Today’s stren, #47, explains how we acquire good judgment. According to my 1979 edition of the American Heritage dictionary, judgment is the capacity to make reasonable decisions, especially in regard to the practical affairs of life; good sense; wisdom. Wisdom is good judgment; common sense; sagacity; understanding what is true, right, or lasting.
Mark Twain expressed the following opinion:
Good judgment comes from experience. And where does experience come from? Experience comes from bad judgment.
Do you understand Mark Twain’s view of “good judgment”? Do you agree with him? If good judgment comes from bad judgment, why do most people put themselves down and verbally beat on themselves when they make bad judgments? What thoughts come to mind when you make a bad judgment?
You may not remember your experience of learning to walk but you surely have observed how a child learns – first leaning too far one way, falling, picking himself up, leaning too far to the other side, falling, picking himself up, and experiencing many falls over a period of time before being able to navigate a straight path. Children don’t seem to get upset or put themselves down when they err and fall down. They quickly pick themselves up; they keep trying until they get it right. Learning from mistakes and from bad judgment is quite natural, a trait inherited through our genes. Yet, I’ve observed how many adults get so discouraged when they don’t succeed in an endeavor; they utter unflattering putdown words and easily give up.
It is said that when Edison was asked how he could go on to invent the light bulb after making so many mistakes before finding that tungsten would work, he responded, “I didn’t make any mistakes. I learned 5000 substances that wouldn’t work.” I’ve also read of many multimillionaires who became successful in business only after many, many attempts that others would describe as “failures.” There is great wisdom in the statement, “If you don’t succeed at first, try, try again.” Even better: “Try again with enthusiasm.” In strens #23 and 24, The Reasonable Best Test of Self-worth (parts 1 and 2), I suggested we teach ourselves the skill of vigorous self-endorsement each time we discovered we weren’t doing our reasonable best, even when our endeavor didn’t bring the desired results. Rather than waste our energy putting our self down, it’s more constructive for us to recognize what we can learn from our bad judgment so we can progressively reach our goal in succeeding attempts. The Reasonable Best input measure of self-worth is our means to consistently generate enthusiasm: “Hurrah for me when I do my reasonable best.” Doing our reasonable best is 100% within our control. The more commonly practiced but inappropriate outcome measure of self-worth is so different: “I’m only O.K. if what I did got me what I want.” No matter how absolutely we direct our energy to the outcome, there are many influences over which we have little or no control.
I conclude that we are unwisely taught to put ourselves down when we make mistakes. We may be punished symbolically or even physically. It’s like the custom of giving red marks on an exam for our mistakes instead of stars for all our correct answers. How many times have you received a red mark and said, “Aha, here’s my opportunity to learn”? So let’s recognize an important wisdom: we can and do learn from mistakes. Blaming, guilting, avoiding, giving up, and such related ways we commonly handle bad judgment are “bad judgments about bad judgments.” Recognizing and acknowledging a bad judgment is the action pathway to effective problem-solving.
Now we can ask: Must we only learn by making mistakes, by bad judgment? There is a better way. How about learning from the mistakes other people make? Most challenging issues are not so unique that we are the only individual who faces them. Humankind has become rulers on earth because so many individuals make mistakes, learn from them and are more than willing to share their solutions with others. We are special be the degree we invent sophisticated language to acquire, store, share, and pass on solutions to problems and continuously build on others’ experience. We can wisely use good judgment by learning from other’s mistakes and prevent the negative consequences when we learn from our own bad judgment. “Monkey see, monkey do.” Intelligent animals learn from others’ successes. We do too. Do we learn from others’ mistakes enough? Do we do so whenever we can? Successful people invest their energy in learning from others; they go out of their way to find mentors.
We have a very special, advanced way of teaching ourselves to consistently act with good judgment. It has been called by such names as “cognitive rehearsal” and “no trial learning.” Again, because of our advanced use of symbols to mentally manipulate knowledge, we can create multiple alternatives in our mind; we experience them privately and then apply common sense wisdom to select among the alternatives. We can practice and judge the consequences of our actions before launching them into the world of real consequences. No trial learning is our most powerful tool for prevention. Do you agree that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? How important is prevention when it comes to managing our newest power to create weapons of ultimate destruction? Get the idea? I’m confident that you do.
I hope this stren will inspire you to keep growing your collection of wisdoms. Make it one of your highest priorities. Take in all that we have to offer but don’t ever stop collecting. The futures of our loved ones and Mother Earth depend on us. We require sufficient Mental Wealth millionaires to make common sense wisdom common by spreading our mental wealth to those with less opportunity to learn. Become one of the each one to teach one. That is really good judgment!