Common sense: it’s not all that common

common sense

Common sense: it’s not all that common


It always surprised me when I ran training courses for a living, how many people turned up entirely unprepared. We’d waste precious time going over elementary stuff first and holding everyone else back. I mean, if you’re going on an advanced financial planning course you should already know the basics. Common sense, right?

But if you stop and think about it, it can’t be common sense, can it?

If it was common sense it’d be, well, common. Everyone would think that way. And they’d all do more or less do what you’d do, wouldn’t they?

And yet…

Perfectly sane people, holding down good careers, in positions of responsibility and influence. They still do things that common sense says they shouldn’t. And don’t do the things that common sense says they should. And still they appear to be doing OK.

So what’s going on?

As we grow up in our world, we make sense of what’s going on by learning what rules apply. What’s safe, not safe, what counts as food & what doesn’t, how people behave & how they don’t, what’s acceptable and what isn’t. We refine it as we go but essentially, the environment & culture you’re born into builds ‘rules’ around you without you even noticing.

Some of us end up more engaged than others, comfortable that these unseen rules serve a valuable purpose. Giving structure to how the world works. There are often some clues in how you speak, how you think, how you talk to yourself. Even how you tell yourself off when things go wrong.

Here’s a sideways thought.. When you tell yourself off, which is the real ‘you’? The you who’s cross or the ‘you’ you’re getting cross at?

Anyway, getting back on track again, if you find yourself using words like should, shouldn’t, must, have to, surely, can’t, right, wrong, then you probably use these unseen rules & structure to make sense of your world.

In essence, they make the wheels of life turn easily, with understandable predictability.

But there’s a problem.

You see, lots of people live in world of structure & rules, rights & wrongs.

But only one of them is you. No one else has lived your life. No one else has experienced what you’ve experienced. So no one else has quite the same rules as you do.

This is why people do things you don’t agree with.

Time to reassess, how you react, perhaps.

Curiosity is a pretty good state of mind for this one.

Instead of giving in to your natural reaction, (it isn’t natural, by the way, you learnt it from somewhere), be curious as to why someone can quite happily do something that so obviously isn’t ‘common sense’.

In their world something else is common sense. It might prove useful to find out what,

This is why it’s a good idea to build teams from people who aren’t like you. Ones you don’t easily get on with. You see, like-minded people come up with like minded ideas and thoughts and solutions. There’s not enough variety to come up with alternatives.

Different ideas, different ways of thinking and behaving, different ‘rules’ can provide a flexibility that quite simply, you’d never have come up with.

Different doesn’t mean it’s wrong

There is of course something else that’s missing here. People who don’t do rules and structure. People who prefer intuition, gut-feel, seat of the pants, go where the next interesting thing is kind of people. But that’s a whole other topic and one that’s well worth covering. (If you’re a structure & process kind of person, it’s like stepping into a whole new universe).

That’s something to save up for another time.

In the meantime, here’s what I want you to do. If you find yourself getting annoyed or frustrated because someone’s not following common sense, make a point of finding out what’s going on. Because to them, your common sense isn’t sense either. You might find out something useful by stepping into their world for a moment.

If nothing else, it makes life a lot calmer.


What’s next

If you’re intrigued by how your mind works and would like it to feel calmer, do get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.


Photo by Josue Isai Ramos Figueroa on Unsplash

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