Getting in the Yellow Zone

by Dan on August 10, 2011

I learned this great awareness building exercise from a marketing course I took.  In the class, the instructor said that if we wanted to really connect with our audience, we had to learn the power of stories and see how people have narratives in their everyday life.

To build this skill, he taught us about something called the Yellow Zone.

There was a Colonel in the Marines named Jeff Cooper who came up with a system called the Cooper Color Codes.  These are states of awareness you have in combat, as well as in life.

I’ll outline them for you:

White Zone: You’re walking through the world obliviously, in your own head.  You feel safe, but you are so unaware of your surroundings that you may be totally unsafe.  Criminals look for people in this condition because they’re the easiest to sneak up on.

Yellow Zone:  You are relaxed but completely aware of your surroundings.  You know what’s in front of you, what’s behind you, and who’s in the same room.  If someone stopped you and asked you to close your eyes, and then said “How many people are in the room and what do the tiles on the ceiling look like?” you’d be able to answer.  You’re not paranoid, but you are keeping a constant alert of everything around you.

Orange Zone:  You’ve identified a threat.  Something’s not right in your immediate location, so you keep a watchful eye, looking for anything suspicious.  You may just have an odd feeling, or you may know full well that someone or something dangerous is nearby.  You’re ready to fight if you have to.

Red Zone:  You are in full combat.  All focus has gone to protecting yourself and neutralizing the threat.

The marketing instructor said that we should stay in the Yellow Zone as much as we can.  Remember that this isn’t a paranoid, nervous state.  You simply just keep an eye on everything going on.

An easy way to do this is just to take a mental note of everything, as well as quiz you, asking, “How many cars are on the right of the street?”  “How many windows are in the room?”  “What color was the door I just walked through?”

When looking at people, ask yourself, “How many people are in the group?”  “Who looks like they have a close relationship?” “Are they in a hurry, or just meandering around?”  Remember that you don’t have to care who’s behind you.  You just have to know.

As you do this, you’ll find that you feel much more comfortable in your surroundings than you did in the White Zone.  Most people walk through the world in the White Zone without getting attacked, so it’s not as if you’re a walking target if your mind is in that place.  However, the benefits of the Yellow Zone go far beyond safety and simple awareness.

You’ll be a lot more successful in what you do, because you’ll be more in tune to your environment.  You’ll also have more peace because you’re more present with your surroundings instead of stuck in your rolling thoughts.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: