The Impartial Spectator: How To Make Unbiased Decisions

When we are choosing to make some decision, small or large, there are a number of voices at play inside our heads. Let’s say it’s something small like stealing a cookie from the cookie jar (does anyone still have one of those?). You’re thinking about sneaking down to the kitchen and getting your hands on one of those chocolatey-yummy-freshly-baked cookies.

Immediately, you feel guilty. You hear mom say, “No dessert before dinner.” You hear your health teacher say, “Cookies are bad for you.” You can hear your grandfather say, “Wow, sweetheart, looks like you’ve gained a few.” And you can hear your heart thumping, saying, “Just one…”

You often (more often than you think) make decisions based on how all those voices play out in your head. Who wins the battle—you or your grandfather?

Obviously, there are lots of problems with making decisions (even silly ones like this) based on projections of what other people think. But how else can we know what to choose?

Adam Smith, known from history as the Father of Capitalism (and the dude who invented the “Invisible Hand”) suggests an interesting alternative. Instead of picturing a vengeful or loving God, instead of listening to your mother’s voice, picture an “impartial spectator” watching you. Picture someone, without any preconceived opinions or judgments, watching over you.

What would that person say? Would they approve of this next action? Would they tell you to “YOLO” or calm the heck down?

This impartial spectator (a projection in your mind) holds the key to a deep sense of alignment. When you listen to what an impartial spectator might say, you move towards the goodness that’s already in you.

Kate Ward