Mindfulness or situational awareness?

PACIFIC OCEAN (June 17, 2010) Operations Speci...

PACIFIC OCEAN (June 17, 2010) Operations Specialist 2nd Class Nahconian Douglas, left, Air Traffic Controller 2nd Class Nancy Real and Air Traffic Controller 2nd Class Megan Sanderson provide situational awareness for pilots from the tactical air control squadron aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5). Taylor is participating in theater security cooperation activities in the Adriatic Sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Edward Kessler/Released) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was watching at TV show about an investigation into an air crash. The findings revealed that the crew were so busy reading their charts they were not aware that their plane was flying toward a mountain range. The findings said they lacked situational awareness. They were so focused on one task that they lost the big picture of what was happening to the plane – and it ended in disaster with many lives lost.

A few hours later I was watching a medical documentary about emergency surgical procedures. A woman had surgery for a straight forward procedure and the surgical team had difficulty inserting the tubing for her to breathe. A re-enactment of the procedure showed how four or five medical professionals became increasingly stressed to the point they lost their situational awareness and the patient was starved of oxygen and went into a coma  – she died days later. There were alternative options open to the surgeons but they were so focused on fixing the problem they couldn’t see what was obvious to a non-medical observer.

The medical presenter coincidentally visited a flight training centre to see how they deal with similar situations of extreme pressure. He also visited a training centre for fire-fighters where decisions have to be made quickly while taking note of the overall scene and the details within each situation.

As I reflected on these situations I wondered how it is similar and how it differs from  mindfulness. I see mindfulness as being fully aware of what is going on around me and within me at the same time. It is different to a narrow-minded focus – it is not driven or under pressure.

I like the words, situational awareness and think it is worth reflecting on this occasionally as we go about our daily activities. It is so easy to get caught up in one thing and neglect others at the same time. Something to think about …



One thought on “Mindfulness or situational awareness?

  1. Yes! Great examples of why cultivating mindfulness as we go through our days is so important. It enables us to step back and watch as a detached observer . . . which leads to better decision making.

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