A Healthy Dose of Common Sense

 It is what separates the great from the truly great- a healthy dose of common sense.

We all possess it but we exercise it to varying degrees.

Common sense, I believe is like a muscle. The more you work with it the more you hone your understanding and lead a more effective life.

Take the instance of two female actors of Indian origin who debuted the same year and grabbed the world’s attention with their flawless beauty. Years later, one is a single parent with a mediocre career and a string of unsuccessful relationships.

The other happily married with child, super successful in both career and life.

So what’s made the difference?

I believe a major factor is how they exercise common sense in taking life decisions.

When the latter got invested emotionally in a negative relationship she had the common sense to withdraw. She also had the common sense not to carry the ghosts of the past on her shoulder.

Think- when a body dies we bury its mortal remains. When a mistake is made, bury the mistake not the person.

Common sense is self-evident. Truth is.


What make it difficult to discern is the emotions or the perception in our head that color situations so vividly it becomes difficult to get to the gist of the matter.

Psychologists define it as EQ or emotional intelligence and have provided scientific evidence that it is not innate intelligence but emotional intelligence that determines how successful and well-adjusted the individual will be.


It was common sense at work when successful coaches like Lombardi made players practice basics such that each play became a reflexive skill the player possessed in the game. The minute it was required a player played intuitively as if by second nature taking out the guesswork and yielding predictable results time after time. So it is with common sense.

The more you exercise common sense with deliberation in all aspects of your life, better your chances of using it when you have to take a tough call.


It is not genius- some freak of nature that grabs you by the collar and pulls you out of the crowd. Common sense is subtler with a definite sex appeal. It renders its possessor that X factor which draws people as if magnetized. It is the harbinger of friends, a key to lasting relationships, and then if the magician wielding this wand so decrees it can bring fame, wealth and power.

Those who seem to have their cake and eat it too- they have common sense!


How should you use money?

The obvious answer is to spend less than what you earn. You should save for a rainy day. But before you save you should invest.

Again it is common sense to send your money to work in your stead.

To invest your money it is common sense to educate yourself. To use the experience of those who have the fruit on the tree.


If you are impulse driven, then you take a gamble. This is alike keeping a monkey in your employ. Do you really want that excitement around you?


If you are driven by sentiments, you might end up pitting your faith in the wrong person.

Why do people driven by emotions not realize that in doing so they could be hurting people dearer to them than the one person who is pushing their emoticon buttons?


Let me give an example to illustrate: you have money to invest and there is a person faithfully dogging your steps with a puppy dog face. You feel you must help for you can sense this person’s desperation. So you invest with him.

Do you little realize that the money is not just yours but also belongs to your family? They have sacrificed hours away from you so you could earn that money. Before you placate a social conscience how about taking care of them first?

It is just plain common sense to watch out for the home team. It ranks numero uno on your list of priorities. If it does not or you don’t have a list of priorities and just let the moment sway you then you can bet your bottom dollar you have a flaccid common sense muscle that desperately needs exercise.


Too many families are broken up; too many innocent children hurting because so called mature adults do not get a grip on common sense.


Watch where you spend your time, your money and watch the spaces around you.

If you spend more time away from home at your workplace you will be less compassionate and understanding of the problems of those at home.

It is plain common sense.

You will feel a sense of belonging where you spend your time, the spaces you inhabit and the feeling of money gratification comes to you.

You will empathize more with co-workers, identify yourself with their issues, and be more willing to lend a listening ear to them, laugh at their jokes bonding with them. Now if your wife calls for help and a co-worker calls at the same time- guess who you are motivated or inner-directed to help first?

It might seem like a call of your conscience or soul but it is actually social conditioning that is manipulating you.

Bottom-line that is precisely what a lot of office romances are.

Matter of fact if you think with common sense- who is your real soul mate- you have no problems delegating the work to another while you go take care of someone you are indispensable for or should be if you have this niggling matter of priorities right.


If you suspect your spouse of cheating and want to be sure- check credit cards and bank statements you will come to know who they are spending money on. Check the time lacunae if they are getting held up at work more often so arriving home late. Out of town travel frequency grows in proportion to the romance. Also, they will complain about spaces they felt comfortable in before. Like the house is dirty or the children are too loud or your clothes never seem to change and everything looks the same. A major wake-up call: friends who were comfortable around you both now seem pretty uncomfortable and try to avoid you.

Time, Money and Space- and hope you realize this is common sense.


Just as money if you think with common sense time is also a currency you can bank with.

Invest time in activities that yield positive returns on investment.

For example if I know spending time with family will strengthen my relationship with them then I can pursue a game we could play together as a family like swimming or golfing where all could be included. They may not have the same level of expertise or even interest but could play for cohabiting the same space at the same time and filling it with fun plus it is beneficial for health.


I suggest to students that they study sincerely not for marks but for understanding a subject. If you study for understanding it enriches your mind, you are excited to use that knowledge and gain more for a deeper understanding.

Knowledge you put personal effort to gain gives a higher degree of satisfaction and builds your self-esteem since you have paid the price to acquire it.


Human nature is we love to share joyful experiences with others and so when you share your knowledge of a subject it enhances your self-image as well as gains you recognition. You are naturally liked and effortlessly seem to draw people to you. It is no secret students love enthusiastic teachers.


It is common sense to make what you love a calling in life. Vivekananda, the great Indian philosopher wrote: Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.

What is this if not common sense?


Do not just live in impulses. Rather pass your thought through a sieve of common sense so that even impulses are educated ideas that add with their serendipity. Like R.K. Narayan used the image of a boy running alongside a train to create the unforgettable Swami of Malgudi Days.


Abhor clutter of mind as much as you dislike clutter of space. In fact, science has proof that man cannot think logically when dwelling in a disorderly space. Be protective of your mind as your home. If you would not allow people to throw their garbage in your garden why do you allow them to rubbish your mind?

Avoid gossips. Avoid naysayers. Avoid aggressive and rude persons. Avoid the interaction with people of disreputable character. They might be nice to you but sooner or later you will wind up in trouble because of association with them. You cannot come out of a coal shed without coal black on your clothes.

People who seem glamorous but you know have a questionable integrity, it is wiser to stay away from them.


No matter how charismatic and magnetic their auras if you do not really know someone do not fall in love with them.

It is the pragmatic who are romantic. Think common sense.

A realist has her man propose to her on bended knee with a diamond solitaire. The rationalist person is wooed with flowers, candlelight dinners and long walks in the moonlight.

It is definitely the down to earth person who ensures her man values her for a lifetime. He respects her, cherishes her, makes sacrifices for her, touches her heart with special gestures and, strives to keep her happy- every day!

The other kind has to settle for what they get. Sometimes it is not a lot for they never get to choose really.


A friend eloped at the age of eighteen and married a boy from another religion- all in the name of love.

After marriage she was allowed to meet me once swathed in head to toe in fabric, her name and religion changed learning a dead language so she could read the holy books. What happened to the grand love affair or did she marry a religion and not the man?

She had in her naiveté left herself no bargaining chip.

She was not holding any educational degree so would never be qualified for a job that would pay her to keep her status in society. Her parents had disowned her for marrying against their wishes. So despite having a family she had virtually nobody to stand up for her. As a result she had set herself up so that she had no say in her own life. She became the cautionary in my life, the one lesson I learnt from observation.

Just because she hated school was no reason to marry the first boy who appeared in her horizon. The easier choice became the hardest choice. It is common sense that we attract what we most fear. That is why the golf ball always falls in the water hazard for some.


It is common sense to choose what you want from your life. Will you not do as much when you go shopping?

When you go shopping you have a list and a shopping basket. A budget and you diligently argue each buy signal- No to the bucket of ice cream and Yes to the bunch of carrots.

Is this world not similar to a shopping mall?

How come you exercise more common sense shopping and less in choosing what you want in this life?


Chanakya says, “how is this situation, who are my real friends, how is my home’s condition, what’s my earnings and expenditure, what are my talents and weaknesses. These are the questions that a wise man asks all the time.”

Read the Arthshastra, the greatest book on politics and economics and you will be bowled over by the common sense of his observations.


Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” Study the essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson. He is talking sheer common sense.


For whom is the company of great people not beneficial? Even a water droplet when on lotus petal, shines like a pearl. I picked this translation of a Sanskrit shloka.

Common sense is the guiding light in all our religious books and texts. Read them. Meditate over the meaning. Spend time in the company of such exponents of common sense and you will inevitably strengthen your ability to discern, to sense, to gauge, to measure, to understand.


Critics of common sense are many.

They expound that by exercising common sense we leave no scope for error or creative learning.

Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.” 
Oscar Wilde writes in The Picture of Dorian Grey.


That is however not true. For what they mistake is the meaning of common sense.


Common sense does not make you forego the pleasure of learning from life.

Rather as Harriet Beecher Stowe remarks: “common sense is seeing things as they are; and doing things as they ought to be.”

Who can argue with Thomas Edison?

The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.”

© Ruby Mohan

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