You can observe a lot by just watching. — Yogi Berra
A few years ago, a former SWAT Team leader trained our office in what to do in an active shooter scenario.
As a kid, I remember hearing the STOP DROP & ROLL mantra for what to do if you’re on fire. (Looking back, that seems odd. Were there a lot of kids catching fire??) The active shooter training followed a similar 3-word command for dire situations.
In an active shooter scenario, the mantra is RUN HIDE FIGHT. The idea is to instinctively follow this simple phrase when you’re panicking, because you’re not going to be able to think clearly.
But there’s a step before that which you can — and should — do before an emergency situation: Be a tourist in your own building.
Captain Kranz, the former SWAT Team leader, explained that our brains are normally on autopilot as we travel to and from the office. From the moment you park your car in your normal parking space to walking into your office to getting your coffee and sitting down, all of that is automatic. You don’t even think about it.
As a result, your brain builds these deep routine ruts and thinks that there’s only one way in and out of your building: The one you take every day without thinking.
But that’s almost never the case. There’s usually at least one emergency exit you overlook.
Noticing a detail could be the difference between life and death.
So Captain Kranz took us on a tour of our own office.
Sure enough, there was an exit and a stairway RIGHT UNDER MY NOSE. I walk past it countless times every day — to and from the office, filling my water bottle, going to the kitchen for lunch.
I just never consciously noticed this door before. And if I did, I must have assumed it was a closet door. THERE’S EVEN AN EMERGENCY ROUTE SIGN POSTED RIGHT NEXT TO IT!
There’s always an exit closer than you think.
The idea of being a tourist in familiar surroundings doesn’t only apply to grim life-or-death scenarios. You can use it right now, in your everyday life.
Try pulling out of autopilot. Look around with fresh eyes and beginner’s mind.
Pulling out of autopilot
What does today look like? In some ways, it looks like yesterday. And the day before that. And the day before that.
Be a tourist in your own town and visit a new part of the city that you’ve never been before. Who lives there?
Be a tourist in your own building and look at a piece of artwork hanging in the hall that you never noticed before. Who is the artist?
Be a tourist on the Internet and visit a website with a different ideology than your own. Does it challenge your beliefs?
Be a tourist in the library and visit an aisle you’ve never been down before. Maybe get a kid’s book as an adult?
Be a tourist on your daily commute. Do you see a story taking shape?
Be a tourist at work and write down your job description in your own words. What else could you be doing that fulfills your role?
Be a tourist eavesdropping on your own conversations. Could you be whispering when you’re shouting?
Be a tourist of your own feelings. Is there a reason why you’re angry, sad, happy, jealous or scared?
Be a tourist of your dreams. What are they trying to tell you?
Be a tourist of your future. What do you want to tell the future you?
Be a tourist of this moment.
What do you see?