How Sherlock Holmes taught us to be better observations

Want to learn how to be a better observer? Here’s what you need to know!

“My dear Watson! You see, but you do not observe”, Holmes’ unparalleled level of deduction and observation skills were reflected in this short dialogue in Arthur Conan Doyles’ masterpiece ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’. Holmes is probably the most pronounced name all over the world when it comes to observation, deduction and presence of mind.  The inspiration of every thriller-writer, the ideologue of every sharp and smart person, Doyels’-created character Detective Sherlock Holmes consists of an unimaginable skill of observation.  Holmes teaches you to distinguish between seeing and observing, making it clear that observation is a cognitive process coming from a scientific and materialistic notion towards reality, i.e what we see.


Every time, while exposed to society, we see thousands of events occurring around us. Holmes teaches us to be mindful of each event. Not a single moment, a person should allow him or herself to not critically and properly observe a situation, as Doyel has deciphered in Holmes’ character.  Every day you walk along the stairs at your place. But can you recall the number of steps there? There are several programmes installed on your laptop. Can you say exactly what the number is? From the colour of the shirt of the person you met yesterday to the number of the taxi you left a few minutes back—the list of forgettable items is long. Holmes’ is warning us not to be a ‘viewer’ but to be mindful to become an ‘observer’.

How to Observe

Observation is a matter of objectivity. A materialistic viewpoint, thus, is required to observe properly to go beyond ‘seeing’ generally. It is a common tendency that we focus only upon the things that are related to us subjectively ignoring the materialistic and objective impacts of plenty of other incidents taking place around us. The problem is, nowadays we are running out of time, we are covered with dark glasses, we are blocked from the world through social media to high-quality headphones. These are the perils lying between you and the truths around you. A Holmes’ struggles to eradicate these blockades in every age, in every epoch.

What’s to be done?

Now if you want to go beyond seeing and be introduced in the realm of observation you might adopt some things consciously. Take note of everything in your mind that takes place around you. Then start analysing or recalling how these factors affect you or the material reality surrounding you. It can certainly change the standard and the decision-making qualities of your life.

Darielle Britto

Darielle Britto has been in the world of journalism since 2014 — covering everything from breaking news to lifestyle for some of India's top publications. Currently, she focuses on all things food, fashion, travel, home, health, design and offbeat.
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