Keystones of a Scout: The 10 Virtues That Make a Scout | Observation

For this installment of the Keystones of a Scout series, I will be talking about a skill that has been emphasized greatly ever since Scouting was founded. This virtue and skill is very valuable and the mastery of which is one of the marks of a true Scout. What I am talking about is, of course, observation.

Observation of what? Observation of everything! A true Scout is constantly alert wherever he goes and pays attention to the smallest details. This is one of those things that will always be one of the distinguishing marks that shows the difference between a true Scout and the average person. This is because the natural human tendency is towards laziness, and being constantly alert takes a lot of practice and effort.

This is part of what the Scout Oath means when it says: “On my honor, I will do my best … to keep myself … mentally awake.” Most average people go through life in their own little bubble, not aware, not observing what happens around them. Many crimes and accidents could be prevented if peopled exercised more awareness.

Here is a little video that humorously points out how easy it is to miss something you’re not looking for:

Did you get fooled? If so, don’t feel bad, I missed it the first time I saw it too. However, It’s important to think about this and how easy it is to not be observant.

Why is Observation a Scout Keystone?

Well, I think Baden-Powell puts it very well in Scouting for Boys:

“One of the most important things that a Scout has to learn, whether he is a war scout or a hunter or peace scout, is to let nothing escape his attention. He must notice small points and signs, and then make out the meaning of them. It takes a good deal of practice before a tenderfoot gets into the habit of really noting everything and letting nothing escape his eye. It can be learnt just as well in a town as in the country.

And in the same way you should notice any strange sound or any peculiar smell and think for yourself what it may mean. Unless you learn to notice “signs” you will have very little of “this and that” to put together, and so you will be of no use as a Scout.

Remember, a Scout always considers it a great disgrace if an outsider discovers a thing before he has seen it for himself, whether that thing is far away in the distance or close by under his feet.

If you go out with a really trained Scout you will see that his eyes are constantly moving, looking out in every direction near and far, noticing everything that is going on.”

Notice the importance Baden-Powell puts on observation. He even goes so far as to say it’s a disgrace to a Scout to have a non-Scout notice something before he did. That’s pretty important!

A Scout must notice the smallest details.

I think the reason that Baden-Powell gave the skill of observation such emphasis is because of how it is necessary to carry out the Scout Oath, Law, Motto, and Slogan. Let’s start with the motto: “Be Prepared!” How can a Scout be prepared to handle whatever comes his way if he hasn’t mastered the skill of observation?

In his day-to-day life, a Scout could come up against numerous crises. He could witness a crime, walk into an unsafe situation, etc. If he isn’t aware of his surroundings and isn’t observant, then he cannot be prepared to handle these situations.

What about doing a good turn? I’ve seen a handful of informal video studies where a person needing help was staged, and it was recorded how many people would notice and help. I was surprised to see how many people simply walked on by without even noticing the distressed person. It is easy to be caught up in our own world and not pay attention to others around us. In order to fulfill our duty to do a good turn daily, we Scouts must be observant and on the lookout for situations where we can help out.

I could likewise go through the Scout Law, and it would be evident how many of the laws would be hard, if not impossible, to carry out rightly if we lacked observational skills.

How to Improve Your Observation

Like I said earlier, it’s not an easy task to improve your powers of observation, as we have gotten into habits of not using them for so long. I wish I could give you some specific exercise or formula that you could do that would make you better, but I can’t. There is nothing that can replace constant practice.

Start by being aware of where you are. If you are in a room, find out its shape. Make a mental note of where all the doors and windows are. Get a mental snapshot of all of the objects and furniture in the room. Then close your eyes and explore your snapshot of the room with your mind’s eye. Go through your snapshot systematically, noting everything that you see. Then, open your eyes and double-check. Did you miss anything? If so, what?

If you are involved in some activity that occupies your attention, be sure you look up and glance all around you once a while, even if it’s just for half-a-second. Has anything changed since you last checked? If so, what? It will be hard at first, but once you get into the habit of doing it, it will come much easier.

Next, work on remembering what you see. At the end of the day, take a few minutes to go through your snapshot of every place you went during that day. As you get better, try drawing them on paper. Constantly double-check yourself when you can. When you make a mistake, take a mental note of it and move on.

So, by constant practice, you will develop great observational skills and form them into habits that you can do throughout the day without hardly thinking about it. Doing this also has side benefits. It will improve your focus, concentration, and memory. And you may find it helping you out in many ways that you didn’t anticipate.

Here some Scouts practice improving their observation skills by playing ‘Kim’s Game’ (n.b. more about this game in an upcoming post)

Conclusion

So, to summarize, the Power of Observation is a very important Scout Keystone. Without Observation, a Scout isn’t a true Scout. This is because Observation is necessary to carry out the Scout Oath, Law, Motto, and Slogan in the best way.

Observation will take work to develop, but it is well worth it. Start by practicing it constantly everyday. You will then form it into a habit. To reiterate:

“If you go out with a really trained Scout you will see that his eyes are constantly moving, looking out in every direction near and far, noticing everything that is going on.”

This is the standard that you should strive for .

Thanks for reading this post! Do you have any comments, thoughts, or questions? I’d love to hear them! Do you have any good ideas for exercises to improve observation?

I want this to get out to as many Scouts as possible, so please help by sharing this post. You can easily share this on Facebook, Twitter, and etc. by clicking the little icons below this post.

If you don’t want to miss the rest of the installments of this series, just put your email in the little box to the right on the home page, and you will automatically get an email each time a new post is published.

Thanks again! Scout on, my friends!

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Keystones of a Scout: The 10 Virtues That Make a Scout | Deduction | Scouting Rediscovered

[…] here. Previously in this series, I talked about Endurance, Self-Discipline, Exploration, and Observation. Each of these are traits or virtues that I have shown to have been with Scouting from the […]

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[…] here. Previously in this series, I talked about Endurance, Self-Discipline, Exploration, Observation, and Deduction. Each of these are traits or virtues that I have shown to have been with Scouting […]

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[…] Previously in this series, I talked about Endurance, Self-Discipline, Exploration, Observation, Initiative, and Deduction. Each of these are traits or virtues that I have shown to have been […]

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[…] is a great skill to have which exercises your Observation and Deduction. Sometimes, though, you might wish to capture an interesting track for you to look at […]

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