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Spirituality: Sum of Parts

Spirituality Sum of Parts

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.


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.

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!

My Recovery:  53 Months Clean

When I started this blog in October of 2016, after a 5 month stay in jail, I had no inkling of where my sobriety would take me. Fast forward to My Recovery: 53 months, still clean and sober! See one of my earliest posts about self-condemnation, just 15 days into my treatment at the VA.

My Recovery 53 Months Clean

From October of 2016, until November of 2017, I learned about recovery through multiple VA treatment programs for Veterans. The principles I learned helped keep me strong, when I finally went back on my own. I even developed an acronym for the 5 pillars of my recovery.

The 5 Pillars of My Recovery

The acronym, S.N.A.G.M., stands for SPIRITUALITY, living in the NOW, ACCEPTANCE, GRATITUDE, and MINDFULNESS. I actually dedicated a blog page about S.N.A.G.M. here!

These 5 principles, along with the lessons I learned in therapy, courses like Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Cognitive Behavior Therapy, have served me well in my recovery journey; I have not relapsed once since I was basically forced into sobriety by jail, on May 12, 2016.

Principles of Purpose:  Trusting Your Gut

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.

Principles of Purpose Trust Your Gut

“Follow reason, but don’t ignore that gut feeling. We create reasons with our limited knowledge and experience, but gut feelings often come from universal knowledge.”

Debasish Mridha

What does it mean “Trusting Your Gut“? What is your gut instinct? Your gut instinct is known by many names: “instincts”, “fleeting thoughts”, “nagging doubts”, “voice in your head”, “sense of dread’, and so on. How many times have you ignored your gut, with unpleasant results? Trusting your gut can be tricky. Most experts agree, however, that ignoring it usually does not end well.

To make the best choices, it is wise to observe both your sensations and your thoughts, so you can read what your reactions are telling you. Your instincts can reveal themselves on a physical level–an overall chill, nausea, fatigue or loss of energy, a sense of warmth, increased heart rate, rapid breathing. Your instincts can be on an emotional level–feeling of dread, increased anxiety, nervousness, you. Learning to interpret these revelations is crucial, if you are going to get it right…but it can be tricky.

Your Gut and Experience

According to the BBC “Intuition tends to get a bad reputation as something that’s flaky and based upon no evidence. [But is] a careful analysis of all the options…more likely to give us the right answer? Not necessarily.” Our gut instincts are not always as random as they seem. They can be based on a rapid appraisal of the situation. We might not realize it, but the brain is constantly comparing our current situation with our memories of previous situations. So, when a decision feels intuitive, it might in fact be based on years of experience.

The BBC suggests that “the problem with fast thinking (instinct) is…dozens of different cognitive biases…we tend to be over-optimistic; we may prefer simpler solutions; perhaps we notice and remember information that confirms what we already think; and we favour continuing down paths we’ve already invested time or money in.”

So: if your gut instinct feels too good to be true, it probably is. Likewise, trusting your gut, if it feels gut-wrenching, it could be right (yeah, it’s brutal to break-up with your deadbeat partner, but when you look back at that choice in 10 years, you’ll be glad you made it).

Trusting Your Gut Is Easier For Some

Some people are better at making intuitive judgements than others. Studies on this has shown that we are not very good at judging the veracity of our intuitions. According to the Association for Psychological Science, intuitive performance plummets in the midst of anxiety-something especially common before or after one makes a big decision. This explains why it can be harder to hear our intuition during moments of crisis. We’re so obsessed with making “the right choice” that we become overwhelmed with thoughts and options, and are then cut off from our gut instincts. But, according to one source, good leaders also follow gut instincts.

In other words, our intuition is steady and rational, while our responses to it might not be. Important decision making, like debating whether to take a job or call an ex, might also spur anxiety, which can ultimately separate from the calm hum of intuitive thought. In these cases, it might be best to take action and know that intuition will come when and where it needs to.

It is important to learn how to listen to and to trust your gut. It is also important to weigh facts to ensure you consider all the options. The voice in your gut is wise, and it can push you to do something that feels right when another option might yield better results. You need to listen to both your gut and head to calculate your next best move. Here’s what the experts suggest:

Trusting Your Gut
  • Observe sensations as well as thoughts
  • Pay attention to physical reactions
  • Take a deep breath and put your awareness in the center of your body
  • Observe the chatter in your head
  • Ask yourself if you need courage to follow, or minimize the risk for now
  • Ask yourself “What is my gut saying? Does my gut reaction match what I most value, or am I too scared to say or do what my gut is saying?”
  • Explore the context. Are other people telling me what I should do but my gut is rebelling? What social rules are hindering me from listening to my gut?

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Spirituality: Awaken Yourself

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