Common Sense

Mr. Tim Connor
February 11, 2013 — 1,044 views  

The more I observe people today - from politicians, parents, business leaders and everyone in society, it amazes me how few people seem to have any common sense at all. One of my mentors and heroes Mark Twain was famous for saying - "We need to stop calling it common sense. This assumes that it is common and everyone has it. We need to start calling it un-common sense because so few people seem to have it." This was said over 100 years ago by a common man. Yes, he was famous by today's standards, but a common man he was.

When I observe the behaviors, attitudes, decisions and actions today of teenagers, parents, business leaders - I could list every profession and every station in life here, but I'm sure you know at least one person where common sense seems to have left them at birth, I find it hard to believe so few people have simple common sense.

What exactly is common sense? Let me try and give you what I feel is a common sense definition, but first how about a professional definition. Sound practical judgment derived from experience rather than study. Or, words like - rational, reasonable, consistent, coherent, valid, logical or sound. OK, it's my turn.

Common sense is when you see a situation, decision or action in a way that loudly says - yes - both in the short and long term this is a good or the best course of action. It doesn't matter what other people think or believe, as their beliefs and attitudes are derived from their unique and varied sources of mental conditioning and upbringing. Common sense, when all things are considered is the only way to proceed based on a variety of factors: experience, knowledge, information, wisdom, objectives, potential hazards, real opportunities and an internal emotional comfort level. It's a state of mind similar to intuition, instinct or a hunch where it just feels right. But beware - if you precede only based on feelings or emotions without considering some of the other factors above, you might just set yourself up for disappointment, frustration or even failure.

Some people would assume that the older you are the more common sense you would develop. WRONG. Some people would assume that the more education you have the more common sense you would have. WRONG. Some people would believe that the more experience you have had, the more common sense you would develop. WRONG. Some people that the smarter you are, the more common sense you will have. WRONG.

So why do so few people today seem to operate from a position of little or no common sense whatsoever? Well, from my perspective there are a number of reasons. Here are some of the most common ones:

- Personal agendas. Everyone has agendas. Some are noble while others are very self-serving or selfish. An agenda is nothing more than a life outlook or a mindset. But, this outlook, whether positive or negative will tend to have a significant role in how you behave, treat others or interpret life in general. It will often control all of your actions, choices, decisions and behaviors. A self-serving agenda will cause you to override what may be right or you feel is best for you alone.

- Poor perceptual understanding. Everyone sees life uniquely through a very personal mental filter. Something good for one person can be perceived as bad for the next person. It isn't about what is right or wrong or good or bad, but how each of us interprets the people and events in our life. Your personal filter will determine how you react or respond to life, people or circumstances. If your filter is cluttered with a great deal of past negative situations and outcomes, you will tend to let these drive your behavior and not what makes sense, given the current set of conditions.

- A history of mistakes, failure or errors in judgment. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes or poor decisions from time to time. The problem happens in the present when we let these memories have greater control over our present than what is really going on now. When we focus on either the past or the future and not reality, we will tend to bring a dysfunctional view to any circumstances therefore overriding what would seem to be right based on what is really going on now.

- Fear in general. There are only two emotions - love and fear. Fear tends to be the dominant emotion in most people most frequently. If you have a choice to feel hope or discouragement, joy or pain, acceptance or non-acceptance, because of the way the human brain is wired, most people will more often come from a fear position than one of love. (Not talking here about romantic love.) When you operate out of fear you will tend to critique your options, choices or circumstances in a pessimistic way. Common sense, the best or right thing to do, will be present, but it will be overridden by all of the fear threats and concerns.

- A concern for what or how others will think of them or about them. Many people who fail to use common sense are often more concerned about how others view, define or feel about them, or their behaviors or decisions that the person has or feels about themselves. I want you to like me, but me liking me is more important than you liking me. If I am being true to myself I may not make right decisions all of the time based on common sense, but at least I am making them for my reasons and not yours.

- Ego dysfunction. The ego wants to rule our lives. It doesn't like to look bad and it certainly wants to play a major role in all of our choices, actions and decisions. When common sense and ego are at odds - ego will win most of the time. It doesn't care what makes sense or is in your present or future best interests - it must rule your life; it must make you look good, smart, competent, successful etc. Common sense be damned - is its mantra.

- Greed, selfishness or narcissism. Greed is the number one cause of all crime and the need to own more, have more or do more whether we deserve it or have earned it. Greed speaks volumes when it comes to how people behave either overtly or subtly. Greed, if it drives you, will always override what is best or right for you or for others. Selfishness is nothing more than a self-centered way of looking at life. It is about what you get, have or own or who you are and how you behave towards others and life in general. Selfishness says - I am the only thing that matters, life revolves around me so just get on board and with me or you are against me. Narcissism is nothing more than excessive self-admiration and self-centeredness. In psychiatry, it is a personality disorder characterized by the patient's overestimation of his or her own appearance and abilities and an excessive need for admiration. Think these people will ever come from a position of common sense?

- Stuck in the past or future. The past with all its failures, mistakes, successes and achievements is gone. Living in either will cause a person to not see current circumstances in the proper perspective. Yes, both are important - past lessons and experiences as well as future goals and plans, but in the end what you do now matters more than what you will do tomorrow or have done in the past. Common sense blends the best from both yesterday and tomorrow and weaves them into appropriate and beneficial behaviors, actions and decisions now.

- The inability to turn information and knowledge into wisdom. Information is not wisdom. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to use information and knowledge in a right way given reality, potential outcomes, historical experience and personal objectives. When a person lacks common sense I don't care how many degrees they have, they will do dumb things for the wrong reasons and often regret them later in life.

- Emotional immaturity. No one matures at the same pace or rate. Each of us learns or fails to learn valuable lessons as we move from one year to the next in our lives. Emotional maturity is the ability to see or view circumstances in a way that you use your experience, wisdom, intuition and the available information at hand. A lack of emotional maturity is nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction to whatever happens, regardless of how stupid the action or decision is. No matter what, in our own mind we justify these often stupid behaviors and or actions.

Yes, there are many others, but if you feel you lack a credible amount of common sense and this lack is causing more pain than necessary, why not consider the above causes in terms of how you live, make decisions, interpret life, evaluate others or just go from day to day in your life.

I believe if we all had more common sense or used more of what we have we would experience far less stress, discouragement, frustration, anxiety or any other negative emotions due to life's uncertainty and adventure.

Want to gain more common sense or use more of what you have more often? Pay attention to the above items and stay focused in the present.

Mr. Tim Connor

Connor Resource Group

Global renowned sales and management speaker and trainer and best selling author of over 80 books including several international best sellers.