Monthly Archives: December 2013

A Time and Place for Judgment

Being overly judgmental, or inappropriately judgmental, makes life harder on yourself and on others.

Everyone has, built up over the years, an ability to make many different kinds of judgments: is this person tall? Do I like this person? Is this person good or bad? (More on What is Judgment?) Our ability to make judgments about someone or something is endless.

However, not all judgments are relevant or useful.  For instance, if we are trying to walk across a crowded room, the question we need to answer is: is this person in my way, and if so, how do I get around him or her?  It does not help us to ask: is this person a wizard, do I like this person, etc; within the context of the situation, the objective is to walk across the room, and the purpose of our judgments is therefore to find us a way across.  In this way, being self-aware keeps us focused so we don’t get flooded with too many judgments and information, causing us to lose track of our goal and get and feel lost.

This is a key point: judgments are used to achieve objectives. That is the time and place for them.  The same judgement, this person is tall, can be used in many contexts: when you’re choosing a basketball team, you may bias taller players, but if you’re choosing a limbo team, perhaps not.  However, not all objectives are made equal.

Let’s say you’re at a party with friends.  Your judgments will probably be focused on what is fun.  If you’re at a social event, your judgements will probably be focused on what you find interesting.  If you’re at a business event, you’re probably focused on networking.  These are harmless, non-personal judgements.

If you have a superiority complex, or are insecure, your judgements will be about whether or not such and such is better or worse than you or others for this or that reason. If you have an ego, believe you can do God’s work, or don’t have respect for other people’s opinions and lives, then perhaps you’ll be deciding whether someone is good or bad or worth anything or not.  These personal judgements are what make the world a worse place, because the objectives they support are either hurtful to others, or hurtful to yourself by promoting delusion and blindness.  Social anxiety comes from this, and the way to beat it is to not feed it.

If you learn to be aware of your judgments, and understand good objectives from bad, you can focus better, achieve more, and be a better person.

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What is judgment (verb)?  Judgment is an act of drawing conclusions from observations, usually to answer a question.

How do we judge?  We use our judgement (noun) or intuition, which is built up over time with experience and pattern recognition.  It is based on a set of judgment criteria, that we can call a rubric. This rubric is just like a rubric in school–it varies by assignment, subject, teacher, school, and person.

Why do we judge?  To answer a question, gain knowledge, make a decision.  Is it blue?  Is it big?  Is it dangerous?  Do I have anything in common with this person?  Is it better or worse than something else?  Do I like this person?  What should I do?



A Time and Place for Judgment


Food Paralysis

Having more choices is often promoted as being a good thing, but wisdom teaches us that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.  I would like to apply this idea to how we view our food in the kitchen.

It is fairly common to stock up one’s kitchen with a wide assortment of food options, with the expressed intent to prevent future dissatisfaction by addressing our every gluttonous desire ahead of time. What’s the harm of stocking an extra box of mac’n’cheese when I have the space?  It will save me the displeasure of one day wanting mac’n’cheese, and realizing I must take a trip to the store to buy it.  (My gosh, delayed gratification? Please, that’s so last decade.)  However, I feel like many of us to walk into the kitchen, and are overwhelmed by how many options we have.  There is the classic joke of people walking into the kitchen, being surrounded by food, and declaring “there’s nothing to eat.”

Furthermore, I often catch myself second guessing my food choice.  Since there were 100 options, the chances that I made the right choice are only 1 in 100, pretty low!  If there are only 5 options available, it is much easier to rule out a few options, making the odds of choosing “correctly” a lot better.

Therefore, to solve this food paralysis problem, I plan to stock my kitchen with fewer options for food, probably at most 5, so that the process of elimination goes quickly.  That way, I not only spend less time on my decision, but I an more satisfied with it as well.

A more detailed solution: Let’s assume that I just want to pick a protein, and a vegetable, and I have chicken and egg for protein options, and broccoli and carrots for vege options.  Instead of looking at my ingredients and thinking I have 4 options-chicken with broccoli or carrots, or egg with broccoli or carrots—I should pre-assign chicken to broccoli, and egg to carrots, reducing the number of options to 2.

The benefit seems minimal, but here’s how it scales: Let’s say one day your nutritional goal is to eat one serving each of protein, vegetable, carbs, and fruit, and you have 5 options in each category.  That means you could make a meal 5*5*5*5 = 625 different ways!  That’s way too many to think about every time you walk into a kitchen.  It’s easier to know that each option, say chicken, has already been assigned to say broccoli, rice, and apple, and deal with just 5 possible meals.  Less headache, less thinking, more eating, more enjoying, more living your life.

Parting thoughts: Unless you’re trying to become a chef, or you have a particular special occasion, there’s no real need to make the “best meal possible right now” or fulfill yourself with the “very best options” to “maximize happiness.”  We are pushed hard to get the very best all the time, but we forget sometimes that there is no “need” to get the very best, especially not all the time.  You’re hungry, just eat something and move on with your life.  If you want it to be special, then plan ahead of time rather than try to scramble to put something together when you’re hungry—if the meal was special to you, you would have (or really should have) planned ahead.