‘Not everything needs to be complicated or over-analysed’

I recently finished reading Richard Templar’s 2010 non-fiction bestseller, ‘The Rules of Life’.

What I found particularly striking is that most, if not all of his so-called rules, are commonsensical. The simplicity of his advice, like “Accept what is done is done” and “Change what you can change; let go of the rest” resonates deeply with me, not just because of its relatability, but also because it cuts through the noise of modern life’s complexity.

Perhaps what we need, to brace for the uncertain future, is to instil more common sense. Not responsibility, not technical know-how – those are important, of course, but they are secondary to a foundation of basic, practical wisdom. In our fast-paced, technologically-driven world, simple and clear thinking is the way to go.

Common sense teaches us to navigate life with a level head and a grounded perspective. It’s about making decisions that are practical and beneficial in the long run. For instance, one of Templar’s rules, “Keep it under your hat” advises discretion and thoughtfulness, reminding us that not every thought or emotion needs to be shared publicly. Not everything needs your reaction, says a poster that passed through my Instagram timeline the other day.

This is especially relevant in an age where oversharing on social media can lead to unnecessary drama and conflict. According to a report by the Times of India in 2023, oversharing makes others uncomfortable, invades their privacy, invites unwarranted opinions and judgments, and negatively impacts your relationship. Constantly sharing intimate details about our relationship, personal life, or partner without their consent is simply inappropriate, and diminishes trust. After all, relationship-related conflicts or issues should be addressed privately and respectfully.

Personally, I believe oversharing is damaging to us in two main ways. If you prioritise posting on social media over spending real, quality time with your loved ones, it can surely lead to feelings of neglect and distance. Also, oversharing can make you vulnerable to exploitation, too. Sharing too many personal details allows others to use the information against you. Posting on social media where you live, or where you typically hang out, or how much money you have, surely will pique the interest of those unscrupulous ones.

Common sense, no?

Another valuable rule from the book is “Look after yourself.” This isn’t just about physical health, but also mental wellbeing. Common sense dictates that we cannot pour from an empty cup; taking care of our own needs, be it mental or physical, ensures we are better equipped to help others.

According to a March 2024 article by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, taking care of our own physical and mental needs through self-care is essential for being able to effectively support and help others. This is because self-care improves our mental health, prevents burnout, enhances our capacity to help, and most importantly, prevents compassion fatigue.

When we neglect our wellbeing, we become depleted physically and emotionally. This can lead to burnout, making it difficult to have the energy, patience, and focus required to support others. Also, by replenishing ourselves through self-care, we are better able to listen, problem-solve and provide meaningful assistance to those who need our support.

We have more to give when our own needs are met. And constantly giving to others without refuelling ourselves can lead to compassion fatigue – a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion. Self-care helps us avoid this and maintain our ability to empathise.

I don’t know about you; but all this is common sense, no?

By emphasising common sense, we teach our children to approach life with a balanced view, understanding that not everything needs to be complicated or over-analysed. This approach encourages them to develop intuition and practical problem-solving skills that will serve them in all areas of life.

The Stoics, ancient philosophers known for their wisdom, also championed the value of simplicity. They believed that by focusing on what we can control, and letting go of what we cannot, we lead a more peaceful life. By instilling these principles in our children, we are not only teaching them to navigate life with practicality and wisdom, but also to find tranquillity and purpose through simplicity and clear thinking.

So, in our perpetual obligation of guiding the younger generation, let’s prioritise the teaching of common sense. It’s a quality that fosters resilience, and practical wisdom, elements that are essential for navigating the complexities of our so-called modern life.

Hopefully, by doing so, we can help build a future generation that is not only knowledgeable but also wise.

Common sense? Yes.

Dr Nahrizul Adib Kadri is an associate professor of biomedical engineering, and former director of the Corporate Communications Centre, Universiti Malaya.

The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the writer’s and do not necessarily represent that of Twentytwo13.