Principles of Purpose:  Good Judgement

Tentatively titled Principles of Purpose: A Guide To Living Wisely, is an ongoing draft of a concept I might one day publish a book on. It’s essentially 30 Principles that I think are essential to living life wisely. Some are principles that I wished I had learned much earlier in life. Many are principles that I only learned in recovery in 2016-2017. Still other principles were ones I had applied off and on during my 56 years.

PrefaceIntroductionTrusting Your Gut
Earlier Chapters
Principles of Purpose Use Good Judgement

“The toughest test of good judgment is to know when to withhold your better judgment.”

Robert Breault

Using good judgement was never one of my forte’s. I believe this is due to my abusive childhood. After I was removed from my home at age 12, I spent the next 40 years making up for it one poor judgement at a time. At first I merely acted out emotionally. Then I raged against authority. Finally, I became an impulsive, pleasure seeking alcoholic for over 35 years, before incarceration brought me to sobriety.

What Is Good Judgement?

Important decisions are rarely straightforward. According to Oxford Languages, judgement is defined as “the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions.” I know well that making considered decisions requires the ability to combine personal qualities with relevant knowledge and experience. Once I learned to weigh this combination, only then was I able to form opinions and come to sensible conclusions.

Good judgement means weighing your options accurately. For many years I simply went about fulfilling impulsive urges. Pursuing self-gratification at any cost. It is particularly difficult for those of us in active addiction. No matter the substance, addicts frequently experience impaired judgement.

As an alcoholic my impaired judgement could have killed someone. During one particular 3 month period, I totaled 3 very expensive vehicles. Driving drunk, and looking for crack at 2 a.m. is not good judgement. I could have killed someone. My life is littered with such examples of poor impulse control and impaired judgement.

Consequences

For me, the cornerstone of good judgement is considering the consequences of one’s decisions. It is difficult to consider consequences when you are impaired by drugs or alcohol. The addict is fully immersed in a destructive cycle, the antithesis of considering consequences.

There have been many, many times when I spent all of my money without considering the consequences. Even after I became sober I had to deal with multiple mental health issues which nearly derailed my recovery from October 2018 until around January of 2109. But that’s another story.

The consequences arose once the haze of using had lifted. After years of harsh consequences, you’d think I would learn to exercise better judgement. I did not. Not until I reached the proverbial ‘rock bottom.’ So, it took incarceration to face the consequences of addiction and poor judgement. I had lost everything.

Child Abuse and Mental Health Issues

For those of us who suffered child abuse, or who have mental health issues, exercising good judgement and considering consequences is difficult. I happened to have experience with both. On top of that, my alcoholism and drug use were handicaps throughout my life.

When I was finally removed from my home at age 12, I was unprepared for the freedom. Without the repressive and abusive restrictions, I shot into the hemisphere of emotion. There was rage against the ‘system.’ My life was an endless cycle of chaos and reparations, excess and consequences. I used and abused everything.

Of course, I have made many good decisions and judgement calls. For the most part however, I was impulsive and self-destructive. I did not possess the personal qualities and relevant knowledge that consideration of consequences requires. To this day I have to be vigilant lest the symptoms of my mental health overtake my faculties.

Considerations of Good Judgement

Even if you were dealt all the right circumstances, making good judgements at critical junctures in life can be daunting. The table below summarizes many of the considerations that affect our ability to execute good judgements.

InstinctsFeelingsTiming
Skewed Thought ProcessesWeighing OptionsPros vs. Cons
Risk vs. RewardQuality of InformationPrejudices or Beliefs
Outside PressureNeeds vs. WantsImpulsivity
KnowledgeAvailability of InformationEducation
Thought ProcessesPast ExperiencesMental Health Issues
Measuring and Improving Judgement

According to the London Business School, measuring judgement involves 6 elements:

What I Know

What I know about this: Judgement is context-specific. So, what is right today may be wrong tomorrow when events have moved on. Improve It: Keep a track record of your judgements for what went wrong and right. Identify lessons that you can learn from decisions taken at times of stress. Look for broader experience to build understanding and knowledge in areas where your judgement could be tested in the future.

What I Feel

What I feel and believe: Values and beliefs are inevitably involved in judgements. And, it’s important that we are aware of them, not only to incorporate them if they are required, but also if they represent biases that could get in the way. Improve It: At least understand, and if possible mitigate, your own biases. Check your understanding of these with someone independent of your viewpoint, such as a coach or mentor. Be aware of the values that are needed, or might preclude you, from pursuing certain decisions or courses of action.  

Who I Trust

Who and what I trust: We rely on the quality of people and material for the raw material of our judgements. Thus, in an era of convoluted information, we are more aware than ever of the need for care about sources. Improve It: Ask yourself how much you know about the source of the information you are taking in and about the people giving it. How credible are they?

What I Absorb

What I take in: This is about how much attention we pay to what we hear or read. Improve it: When listening and reading, be aware of your own information filters – make sure you are not just getting what you like to hear or see. Ask yourself how consistent the information is with past experience and what’s going on elsewhere.

My Choice

My choice: (the stage at which many decision analysis techniques are available.) We need to make sure we bring together the raw material of the judgement in a way that improves the chances of success. Improve It: Check the way a choice has been framed for mistakes, biases or omissions. Ensure there is a risk assessment.

My Delivery

Delivery: Choice is not the end of the story. Whether the delivery is is feasible has to be considered. Improve It: Consider your own relevant delivery experience and that of those making the recommendations to understand feasibility and associated risk.

“The devil is in the details” as the saying goes. So, the more we focus on everything available to us, the better our judgement will become in the long run. Happy decision making!

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