the time and put yourself out there to figure out what really captivates you. Everybody has a unique way of seeing the world but make sure it’s not always from a serious and pessimistic point of view. Let yourself be wowed by the unknown or by the newly discovered. Pursue the passions and the beauty in life based on what fills your heart or your mind up.

For some, it may be playing Jazz music and for others, it may be hiking through the mountains. The best thing about experiencing wonder is that it is ever-present in our lives but you have to be aware of what reaches out to you and touches your soul. Most people live out their lives not fully embracing the wonders around them.

You have to be always on the lookout for what fills your heart up with joy and happiness whether it’s a watching beautiful sunset over the water, viewing an original painting by Claude Monet, or playing Beethoven in a symphony orchestra as your friends and family sit in the audience. Always be looking out for the wonders in life, otherwise, you’ll never find them at all.