Blog by Tracy Stock, CSP
Where has common sense gone? Common sense is clearly not common practice. For example, if you’re driving in the left lane on a highway and are backing up traffic because you’re going too slow, common sense says to move to the right lane; or, when an elevator door opens and numerous people are trying to get out, common sense says don’t try to step into it until all those who want out have safely exited; or, if you wear black at night…common sense says others can’t see you.
Common sense is a form of practical decision-making and the ability to imagine the consequences of something you do. It stops you from making irrational mistakes and makes it easier to make choices on what to do. With that said, some find it harder to think through the consequences of their actions and need to learn common sense. I guess that is why common sense is like deodorant; those who need it most rarely use it.
Developing common sense may seem like a difficult task; however, by being more aware and reflecting on situations before you make decisions, you will gain more common sense and make smarter choices more easily. To apply common sense to your decision-making, consider trying these strategies:
- Compare the risks and rewards of a decision before choosing what to do. Look at the positives and negative outcomes that could come from a decision you’re making.
- Trust your initial feelings so you don’t over-analyze things too much. Whenever you’re faced with a decision, take notice of what your first instinct or answer is. Think about what good or bad consequences could come from the decision, and if the decision seems like the best one, it just may be.
- Look at your situation from another perspective to think through it clearly. You may notice that it seems easier to give advice to someone than it is to tell yourself the same thing. When you’re faced with a tough decision, consider what you would advise s/he to do based on what you feel is the smartest or best decision for that person.
- Ask someone you trust for feedback if you aren’t sure about your decision. Reach out to a trusted confidant and talk through possible decisions so you can gain his/her input. Others may have more life experience than you or could have faced a similar situation in the past.
In addition to applying common sense to how you make decisions, here are several ideas of how to practice common sense on a daily basis:
- Think before you speak (text, email or post) so you don’t say something you regret. Before you say anything that could be taken as offensive or hurtful, consider how it would feel if someone said the same thing to you.
- Don’t do things that you know are bad for you. If there are things that you know are bad for you, don’t do them since they can have negative effects on your life.
- Pick options that are the most practical in the situation. When you’re faced with a decision, take into consideration the pros and cons of each choice to determine which one is the most practical. Think the options through before you react so you make the best choice going forward.
- Be more observant of your surroundings. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times and pay attention to how people react around you to specific actions.
- Accept that there are some things you cannot change. Bad things happen to everyone. Realize and accept that there are some things you can’t change. Instead, ask yourself, “What is one thing I can do right now to move forward even though this negative thing just happened?” Moving on from things outside of your control can decrease the victim mentality and create a more positive mindset for the future.
Practice common sense today and make it more common than yesterday. So the next time someone says “hi” to you, say “hello” or a similar pleasantry in return; or, if you’re more tired than usual, dedicate more time and effort to getting more quality sleep; or, if you’re feeling a higher level of stress, engage in some physical exercise to reduce it. Just be sure to shower after and use deodorant—a common sense point worth mentioning.