Most of us have slogans, mottoes, and ingrained beliefs rattling around in our heads that come to mind in particular situations. Those mantras can give us mental shorthand, a constant that we might lean on
to navigate our ever-changing world.
Some are unfounded – even provably inaccurate - such as, “A good leader is a good motivator,” and “Kids with good parents will turn out okay.”
Others relate to religious or spiritual beliefs, such as “God bless America,” “God save the Queen,” and “There’s a reason for everything.” These phrases mean whatever you want them to mean. To some,
they mean everything, to others, they mean nothing.
It's not too hard to think of slogans that contradict. Although they offer opposite courses of action, both sides persist. When one of these common phrases comes to mind, I suggest a bit of self-reflection
before taking action.
To practice, consider carefully which expressions below could serve as a useful guide, keeping in mind various situations in your life.
Take it slowly, or hurry up?
Live for today, or save for tomorrow?
Cut the cord, or tighten the reins?
Stand up and be heard, or sit tight and trust?
Be careful what you wish for, or hold fast to dreams?
Seize the moment, or practice patience as a virtue?
Never settle for less, or be content with what you have?
Maybe you are discovering, as I have, that no morsel of wisdom or advice fits every situation. Applying a wise saying to a specific situation must be guided by a simple, overriding awareness: “It depends.”
When my clients or children ask me a general question about a decision they have to make, I commonly respond, “It depends.” I do this not to be avoidant, but to be accurate. I want to hear more detail. I
need to know the context. Give me the specifics.
In a similar way, you could also examine common sayings to challenge your own beliefs:
Is small beautiful, or is bigger better?
Is idleness the devil’s playground, or is busyness a trap?
Is there no place like home, or is the grass greener on the other side?
Is cleanliness next to godliness, or does the creative mind love a mess?
Does the early bird get the worm, or do good things come to those who wait?
Is a penny saved a penny earned, or is nothing ventured, nothing gained?
What is the best way to decide?
First, ask yourself what is accurate, or inaccurate, in any specific situation.
Before making an important decision, consider the ancient practice of discernment as a path towards clarity.
Discernment is the practice of discriminating and distinguishing degrees of accuracy, benefit, or harm. Practicing discernment enables us to avoid simplistic, superficial extremes in order to consider the more
complex and reality-based options available to us.
Slogans, expressions, and phrases might serve as a jumping off point for self-reflection, but they can never tell you where to land. Careful discernment helps us know when to stand up or sit tight, when to
live for today or invest in tomorrow.
I like slogans. They comfort and entertain me, and they’re great to pull out at social gatherings. But I don’t trust any saying that is superficial or void of context.
Simply relying on common slogans can get you in real trouble, save your life, or land you anywhere in between. It just depends on the quality of your discernment.