Ten Easy Ways to Increase Your Common Sense
Bill Cottringer

“Commonsense is the most widely shared commodity in the world, for every man is convinced that he is well supplied with it.” ~Rene Descartes.

If this quote were true, we wouldn’t have any of the challenges, problems, mistakes, conflicts and failures that overload us today. The best version of common sense that is not so common today belongs to Mark Twain. He viewed common sense as “the simple knack of seeing something the way it is and doing something the way it needs to be done.”

Unfortunately, common sense used to be how the majority of people saw and did things. Now the “common” has shifted to seeing and doing things any way other than what Mark Twain had in mind and so the lack of common sense is the only thing that seems to be common these days. What can we do about this horrid problem? Here are 10 easy ways you can increase your store of common sense:

1. Understand what common sense is. If you don’t understand what something is, you will never know if you have it or don’t. The simplest definition is offered above by Mark Twain. And if that isn’t concrete enough, then just view common sense as the best truth available to see and deal with everything in the easiest and quickest way to get the best results and avoid undesirable side effects. Common sense includes knowing principles that can best predict the most productive outcomes. Common sense is what helps us all survive the adversities in life so we can eventually do what we are meant to do in life—thrive.

2. Listen more and talk less. You can learn much more common sense by listening than you can by talking. In fact, talking is what keeps your ears from hearing common sense. Too much talking is a bad habit of people who have egos that get in the way. They think they already know everything, and that attitude blocks any common sense from even being considered. I am sad to report that the art of good listening has almost been entirely lost so the bad news is you may have to start all over again to make this effort. And of course, you can read more about others’ common sense than you can write about your own, because your ego will surely get in the way.

3. Focus on what matters most. It only makes sense that if common sense is what matters most, then this is what we should be focusing on most. Remember the popular book years ago “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff? That is because the big stuff—common sense—Is worth sweating to get. There is much more nonsense than common sense today with planned misinformation via the internet, so focusing sharply on the little sense hidden away in all the monumental nonsense is a basic requirement for increasing common sense. Here is where the old 80-20 Pareto rule comes in handy, at least reversing it so that your focus on 20% of what is in front of you to get 80% of the results you need. That is the best time management principle to increase your common sense.

4. Study people who have it. As Yogi Berra said, “You can see a lot by observing. Notice there is no space between these activities to interfere with the effort to get results and that is what common sense is all about. Nothing more and nothing less. And don’t think you can ask someone where or how they got to be so common sensical because people with the most common sense are too busy using it that they haven’t quite mastered talking about it well enough to tell others what it is, where they got it, or how to use it. Personally, I learned most of the common sense I have acquired by watching farmers for several years.

5. Stop using technology to think for you. I can’t prove it, but I seriously doubt that electronic gizmos have access to the store of wisdom that represents the common sense of the ages. These things haven’t been around long enough to recognize it when they see it. So, leave the thinking for your brain and not thumbs on a mobile devise or fingers on the keyboard. Man is that going to be hard for some folks! A beginning point is to realize computers started out solving problems quicker, but now they are creating their own problems that even they can’t solve. What’s next?

6. Open your mind. When you function with a closed mind, nothing new can get in and you are stuck with all the wrong assumptions, false beliefs, incorrect conclusions and faulty perceptions that got all the bad information in there in your head. A very healthy attitude to adopt is to humbly realize that all you think you know may not be necessarily so. This allows you to embrace the important qualities of ambiguity and tentativeness. And when you can start questioning basic assumptions and sacred paradigms, you are cracking the ceiling on knowing what you need to know to be where you want to be. I remember someone once saying common sense is what tells us the world is flat. I think that says it all.

7. Be curious. One very productive way to increase your common sense is to find out what makes people tick or how things actually work. This curiosity yields knowledge and when you learn to apply the common people and thing principles in your life you are using and gaining wisdom at the same time. In psychology, it is the principles that emerge from good research in separating fiction from truth, that rewards us with a healthy body of common sense knowledge and wisdom. Both are good for solving problems.

8. Stop trying to change reality. My book “Reality Repair” offers one of the simplest and most widely applicable truth in life. Drum roll…here it is: It is not reality that needs changing, but rather incomplete and incorrect perceptions of it. While perceptions are people’s realities, that doesn’t guarantee they are right. If you don’t believe me go On-line and look at the many optical illusions that will convince you that you are seeing color and movement when none exist. If it can happen in that situation, it is a safe bet it occurs elsewhere because that is the way the brain works—more for efficient operation and completion rather than accuracy or truth.

9. Think about your thinking. Plain thinking doesn’t often uncover hidden treasures of common sense, On the other hand, when you stop to reflect about how you are thinking about something, by using reflective thinking, you might just start noticing what you have been failing to notice all along. This is especially true about what you think and what you do, and the results or consequences you get. The connection is too often missed and then the mind just remains closed instead of learning what you need to do to turn a failure into a success. Using common sense increases your success rate.

10. Practice common sense communication. I have saved the best for last. Since communication is the most prevalent currency in personal interactions where most of the important outcomes occur, this is where common sense is needed most. Common sense communication involves the 8 C’s of good communication: Being clear, correct, concise, courteous, cohesive, credible, consistent and complete in everything you speak or write. Common sense communication is what stops all the nonsense from spreading as misinformation and cuts down on the biggest problem we have today—information overload.
Practice two or three of these tips and watch your common sense store soar.

“The ‘common’ in common sense is turning it into nonsense.” ~ The Author.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D., Certified Homeland Security (CHS) level III, is Executive Vice-president for Employee Relations for Cascade Security Corporation in Bellevue, Washington; sport psychologist, photographer and adjunct professor in criminal justice at Northwest University. He is author of several business and self-development books, including You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too, The Bow-Wow Secrets, Do What Matters Most, ‘P’ Point Management, Reality Repair, Reality Repair RX, Thoughts on Happiness, Pearls of Wisdom: A Smart Dog’s Tale. He can be reached at 425-652-8067 or ckuretdoc@comcast.net or www.authorsden.com/cottringer