Boost Your Observation Skills (#1, The 4-Senses Drill)

At this point, you should have a good academic understanding of what it takes to be situationally aware and why it is imperative that you develop situational awareness as a life habit.

While having an academic understanding is important, knowledge without the ability to apply the information to your life is fundamentally useless.

To move you from the academic understanding to a deeper and useful knowledge of observation, we would like to give you some tools that will help you put some substance to your understanding, boost your situational awareness immediately, and help you quickly develop and sharpen your observation skills.

To do this, I would like to recommend two exercises that you can begin to practice immediately anytime, any place, and the beauty of these exercises is that you can recognize substantial gains in your observation skills in as little as five minutes a day.

Even if you never take a course with Pulse or any other firearms training group, we would highly recommend that you begin to condition your mind and begin your own personal training immediately. homework, consider it invaluable observation training that you can accomplish any time that the situation allows for it, even right now, wherever you may be reading this article.

Below you will find a series of drills you can complete by yourself, and with a teammate.invaluable observation training that you can accomplish any time that the situation allows for it, even right now, wherever you may be reading this article.

Below you will find a series of proven and invaluable observation training drills that you can accomplish any time that the situation allows for it, even right now, wherever you may be reading this article.

As you learned in the previous article, target indicators are things that your adversary does or fails to do that can give you actionable information of their whereabouts, intentions, and/or actions. Also, as you learned, the information you will be gathering will come through your senses – auditory, olfactory, tactile, and visual.

Start to sharpen your observation skills immediately with the following drills.

The 4-Senses Drills

The first exercise we recommend is adapted from Marcus Wynne’s article entitled Living in Condition Yellow. For this exercise, you will run your senses through independent “scans” of each of your sensing systems.

These drills are designed to help you open your Autonomic Nervous System or “ANS” which normally filters out most of the incoming data. Your ANS is what is responsible for the fact that (unless you are thinking about it) you normally can’t feel your socks, underwear, and most clothing you wear.How much information is filtered? Neuroscience tells us that the average person takes in around 11,000,000 bytes of information per second, but we only observe and process around 50 bytes per second.

How much information is filtered by the ANS? Neuroscience tells us that the average person takes in around 11,000,000 bytes of information per second, but we only observe and process around 50 bytes per second.

50 bytes of 11 million is rather insignificant, and 50 bytes is an average, it’s not taking into account high-stress events which can throttle back your ability to intake information (visual and audio exclusion via the SNS response).

It can make you wonder what you may be missing, and for good reason.

Only perform these drills in a safe location where you will not be jeopardizing yourself or anyone else. For instance, you obviously wouldn’t want to stop in the middle of the street you are crossing to perform these exercises.


For the following drills, I am going to ask you to observe with different senses, one at a time.

Unless it’s an emergency, I am going to ask you to not look up for the duration of the drills. For each drill, I will describe what sense we are exercising and what specifically I would like for you to take note of. At the end of all the drills, I will finally ask you to look up and confirm your observations.

Once you get the hang of the drills, you can begin to experiment with them. Once you experiment with them, let us know if you stumble upon any variations or specific sequences that you found more helpful in your progression.

If you find that you are making too many observations to memorize, feel free to make a quick note on a notepad, but don’t look up to confirm or skip ahead. As you progress, try to limit your note taking, keeping fewer and fewer notes each time you practice and start to lean on your memory more and more.

Auditory Drills. For the first minute, we will concentrate on your sense of hearing (auditory). Wherever you are and without taking your eyes off of the next paragraph, carefully listen to your surroundings for one minute. Listen to all the sounds that you can hear. Without looking where the sound is coming from, can you identify what it is that you hear? Do you hear people walking, birds chirping, crickets, aircraft overhead, automobiles, music, people talking, people typing on a keyboard?

What is it that you hear? Without looking, can you identify a general direction that the sound is coming from and can you identify about how far away it is from you? Don’t look for the things you have heard, just keep them cataloged (either in your mind or on a piece of paper) for the time being.Try it now without looking up from this paragraph.

Try the auditory drill now, without looking up from this article.

Olfactory Drills. For the next one-minutes exercise, I would like for you to use your sense of smell (olfactory). Just like before, I would like for you to take the next minute and sit where you are, and carefully catalog the smells around you without looking for them.

How many smells can you catalog? Can you smell freshly cut grass? How about smoke? Can you identify the type of smoldering material, is it paper, or tobacco? Can you identify if it’s a cigarette, pipe tobacco or a cigar? Can you smell foods or drink? If so, what food or drink can you smell? How about perfume or cologne? Can you identify any of the essences in the perfume or cologne?

Try the olfactory drill now, without looking up from this article.

Tactile Drills. Next, we are going to focus on the tactile sense for a moment. Again, without looking around, begin by recognizing what you are feeling. Are you feeling cool or warm? Do you feel the sun on you because you are outside or because you’re are sitting by a window? If you can feel the sun, do you feel the sun all over you, or do you feel where the sun ends and the frame of the window casts it’s shadow over you? Can you feel where that shadow lands on you?

Without looking, can you identify what are you sitting on? Is it made of wood or metal? What is it upholstered in, cloth, leather, plastic, or something else? What’s the texture of what you are sitting on? Is it smooth or rough? Are you comfortable? What are the major pressure points? Can you feel a breeze or a draft? If you can feel the breeze or a draft, can you identify what direction it’s coming from?If so, now you can start to add this information from your olfactory drill.

If you can identify the direction of the draft/breeze you can now add this information to your olfactory drill.

Can you more accurately identify approximately how far away the previous olfactory indicators are from you? Try this now.

Put it All Together Drills. To wrap up the drill, let’s pull all of your senses together.

Bringing all of your senses on line now, start by looking for the overriding target indicator that was at the top of your list. It may have been a girl you heard laughing, who you imagined to be associated with a waft of perfume upwind. Now open your eyes and look. Was she where you thought she would be? If so, you are doing great, if not, that’s okay, you will quickly get better by practicing these drills consistently.

Start working your way down the list of observations, from the greatest to the smallest.

Once you have completed this, ask yourself: “Was there anything that I missed that I should have picked up on if I had been just a little more conscious of my surroundings?” If so, see if you can pick up on anything about it now, and take mental note of what you can pick up on if you pay attention.

Now that you have identified it, can you now hear it, smell it or feel it any better or less once you take your eyes off it and concentrate again?

Catalog this information for use in your next 4-senses drill session later today or tomorrow.

By paying attention and identifying both those things you easily identified and those things you missed and then exploring further, you are engaging the Reticulated Activating System in the brain stem and thereby training your subconscious in what you want it to pay closer attention to, look for, and find in the future.

Variants – Feel free to play with this drill and make it your own.

For instance; instead of looking down for the first three exercises, begin by looking forward, but trying to hear and smell those things going on around you outside of your field of view and peripheral sight. In other words, “be all there,” don’t evaluate or judge, don’t get caught up on any one thing, just observe, take a mental note, and take in as much information as you can.

Next, we will look at Jeff Coopers “Xs and Os Game” and tie it in with your 4-senses drill.


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