Common sense isn’t cool, but it is really useful

Is it just me, or does good old common sense seem a little thin on the ground these days?

Maybe it’s the chaos in government that we all feel on some level, whether we are into politics or not. Perhaps it’s the dawn of ‘reality TV’, featuring some of the most unlikely (and bonkers) celebrities we have ever seen. In truth, it’s likely the result of many contributing factors.

But if you, like me, feel this change in our culture, a bit like the lack of customer service now compared to a decade ago, then you are not alone!

I often wonder what brings about change on a societal level; whether the change is for the better or for the worse. And one idea that immediately springs to mind is the movie industry. Now I’m definitely not knocking Hollywood – I love a good film! But I’ve just been observing how the heroes and heroines of popular movies often throw caution (and common sense) to the wind in order to save the day.

This is of course to make the plot more exciting; risk, reward and high adrenaline all make for a much wilder ride than good, sensible decision-making!

On the one hand, many of us love a Die Hard or Back to the Future style movie, where risk pays off and the hero comes out on top. And I definitely don’t want to spoil movies for anyone (myself included). I just want to shift your perspective a little to look at the big picture from a psychological point of view.

We start watching movies from a really young age. It typically begins with Disney and Pixar animations, and even in these films the protagonist is brave and bold. As young children we are extra susceptible to subconscious messages, so already we are learning that fortune favours the brave.

Now this is not necessarily a bad lesson, and I am going somewhere with this!

My point is that these subtle messages we pick up as we grow, and as our brains develop, really stick with us. Over time, these messages become a part of our psychological make up and affect the way we feel; about ourselves and others.

If you’ve ever beaten yourself up for not being braver, for not leaping when you had an opportunity, or for not shouting louder for a cause you care about – take a moment to think about where that feeling of guilt came from.

If you feel bad over not taking a risk; was that because in hindsight you could see the risk would have paid off? Or, was that because you felt like you should be a braver, bolder person?

The subconscious messages we pick up from media; movies or books, or even folklore to some degree, can have a strong influence on us. I just want to put it out there that this influence is not always the best for us. Often, common sense and taking small, consistent steps is the wiser approach – rather than flying over a volcano hanging from a helicopter to get there quicker.

You are not cowardly for taking the smart, cautious approach.

It’s worth remembering that Hollywood is about selling tickets. The action hero tales we see are designed to sell out box offices, not as a guide to live life by. If anything, movies are an escape from our daily reality. The fact that we may subconsciously pick up ‘lessons’ from these stories is really accidental.

The next time you catch yourself feeling bad for not being more daring, I urge you to give yourself a break. I’m pretty sure that if you took the average movie protagonist off the silver screen and placed them in the real world, they would be in the back of an ambulance within a very short time frame!

So if you feel the urge to hedge your bets, consult an expert or bide your time, then listen to that instinct. Above all, live life at your own pace. There will be times to step out of your comfort zone, and times to give yourself a break. Listen to yourself closely and you will know when to do both.

For more on making good decisions without overthinking or worrying, download a free PDF copy of my book, Working With Your Comfort Zone.



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