"Self Awareness" The Forgotten Attribute of Decision Making

Know yourself and know your enemy. You will be safe in every battle. You may know yourself but not know the enemy. You will then lose one battle for every one you win. You may not know yourself or the enemy. You will then lose every battle. The Art of War 3:6.1-7

To make good decisions in rapidly unfolding situations, one must have superior situational awareness. The environment, the climate of the situation, leadership and the available resources must be considered. Based on these factors a strategy and tactics are developed to meet the unfolding challenge and attempt to regain control.

Superior situational awareness, however, is not just about the situation, the location and your knowledge of tactics. It is equally important to know what you are capable of in that situation. In this sense, self awareness--an often forgotten attribute— is also a vital aspect of superior situational awareness and officer safety.

“Be aware of yourself and know yourself. No matter how much you have learned and how much you know, if you don’t know yourself you don’t know anything. Indeed, if you don’t know yourself you cannot know anything else.” ~Suzuki Shosan, from the Japanese Art of War

The quotes above say it all. Conflict and violence is a two way street and its not just about seeing an unfolding set of circumstances and responding emotionally. There is indeed preparation beforehand that needs to take place in an effort to bullet proof the mind, as LT Col Dave Grossman often speaks of in his writings, books and presentations.

Bullet proofing the mind is about self-awareness. Self-awareness is developed first through an honest dialog with one’s self and an acceptance of one’s strengths and weaknesses. If we do not know our own hopes, fears, our prejudices, what motivates us and what are we willing to sacrifice or lose, we will be unable to get a clear picture, an orientation, of what’s happening: we may distort information due to our failure in knowing ourselves.

Once strengths and weaknesses are identified, you do something to change or develop the weaknesses. Chaos, complexity, and change are everywhere in conflict. Mastering these uncertainties requires new ways of seeing and thinking. This includes how we see and think about ourselves. The best way to self-awareness is learning through experience. The key word is “learning.” Learning through experience takes effort and, once again, an honest candid assessment of lessons learned and then adapting these lessons to develop our weaknesses and further enhance our strengths. Another method is to swallow our ego’s and find someone who possesses the strengths you may lack and seek their assistance in developing your abilities; or if it’s in the heat of a bad situation then utilize their strengths and your own to get the job done as a team.

We have a tough job to do that requires superior situational awareness to accomplish our mission effectively and safely. Awareness will be reduced if we fail to honestly assess and know ourselves. Training hard is critical; but training hard requires much more than just going to the range or a defensive tactics workshop. It requires a journey inside us to work the mental dimension of conflict and our ability to take whole “conflict and violence” all its aspects through the inner workings of our own minds. Friction in decision making is caused by uncertainty due to the rapidly changing climate of a situation and lack of knowledge as to environment we find ourselves in. This uncertainty will always be there, we will never possess perfect knowledge in the arena of conflict and violence. We can strive to know ourselves, and become part of the solution and at a minimum reduce internal friction from within.

“Maneuver means Boyd Cycling the enemy, being consistently faster through however many OODA loops it takes until the enemy loses his cohesion---until he can no longer fight as an effective organized force.” ~William Lind, Maneuver Warfare Handbook

Stay oriented!

Fred