Today I want to talk about an incredible power that we all possess---it's Common Sense. Common sense is your super power for making good decisions and solving complex problems that set the conditions for you and your people to succeed.
In this article we’ll talk abut what common sense is, how our brains make sense, and how to use the language of common sense to train your brain to make better decisions and think better thoughts.
So What is Common Sense? Although its framework of concepts and principles are new, the biography of this idea is as ancient as life on earth. Common Sense has been developed, honed, and validated over 3.9 billion years of intensive focus group testing also known as Evolution by Natural Selection.
The saber-toothed tiger hunts the watering hole on moonless nights;
It makes sense to stay away from the watering hole when the moon is away.
To understand what “common sense” is we have to understand how we “make sense” first. Our DNA enabled nervous systems all “make sense” a common way—via patterns and relationships we perceive through our common senses of sight, sound, smell, taste, touch. Which is why its called common sense and why we all have two eyes, two ears, a nose, a mouth, and a brain, and a spinal cord eloquently wrapped in skin. Evolution won’t let us make sense any other way, not without becoming a new species.
Dark sky, howling winds, temperature drop, big storm is on the way.
The only things we know about the world around us come from knowledge of patterns we learn from our senses. Whatever the situation, whether its what to do when a life threatening storm is rolling in, or how to lead and organize a new team, your common senses are your secret weapon for recognizing patterns and understanding the world around you. Believe in and trust your senses.
Question: What does every bit of good advice you’ve ever gotten or given have in common? (e.g. “Look both ways before you cross the street,” “Don’t talk to strangers,” “Always tell someone when you’re heading out into the wilderness,” “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” “Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you,” etc.)
Answer: They’re all considered common sense and they’re all based on knowledge of patterns we learned from our senses. Not just any patterns. The patterns that enhance our own and our ancestors’ potential to survive, thrive, and evolve.
Sunrise, light, warm, safe; Sunset, dark, cold, dangerous.
Recognition that life experiences are informed by patterns and relationships is thus built into us at the most basic neural level. In the human brain it is transformed from neural axiom into a never-ending quest to make sense of what’s going on around us and sensible choices about what to do next.
It makes sense to search for food, water, and fuel in the day, and to sit around the fire to eat, drink, sleep, and stay safe at night.
Patterns are nature’s way of naturally selecting the most adaptive way for life on earth to survive, thrive, and evolve. To be a common sense leader we must be able to recognize patterns. We can teach our-selves to recognize patterns.
A pattern is a combination of things such as atoms, events, shapes, colors, and behaviors that form a consistent or characteristic relationship. Everything in life emerges from patterns. The things we sense around us and for which we have names such as: stars, planets, and weather; proteins, cells, and people; plants, animals, and air; are all to a greater or lesser extent stabilized patterns of atoms.
We don’t need a special degree or pedigree to learn how to recognize patterns. We have everything we need etched inside each of the 30+ trillion cells that make up our bodies and brains. We humans all make sense a common way, via our common senses. Which is why common sense is the common ground and common language that connects every human on the planet. All that’s needed to put it into practice is conscious awareness of how to access and operationalize it in the context of the moment when you need it the most.
And that’s where the language of common sense comes in. Once the human brain etches a neural pattern of thinking and behavior (e.g. when we wake, what we eat, how we get to work, whether and why we wash our hands, how we lead and organize, etc.) it can be tricky business trying to change or break free from it. Even when we intuitively understand a pattern doesn’t make sense (think of dates and mates, smoking and drinking, eating and exercising) it can seem like a hopelessly Herculean battle to change or break free from it.
Here’s the good news. The ability to learn new patterns of thinking and behaving is biologic. Anyone can do it at any time during their lives. Human learning depends on metaphor, time and feedback. To invent an atomic clock someone had to invent a sundial first. Metaphor is how the human brain learns knowledge about one kind of thing to make sense of another. Time and feedback tell us if the knowledge we learned actually makes sense.
The biology of our brains explains it. When new metaphors are incorporated into our prior knowledge they physically change our brains at the neural level. Words matter. They’re the concept tags our brains use to recognize, encode, store, and make neural sense of what we experience. Words activate the way our brains frame the world so new frames require new words. Thinking differently requires speaking differently.
To change the way our brains think about leading and organizing, the Common Sense Way proposes a transformational reframing of most traditional leadership metaphors (e.g. orders, plans, disconnected chains-of-command, etc.) by introducing the new metaphors and principles of the Language of Common Sense.
The language of common sense isn’t just a bunch of randomly selected words or phrases, instead it’s reflective of the way our brains make sense of the world around us and sensible choices about what to do next.
In the days and weeks ahead We’ll be going over each of the key concepts in the language of common sense so stay tuned to this channel, let me know what you think, and remember: common sense is the common ground and common language that connects us all.
- Thomas, A. Harnessing The Windmills Of The Mind. 2016, Body and Soul Books.
- Hunt, M. The Universe Within. 1982, Simon & Schuster
- Coen, E. PhD, Cells to Civilizations: The Principles of Change That Shape Life, 2012, Princeton University Press
- Lakoff, George, Johnson Mark, Metaphors We Live By, University of Chicago Press; 1st edition (December 19, 2008)