We recognize people who demonstrate wisdom and also see those who could use more. How do we become wiser more prudent? Is wisdom gained by experience better than others?
Let’s define this subject before we get into six lessons of wisdom.
What is Wisdom?
Some define being wise as the practice of reason and common sense. Still, others argue it has more to do with our connection to intuition. Or is wisdom the quality of decision-making? Perhaps it’s finely tuned observational skills? Another option is that wisdom is the ability to assess data and circumstances and, as a result, draw sound conclusions? It’s more likely a mixture of all the above plus knowledge, perceptive ability, and judgment.
Maybe this isn’t the right question, and perhaps there are unique kinds of wisdom? In that case, this mental asset may be situational, even perhaps temporary—our training and education impact situational awareness.
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” ― Aristotle
Is this the key to knowing what mental skills to use? Is this how to increase your wisdom? Are there situations where intuition is a better option than reason, common sense, or observational skills? If that is true, then it is a combination of things. It’s enlightened judgment and uncanny ability to understand the underlying root cause. As we’ll discuss shortly, some feel three main ways to get this commodity are wisdom gained by experience, observation, or simply using common sense.
No matter how you define this quality, we value the people who show it in their words and actions. So, it’s only natural to ask, what is wisdom, and how do we become wise? Is this a skill set anyone can gain, or are there restrictions on acquiring it, like IQ, for instance?
Indeed, wisdom can be elusive, and gaining it doesn’t come easily for most of us. Living a long life doesn’t make you wise. However, living longer increases the probability of gathering knowledge or experience being an asset. If you are young, it doesn’t mean you can’t be wise. People can show wisdom at any age.
Wisdom Gained By Common Sense
Some people are just lucky. They are born with enhanced analytical and cognitive abilities. They seem to understand the root cause and then find practical solutions. And they are the ones who come up with fresh ideas. But this doesn’t mean they have social skills in the same proportion. So, just because they aren’t assertive or well-known doesn’t mean they don’t have this quality.
People from all personalities and backgrounds show reason and common sense in their daily lives. However, even those with these natural abilities are more likely to do things to enhance their observational skills.
If others in your family are wise, this is no guarantee you’ll inherit this attribute. What’s more, you cannot buy it. Similarly, suffering and pain do not always produce wisdom. Just because you make a lot of mistakes does not mean you will be wise. We observe people repeating the same experiences and making the same mistakes repeatedly.
Is Wisdom Different from Intuition?
Intuition is the ability to know something without using a rational thought process. The answer or solution magically appears in our awareness. It’s an intuitive hunch. If the answer or solution is correct, perhaps this is also the exercise of wisdom? So, getting in touch with the voice of our intuition is probably an excellent idea. Does this oppose the analytical approach?
You could say that reason and common sense complement intuition. If you confirm your answer by both methods, you will probably be on track. So, if your intuition proves what your observational skills tell you, then again, you probably have the best answer. So, they are not opposing forces. They all work together. These mental approaches are all part of the cognitive toolbox. If we are wise, we will cultivate them all. Thus, we will enhance our overall problem-solving abilities.
Those we recognize as being wise have the whole package. Smart people show a high level of intuition, common sense and reasoning, and good observational skills. These types of people seem one step ahead of everyone else. So analytical skills and intuition go hand in hand, and the Dalai Lama is someone who exemplifies this kind of extraordinary wisdom.
The Six Lessons of Wisdom
We can gain wisdom in two primary ways. First, we can acquire it from experience. Or, second, we can increase our awareness through study. Let’s talk about experience first.
One way to become wise is to learn from the mistakes of others. If you are aware and discerning, you see and understand your lessons and the lessons of others. To do this, you need good observational skills. Otherwise, you’ll miss the reason for the experience.
Wisdom Gained By Experience
Some people think experience is the only way to gain wisdom. However, this is true only if you can learn the proper lesson. Experience is the most painful way, but sometimes it’s the only way you get the message of life’s essential instruction. Some people keep repeating the same bad experiences, and they still don’t get the lesson.
It’s practical to find what wisdom means to you. To do this, we recommend a simple exercise known as automatic writing. Here’s a link to describe the process. To do this, set the intention with the question, “what is wisdom,” then find out what your intuition tells you. It is often a surprise to find how your intuitive mind can offer. You’ll find out how much wisdom is available and how to cultivate it.
Here’s another opinion. Confucius says thinking is the noblest option. So, you can increase your wisdom through thinking and contemplating. Then the second option is by observing others. You have to be careful not to follow the bad examples. Otherwise, you will end up gaining this knowledge through unpleasant experiences.
“By three methods, we may learn wisdom. First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” — Confucius
However, wisdom gained by experience is the most prevalent way we learn life’s lessons.
Increasing Awareness to Gain Wisdom
Working on yourself is probably the best way to gain wisdom. It doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes. However, it will make sure you capitalize on the lesson. The best approach to self-development is diverse. It should include a range of activities to improve your mind, body, and spirit.
“Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength;
mastering yourself is true power.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
1st Read to Increase Your Awareness
Don’t just read to reinforce what you believe. Read things that challenge your thinking. Whatever you read, always check the validity and accuracy of the source. Learning things that are incorrect or useless is a waste.
“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”
— Mark Twain
2nd Challenge Your Beliefs
Look for resources that challenge your worldview. Above all, develop your spiritual path. Practice those things which expand your awareness. Focus on forms of seated and moving meditation. Use the Enneagram to determine your personality and instincts’ default settings. Aristotle says the lessons of wisdom begin with knowing yourself.
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” — Aristotle
3rd Enhance Your Critical Thinking
“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”
— William Shakespeare (As You Like It)
4th Practice Kindness
Practice being a good person. Your wisdom increases by opening your heart to the needs of others. Crazy as it sounds, this will help put you back in touch with your default state of innocence. It’s our natural state before exposure to any cultural programming. Be brave. Fight for the rights of everyone. Fight to save our environment. It’s the only place in the Universe with chocolate. Live with courage but with risk management restraint. Life is a long-distance event.
“Love only grows by sharing. You can only have more for yourself by giving it away to others.” — Brian Tracy
5th Take Care of Yourself
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” — Audre Lorde
6th Listen to Your Intuition
Last, practice activities that help you hear the voice of your intuition.
How Do You Become Wise?
Now you know the ways you can increase this mental asset. The hard part is putting these lessons to use in your life. One simple thing you can do is to put sticky notes as reminders where you can see them. Which way resonates with you? Is wisdom gained by experience the way you learn, or do you use observation and intuition?
Use your smartphone reminder to do one of the action items every day. Or, you can also try using sticky notes on your refrigerator door and in the corner of your computer screen. Do at least one of the six lessons of wisdom every day.
Creating good habits will return dividends. Remember, wisdom is a combination of skills and mental abilities that produce quality decisions. What works best for you is likely a unique combination of observational skills, reason, common sense, and intuition.
It’s possible to gain wisdom by cultivating both analytical and intuitive skills. Therefore, you can learn to do it too. The wise person will find what works best and then practice.
Learn how to build positive behaviors. Discover your strengths and limitations. Work to fill the gaps in your analytical and intuitive abilities. You gain more wisdom by continually learning and refining working on yourself. Develop practical observation skills, common sense, and logic.
Thank you for reading this article. We hope it provides some food for thought about the subject of wisdom. You can find more mind-opening topics on our blog.
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(1) Joseph Campbell, The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia