Common Sense Or Good Sense?
Bill Cottringer

“Common sense in an uncommon degree is what the world calls wisdom.”― Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

It seems to be a sad common consensus today that common sense is not so common anymore. But, the validity of that conclusion really depends upon using the correct definition of “common sense.” The term was originally invented by early Greek Philosophers and pertained more to being able to find the truth of something with sound perception, judgment and understanding, which were assumed to be commonly distributed to all human beings but later discovered not to be used as equally well.

Today, it seems as though common sense is meant more in a practical way as the basic sense a person is expected to have to get at least average results in what they are attempting to do, especially in solving problems. Fairly good results all things considered, and not too many bad side effects in the package. And so in this sense of the term, common sense is very common.

At the end of the day, however, we are not really after acquiring more common sense, but rather improving good sense. This is because solid research equates success more with the latter. All success starts with smart thinking which includes good sense, which does seem to be lacking if you take an honest look at the level of success that is enjoyed by the majority of people in the world, according to any objective measures of it. Most are sadly just trying to survive rather than being able to thrive with their virtually unlimited but unknown and unrealized human potential. We’ll leave that problem for another day.

So, the real question of the day is, Why is the good sense version of common sense not so common these days? Here are five clues:

Creativity Isn’t So Common

The kind of creativity that makes good sense to use more of is growing the tendency to not be stuck with usual or common views of how things are or to deal with problems and obstacles with typical strategies and available tools. A good example is to not let yourself only use problem solving tools that are readily available, but to re-invent the problem by looking for unusual tools not necessarily in plain sight or even using ordinary things in new and unusual ways. That is something we can all improve in doing and it is free.

Curiosity Isn’t So Common

I have been an avid student of common sense for over five decades now, but my definition of common sense is more in line with Mark Twain’s, or the more desirable and useful “good sense” part of common sense. He maintained common sense was the simple knack of seeing something the way it really is and doing something the way it should be done. And the quickest way to improve this type of good sense is to learn from those who already have it, by asking good questions. Of course, you have to be curious enough to ask such questions and then be willing to try out the answers and continually regroup with inevitable failures until you do success. Actually creative, curious people ask better questions than they provide good answers to others’ questions. Peeling back answers with more why follow-up questions is a sure way to get started with curiosity.

Empathy Isn’t So Common

Genuine empathy is rare and very difficult to come by and that is why it is not so common. Increasing your empathy requires exposing yourself to emotionally and physically dangerous and risky situations so that you can truly understand what another person is going though, from your firsthand experience and not just reading about it or even going through psychotherapy training where empathy is the most valuable currency. Some say empathy comes from your openness to love unconditionally which we all aspire towards and yet very few achieve. The hardest part about learning empathy is in trying to accept the unacceptable, like when bad things happen to good people who don’t deserve those bad things.

Intuition Isn’t So Common

Although intuition is an innate faculty with all human beings in being the most reliable link to objective reality, it’s actual use in solving life’s conflicts and challenges is far from common. The trouble is we don’t evaluate successes and failures reliably enough to typically keep score in objectively assessing the correctness or incorrectness of an intuitive solution, based on the actual results we get one way or the other. The good news about this one though, is that the computer age is forcing us all to become more intuitive by using the intuitive alternatives to navigating computer programs and operations to make things easier and simpler, which at first are really more difficult and complex, until you cut through everything by following what your intuition is trying to tell you unconsciously, below rationality and emotionality.

Conflict Isn’t So Common

The only common thing about conflict is that it will occur and reoccur frequently in life for us all. In fact, it seems unresolved conflicts come back with a vengeance to haunt us and even resolved conflicts double their difficulty level the next time around. What is not so common though, is our understanding of the beneficial opportunities that are readily available in any conflict that confronts us, and of course our skills to take advantage of these opportunities at fulfilling our common mission of learning, growing and improving into the best person we can be. Resolving conflicts effectively involves all these other skills.

If you wish to increase your good sense to become more successful, then try experimenting by taking reasonable risks and putting yourself into situations that push you to exercise your creativity, curiosity, conflict resolution skills, empathy and intuition more than you currently do.

“Things do not change; we change.” ― Henry David Thoreau.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice-President of Employee Relations for Puget Sound Security Patrol, Inc. in Bellevue, WA., along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living in the mountains of North Bend. He is author of several recent business and self-development books, including, You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence), The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree), and Do What Matters Most and “P” Point Management (Atlantic Book Publishers) Reality Repair Rx (PublishAmerica), and Reality Repair (Global Vision Press) Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 652-8067, 425-454-5011 or or