Essential Walk #4: Discernment

Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 22, Issue No. 3b
November 15, 2023

By Dan Coughlin


Courage discerning moment

Today, rather than focusing on more content, I would like for you to focus on a process for an Essential Walk. The word I want you to focus on is discernment.

In MWD (Merriam-Webster Dictionary), the word discernment means the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure. I like that. It’s useful to the point I’m trying to make.

The Latin root for discern is discernere, which means to sift. Imagine you are sifting through sand for a long time to discover a golden nugget. This requires patience, attention, and open-mindedness. You know there is value in there somewhere, but you don’t know where it is or what exact form it is going to be in.

This is what happens on an Essential Walk. You’re stepping off a fast-moving treadmill made up of personal, family, community, and professional responsibilities. You are focusing on a given topic, one which you might come back to over and over and over in the future. As you are focusing on the topic, you are sifting through many ideas in your mind. You are staying in touch with your emotions to understand what you are feeling about this topic. You are aware of how this topic connects or contrasts with your will.

All the while you are sifting through these thoughts, emotions, and will until you start to uncover the beginnings of a real insight. This is not something someone else told you, although the inputs you receive can be part of what you sift through. Slowly, steadily, a valuable piece of understanding comes to you. This is about being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure. This is about developing the skill of discerning.

As you invest more and more time and effort into discernment, it will become part of your way of being. My hope is that you will greatly value the time and effort you pour into discernment. In my opinion, it is the key to unlocking the treasure that can be discovered on your Essential Walks.

I believe this treasure is actually more valuable than your title, house, car, and income. It is about the health of your essence. And your essence is what you take with you through all the stages of your life. It’s up to you whether you make your essence healthier or less healthy. Your essence will affect all of your future words and actions and decisions and relationships.

Essential Walk Questions to Consider

  1.  When can you set aside time for focused discernment?
  2. What can you do to enrich your input on a topic before you sift through it to find the deeper and more valuable insights?

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