Gentlemen, it's time we get a little more sensitive around here...
Yep, you read that correctly. However, we may be thinking of sensitivity in slightly different terms.
While many people use "sensitive" with a negative connotation that generally equates to being "easily upset" or "overly emotional", the word also has other meanings in different contexts.
The root of the word derives from our senses (the tools that allow us to navigate the world around us). These antenna receive input from our environment filtered and processed by our brains, allowing our mind to evaluate the information.
In this regard, our level of sensitivity is really a measure of how precisely we can assess and interact with different stimuli. The more sensitive we are, the more detailed and nuanced our receptors become, allowing us to make better informed decisions and responses.
Savage Gentleman SensitivityIn the realm of a Savage, developing a keen sense of danger is quite useful. For the gentleman, sensing a moment of opportunity by reading the room has distinct advantages. Perhaps more significantly, becoming sensitive to our own mental, physical, and emotional state can often mean the difference between life and death.
If we think of our bodies as a vehicle and our emotions as the dashboard, we see the utility of not ignoring the "Check Engine" light or when the gas tank reads empty.So what actually happens when we lack sensitivity? How does this present itself in everyday life?
Often, it leads us to miss the warning signs our body, mind, or environment are presenting. For many men, we've been taught that pain and discomfort is just something to "deal with", to ignore and cast aside. In some cases, (like an emergency situation), being able to block out certain things is necessary and useful.
Unfortunately, we have taken that maxim to the extreme and applied in many other facets of our lives, dulling our senses to the point of becoming desensitized to almost everything.
So how can we avoid this? To quote the lyrics from Pink Floyd, what can we do if we've become "Comfortably Numb"?
One of the best solutions I've found is by exploring just the opposite. To purposefully make ourselves uncomfortable. And while doing so, consciously decide to not tune out, but rather fully tune in and embrace the discomfort. Experience the burn in your lungs, the disappointment of failure, the warm flush of embarrassment. Use the feeling as a guide. As feedback. Glance down from the road and take a look at your gauges.
For me, challenging physical efforts outdoors really seems to do the trick. It allows all the extra static and white noise in my life to get turned down, so all of my senses can fully engage.
This isn't the only method mind you, but as Bert Sorin and I discussed recently, it is highly effective. There's just something about being in nature that seems to reset the dials and better hone things in.
But regardless of whether you need to take a 2 week expedition and summit Denali, or just set aside some quiet time to meditate, we could all benefit from habitually sharpening our senses.
Because the more sensitive we become, the faster we can adapt to our ever changing environment, and thus increase our overall chance of survival. As an added benefit, we can also fully and wholly experience the limited time we are given in this life, which is also pretty cool.