Reflection 296: Holding the Course

July 23, 2012

Copyright 2012 by Steve Perrin.

My interest in this blog is personal judgment as practiced by individuals in deciding what to do on their own, not the collective judgment exercised by decision-making groups of one sort or another following a set procedure for charting corporate behavior by considering and weighing individual recommendations.

Collective judgment is derived from treatment of personal judgments in a prescribed manner (parliamentary debate, legal proceedings, meetings run according to by-laws, polling, etc.). For me, here, the issue is how we can tell if our personal judgment is sound and reliable so it can be trusted in everyday practice to include all the evidence pro and con for believing our situation is what we think it is.

That is, is human judgment an actual capability rather than just another ruse for waylaying the gullible, whether on their their dream journey down the primrose path or in their daily struggle for survival?

What we make of our situation depends on the breadth and depth of our personal experience, on what we have been told and taught by others having sway over us, on our attitude and persistence, on what’s at stake, among a host of factors that might influence our judgment at the time. In other words, judgment is as much an art as a disciplined method for deciding what to do on any given occasion.

People decide what to do for all sorts of reasons, some wise, some risky, some foolish. Before we do anything, we can consult our bookie or astrologer, for instance, or find where we are in the sunspot cycle, or even follow the herd in doing what everyone else is doing.

Perhaps the best system is to read up on the issue; make a list of pros and cons; talk things over with friends, family, or a trusted advisor; sleep on it; and then see where we come out when we wake up after a good night’s sleep. It would be tedious of me to pretend that we can do better than that.

As unique individuals, it’s OK to act as we are led without trying to please everyone who has an opinion on the matter. Why else do we have minds of our own if not to apply them in advancing from one situation to another? That way we are bound to make mistakes, but they will be our personal mistakes, so we can learn from them how to do better next time if we get the chance.

The prevailing alternative is a top-down, authoritarian system where judgments are made by those we submit to because they have power over us according to the dictates of the culture we are born to, or the culture that happens to claim jurisdiction over our personal behavior.

My stance here is always to please myself (yourself) first because in the end, each of us is responsible for making ourselves happen as we do. That is precisely why we have a mind of our own, not to submit, but to be ourselves (which may very well include submitting to those whose judgment we respect more than our own).

One last word. It’s OK to be inconsistent by acting in some cases on the spur of the moment, while in others only after due deliberation and seeking advice from others. Nowhere is it written that there is a right way to decide how to be you.

My suggestion is to check your bearings often enough so that misjudgment won’t send you so far off course that you can’t find your way back again. At a minimum, I check myself every morning when my mind is fresh before being distracted by daily events. Consulting myself by that schedule keeps me on course so that I know who I am as I make myself happen as I do.

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