Where Does Judgment Come From?

by | Mar 27, 2023 | Resilience

The old joke is that good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment. Certainly experience plays a part, but there’s another factor with a role that is even more important. 

If you dig into the many definitions of judgment, you’ll find there are two basic meanings (or at least, that’s what I found): 

    1. Determining, or the ability to determine, the relative truth of a fact, rule, or principle. 
    2. Determining, or the ability to determine, the relative importance of a fact, rule, or principle.

These are extremely valuable abilities—in fact, it’s difficult to imagine abilities that are more important to survival and the achievement of one’s goals. 

Correspondingly, judgment is an ability that is highly rewarded—those who exhibit good judgment, or least are believed by others to have good judgment, are generally those who become leaders, whether of government or companies. The presumption of good judgment also accounts for the elevated levels of pay given to CEO, CFO’s, COO’s, and Board Chairs.

And for all of these individuals, the ability to know how true something is or how important something is makes the difference between great success and mediocrity or failure. When the stakes are high, it’s good judgment that saves the day. 

Here’s another context in which the stakes are high—your decisions regarding the proper operation and health of your body. In that context, good judgment can be literally a matter of life and death. 

And that is especially true in the ocean of misinformation in which citizens of developed countries are immersed, as we’ve discussed elsewhere. When there’s as much money involved as there is in the agricultural, food processing, pharmaceutical, and medical industries, it’s to their advantage to flood communication lines with claims about their products that may or may not be true. Your ability to know what’s really true and important therefore can often run counter to the generation of corporate profits. To put it another way, exercising your own judgment can often involve swimming upstream against the flood. All of which makes judgment even more important.

How, then, does one acquire this immensely valuable ability? The old joke is that good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment. Certainly experience plays a part, but there’s another factor with a role that is even more important. 

To illustrate that factor, here’s an exercise I’ve done in workshops with thousands of participants over the years. It begins by asking participants to learn this piece of information: 

 The train is approaching. 

We usually have a little fun with it, practicing reading it aloud a few times, and even doing little quizzes: What’s the train doing? What’s approaching? Then comes the big question: 

How important is it to know that? 

There’s always someone in the audience who says “Well, if you’re standing on the tracks, it’s really important.” And so it is—perhaps in that moment the most important piece of information you could possibly have. But what if you aren’t? What if you’re just taking a little time to catch up on your eSavvyHealth articles? Then it’s completely unimportant. 

What’s the factor that makes the difference between life-or-death importance and zero importance? That factor, of course, is context. 

This is a truth about knowledge that it’s likely that no one has ever told you about: without context, it’s impossible to determine the relative importance of a statement.

What does that have to do with having judgment in relation to your own health? Just this: your context for evaluating health information and claims is something you have a very intimate relationship with—your own body and the circumstances of your own life. No one else has anywhere near the knowledge of that context that you do. Which means that you are the only person who can decide the degree to which any health information, principle, or claims are true and important for yourself. 

That’s why we’ve chosen the route we have at eSavvyHealth—not to tell you what to do to be healthy, but to help you better understand how the body operates, so that you can better exercise your judgment based on those understandings.

Essentially, we’re offering a map to help you chart your own course. We hope that it is your judgment that the map is both true and important. 

Dave Hendry

Dave Hendry

Position

Dave Hendry is co-founder of The 5 Fundamentals of Health and Fundamentals of Health Alliance. He has an extensive CV in research, education and curriculum development.

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