In General Knowledge

Common Sense: Do you Have it?

Voltaire once said, “common sense is not so common”. To define common sense, we must look at what is reasonable to one person may not be reasonable to another. One may believe that they have the ability of prudent judgment, but perceive the facts wrong and get off the track.

What is common sense?

What is the common sense definition of common sense? That is a better question. The answer will be as different as each individual’s view of how they apply it. Merriam Webster defines common sense as, “the ability to think and behave in a reasonable way and to make good decisions; sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.” Since we all perceive things and situations differently, based on our own experiences, there is a lot of room here for interpretation based on one’s knowledge base.

Not Dependent on Age or Education

Many people behave reasonably and make good decisions, however many do not. What makes one individual prudent in their decisions, while the other goes off with half a plan and no attention to the facts of a situation? Perhaps what gives individuals common sense is what they learn while growing up, and one’s attitude.

Can you Develop Common Sense?

Yes, you can. Karl Albrecht calls it practical intelligence, defining it as “the mental ability to cope with the challenges and opportunities of life.” He goes on to explain that common sense may fit in your decisions for part of your life but may be absent in other areas.

It is common to see others cling to old ideals and ways because they have always worked. However, the common sense approach would be to adapt to current conditions, as opposed holding tightly outdated methods of doing things. A good example here is the adoption of technology in your personal and business life. Can you do without the technological advances? Of course, you can. However, will your life be less enriched because you do so? Probably.

Do you know that your brain can fool you? We all have skewed perceptions of reality based on personal experiences. We look at the world through a personal lens, and understand that our own reality is but a small view on the big picture. There are others, though, who see their reality as the big picture. They believe that they can transform and manipulate situations in their favor, just because they want to. As a display of irrational behavior, it is the antithesis of common sense. It is an example of one’s brain overriding the facts of a situation.

How To Build Basic Common Sense

Know where your groceries come from and how to cook them. This is becoming a lost art, but knowing how to cook can be a money saver, as ingredients are cheaper to purchase than ready made food. Knowing how to cook is basic common sense that is not only a basic survival skill but is also a method of personal satisfaction. Learning how to eat healthy is also commonsensical.

Knowing your own limitations, and not promising more than you can deliver is also a sign of good common sense. Knowing the weather, local conditions and other information that can affect you will give you knowledge that you need to protect yourself in the events that can influence your life.


Consider that your sense of reality may not be real. You have programmed your brain to see what it does. Disconnect from this trained vision and open your mind to new possibilities. By looking at the world through the lens as others, as well as your own, you can develop a balanced view that will divorce you from the one sided realty some find themselves in.

Teach Yourself to Be Reflective

Reflective intelligence enables us to stand back from what we have done, or are going to do and look at it objectively, before or after an occurrence. Taking time for reflection will help you to fit the puzzle pieces of your life together better. Quiet, meditative, self-reflection will allow you to consider what went right and what needed to be corrected, giving you information necessary for if the incident ever occurs again.

Roadblocks to Common Sense


There are those that will not admit that they are wrong, no matter the argument or facts in their face information. It’s not going to happen. Their perception could be based on incomprehension, fear, anger, fear of failure or lack of acceptance because of their own decisions. However, talking until you are blue in the face will not budge their reluctance to see the facts of a situation.

Reflexive or Associative Thinking

Reactive thinking is based on personal knowledge gained over one’s lifetime. We apply this knowledge to each situation that we come across in our lives. However, it is important to understand that adjustments of context are necessary to find a proper conclusion. Just because the situation is similar, does not mean that it is identical.

Invoking Absolute Certainty

Let’s call this the black and white way of thinking in a world that has become a rainbow of the shades of grey. Basing all of their decisions on their absolutist perception, these individuals never allow space for doubt in their reasoning, thereby throwing common sense out of the window before it is even considered.

Developing common sense will require that you let go any of these roadblock behaviors.

Quotes About Common Sense

Old Proverb – “A handful of common sense is worth a bushel of learning.”

Albert Einstein – “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.”

Rene Descartes – “Nothing is more fairly distributed than common sense: no one thinks he needs more of it than he already has.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt – It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”

Katharine Hepburn – “My greatest strength is common sense. I’m really a standard brand – like Campbell’s tomato soup or Baker’s chocolate.”

Jerry Lewis – “I never got a formal education. So, my intellect is my common sense. I don’t have anything else going for me. And my common sense opens the door to instinct.”

Applying Common Sense Everyday

Commonsensical Budgeting

As a responsible adult, you should know your budget and be sure that you spend less than you are earning. However, people continually find that they spend beyond their budget and means. Developing a budget and sticking to it can be the difference between paying your bills, and being late every month, which further exacerbates your financial situation. Using a commonsensical approach to your spending can mean a happier more independent life style.

Test your Common Sense

You can take a test to rate your commonsensical view of the world. It can help you see how we apply these logical decisions everyday. A lot of decisions made today, personal, in business, and in government are based on emotion. Decisions that should be made by looking at a situation from a logical common sense stance, based on facts, are often made while in an emotional state of indecision. This is not the best time for decisions.

Expand your Horizons

Knowledge is easily acquired in our technological world. Answers to questions are but a few keystrokes away. Expanding on your knowledge and experiences will make you more aware of your surroundings and will help you to make better, more conscious decisions about your personal finances and approach to life and all that it has to throw at you.

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