We can take for granted the art of observing.

It’s more than just watching or looking. I think of a child who’s looking for the mustard in the fridge, and they say, “Mom, where’s the mustard? I can’t find it!” And the mother responds from a different room, “It’s in there! Are you really looking? Open your eyes!” It may be at that moment that the child finds the mustard. But sometimes it takes mom marching over to observe the contents in the fridge and pull out the “hidden” mustard, to the surprise of the child.

Our eyes may be open, but does that really mean we are observing the world around us? Are we really taking note of what’s happening?

The definition of “observe” is to “notice or perceive (something) and register it as being significant.”

This could refer to something that’s positively or negatively significant. A positively significant observation might be an upcoming joyous event, such as a birthday or vacation. A negatively significant observation might be an obstacle to overcome or a looming deadline. I observed my shaking hands and rapidly tapping feet at a recent soccer game, as well as the feeling of being overly nervous, so I employed the SOAR STRATEGY and it calmed me down.

One poolside summer, back before I was a mother, I was a proud aunt to my niece and nephew. I remember playing with my nephew, Michael, at the pool before he even knew how to swim. We had a bucket that I filled with water and would pour over my head.

boy pouring bucket of water over his head

Michael thought it was the most hilarious thing as I would pretend to be all exasperated and surprised at the downpour I was performing myself. This simple act entertained us for quite a long time as we sat on the poolside steps. No matter how many times I poured bucket after bucket of water on my head, my nephew laughed with the same joy and enthusiasm as he did the first time I drenched myself. It’s a simple, sweet memory I hold; an observation that’s forever engraved in my mind. I observed what a precious moment in time that was and savored the experience.

When it comes to enjoying the beach with your family or friends without fear of danger, OBSERVING the current conditions is vital.

You may recall the story I shared in my previous blog post. It was an event in which I had to STOP and OBSERVE what was happening around me in order to respond effectively. It’s an event that would fall under the category of “negatively significant,” yet it prompted an important change.

Donna teaching water safety

It wasn’t long after that I became certified as an Ocean Rescue Lifeguard and First Responder. Now I can train junior lifeguards and inspire people of all ages to pay attention to what’s happening around them—not only in the ocean but also in life. We have to intentionally observe and break free of those negative rip currents or patterns in our life that could pull us under if don’t recognize we need to change.

Developing the simple art of OBSERVATION could be the difference between jumping into action prematurely OR saving a life. It’s like the difference between impatiently looking in the fridge or looking with “your eyes wide open.”

In following the acronym of SOAR, the letter “O” stands for—OBSERVE.

Taking note of significant details—not only at the beach but also in our own lives—can set us up for greater success.

On the beach: OBSERVE the weather conditions before planning AND during your beach trip.

In life: OBSERVE the environment and “read the room.”

kids in the ocean

On the beach: OBSERVE any potential negative obstacles, such as what color the flag is—indicating the current ocean safety or the lack of a lifeguard at the beach you’re visiting.

In life: OBSERVE any potential negative obstacles, such as a driver who isn’t paying attention or how much toilet paper is left in a stall (LOL.)

On the beach: OBSERVE the positive things, like people laughing and smiling, building sandcastles, and finding shells.

In life: OBSERVE and take note of the good stuff, like the taste of your favorite latte or someone paying you a compliment. (Or maybe dumping water on yourself while your nephew laughs in amusement :))

Think on This

Although there are other equally important concepts to consider within the acronym of “SOAR”, just ask yourself these questions for today:

  1. Have you ever paused long enough at any given moment in your day to OBSERVE both the positive and negative things occurring around you?
  2. Often when we practice observing positive things, it results in gratitude. Do you feel grateful today? If you’re struggling with that, what is something that you can acknowledge today as good?
  3. When we observe something negative or an obstacle to overcome, sometimes it can make us feel anxious. But we should be careful to only let it inform our situation, not control it. How can you prevent potential negative OBSERVATIONS from being rip currents in your life?

Soaring in life means different things to each of us. But practicing the art of OBSERVATION—finding significance in the things we see at the beach or in our lives—is a tool that can powerfully make a difference.