Common Sense Ain’t So Common

image002Have you heard that before? I have heard it around the firehouse and said it myself once or twice. When I was growing up we didn’t have much money. I am the youngest of 8, and the older kids would say I had it easy compared to before.

I remember we had a pile of bikes, well probably 8-10 frames and a bunch of wheels. We would get out some of Dad’s tools and put together a bike from the parts. Often there was a big wheel in front and small in the back or visa versa and monkey bars and banana seats on bikes they just did not belong on. Sometimes it didn’t work out so good.

One time this elderly couple came driving into the yard and there were my brothers, all bloody and screaming like crazy with a pile of bike parts in the truck. They had been riding down a dirt road and one brother’s handle bars just lifted right out of the forks, then the front wheel turned sideways and just came right off! This is called experiential learning. I guarantee he double checked that everything was tight from that day forward!

We had a lot of experiences like that at our house and I believe that it is a fundamental key to cultivating “common sense”. It causes one to look beyond the thought in the moment and consider the natural outcome of the action we are about to take. It also, I believe, causes us to look for how things fit together or work. I think that is kind of the essence of “common sense”, being able to instinctively see how things fit together, or maybe more accurately, cause and effect relationships of things. We begin to intuitively understand, for example, that if I’m on my bike and I squeeze the brake handle and nothing happens then there is a cause for that experience then one starts to troubleshoot what might be causing the brakes to not work. We start to notice unique details that are relevant and assign meanings. If I squeeze the brake handle in and it collapses with no resistance maybe the cable broke, maybe it just came off the handle…and so on. Next we unconsciously ask, “What does it mean?” “I’m going to crash!” “I hate that I don’t have enough money to have a decent bike that isn’t falling apart!” “WOW! This is exciting!” “Hmmm. How am I going to solve this one?” “Boy! I sure am glad this bike has two brakes!”

You see, our lives are full of events. Some of those events are the direct result of our actions and choices, some are not.  What most people don’t realize is that they have a choice to assign the meaning to the events. What we all tend to do, until we take control, is just accept the first meaning that pops into our head as “truth” and we believe it from that day forward. Rarely do we stop to ask ourselves “What else could this mean?”

This is a powerful question because the meaning that we assign to any event is what tells our brain (mind) what emotion is the appropriate one. How many of you—now be honest—have gotten pissed off at your intimate partner for something you THOUGHT they did that you later found out they did not actually do? OK, maybe you haven’t had that exact experience but have you ever gotten upset at someone or something because of what you thought they did or did not do only to find out you were wrong?

Yea, me too. So let me ask, what were we upset at, the reality of the situation (as it really was) OR the meaning we gave to what we thought we knew to be “true”? That’s right. The meaning we had assigned to the “reality” we observed and interpreted. So how powerful would it be in your relationship if you started to solve some of your problems up stream, at the cause, by asking yourself a higher quality question like, “What else could this mean?”

Let’s say your partner is late. What is your first thought? Is it “they don’t respect me!” or “They are always late!”? STOP and ask yourself “What else could this mean?” You could choose to focus on some thing like, “I am so looking forward to seeing them when they get here,” “I hope they are safe” or “I trust that they are doing their best.”

When you choose to change the meaning that you give the events of your life you are choosing to be in control of your emotional state. By choosing to live life in this manner you are choosing to exercise your common sense and address the cause of the problem which is within your power to change. In the words of Wayne Dyer (and others I’m sure), “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

So starting today, let’s take the common sense we have developed “out there” in the physical world and apply it “in here” and start changing the way we look at things.

Make it a great day!

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