In Your Corner: Develop common sense to live a better life

Common sense might best be described as “practical intelligence.” Its actual definition is, “Good sense and sound judgment in practical matters,” (Oxford). It’s the part of us we use when we are in the moment, and figuring out what to do when life throws us a challenge or something new.

How can we be prepared for things we can’t predict? By learning in advance the most we can about how to live the best we can with what we have.

While common sense does involve some intellectual intelligence, it is also developed from personal experiences. That’s why the elders in the family are often asked, “What do I do now?” They’ve had the most experience, and probably have either faced a similar challenge or know someone who has. So there’s the first hint. Gather information from your elders, or find mentors to teach you what you want to know.

Since teens have less experience, just by the fact that they are younger, it’s a good idea to teach yourself all of the practical life skills you can. I insisted that my son take home economics as well as body building, so that he would know how to care for himself. His love of cooking blossomed, and now he is a great cook, and has been a professional cook at times in his life. The website has a list of life skills that could help you in a time of need. I’ve also added some.

• Knowing how to cook, and the best way to prepare food so that it has the most nutrition;

• Knowing about nutrition and healthy diets. Some things you must eat to stay healthy, such as veggies, fruits and proteins;

• Knowing how to grow your own food. It’s not that hard and so rewarding;

• Knowing about and respecting your community and environment, and how to contribute to the wellness of it. That could be in cleanups, or other community projects. Meet the natural leaders in your area;

• Knowing how to budget, and not spend more than you earn (;

• Knowing your own body. How much sleep do you need to feel well? What foods energize you, and what foods peak your energy and then drop it? How much and what kind of exercise helps or hurts you? Know the lasting effects of smoking, alcohol and drugs on your body (Not good for your liver, brain, nerves, lungs, etc.);

• Knowing basic first aid, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and the Heimlich maneuver;

• Knowing how to swim and where the floatation devices are on this island;

• Knowing how to maintain and repair items you use, mend clothes, change a washer on a faucet, change the oil in your car or fix a flat tire, etc.;

• Knowing how to plan in advance. Research trail before you hike it, so you know what you’ll come up against, and what you’ll need to bring. Learn the rules of a sport before you go out for it;

• Knowing how to be resourceful, that is, make do with what you have. Recycle when possible. In the 1970s, people took old jeans, and made cut-offs when the knees got bad. We made long skirts by adding triangle shaped pieces of material. I used a pair of curtains. Make shoulder bags from old clothes, We embroidered or added patches if a stain appeared on clothes. It was considered cool. Now it seems people have to have name brands. But things can change. At a restaurant I saw a man make an incredible rose from a paper napkin!;

• Knowing how to keep safe. Push saucepan handles away from you on the stove. Look all ways when crossing the street. Walk with a group of friends if it’s late at night and dark. Remember that curfew for the under 18 is 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday night, and midnight Friday and Saturday, unless you are with a responsible adult as determined by the Kaua‘i Police Department.

• Knowing non-violent communication and conflict resolution, so you can remain cool-headed when a conflict arises.

• Knowing how to say, “I’m sorry,” “Thank-you”, “I was wrong, and please forgive me,” sincerely.

We all want to be right, all the time, but we’re not. It’s better to quickly admit a mistake and ask for understanding, than to press on and possibly threaten a friendship.

One process that separates the mature from the less mature is the development of reflective thinking, which means being able to stand back and view the bigger picture.

Give yourself time to respond whenever you can, and set meaningful goals. While it is important for us to be able to react quickly in real danger, that doesn’t happen as much any more. Ask questions if someone states a fact, such as, “Where did you hear that?”

Also, after you do respond to a situation, take time to reflect to see how well it went, and if you can learn anything from what worked well and what didn’t. So take time to think about things, rather than just react, if it’s possible.

Scientists have proven that we see what we’ve programmed our minds to see.

Now, they don’t mean that we have brainwashed ourselves to think a certain way, but that by having repeated similar experiences or hearing things said repeatedly, we begin to expect to see that even when it is not the case.

Keep that precious mind open for new truths and understanding. Some things do change, and even if great-granddaddy and on down the line always did things the same way, there might be another way to approach the subject, with all respect to them.

Let what comes out of your mouth have the flavor of respect and love in it, even if you agree to disagree. It’s just so much easier than trying to apologize for hurting the feelings of someone you love.

May 2013 be the best year yet for everyone all over the world.

• Hale ‘Opio Kaua‘i convened a support group of adults in our community to ‘step into the corner’ for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Email questions or concerns facing youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at


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