Wisdom. What exactly is it? And how does it differ from knowledge?
The dictionary defines wisdom as “the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting.” Knowledge, on the other hand, is “information gained through experience, reasoning, or acquaintance.” It seems, knowledge can exist without wisdom, but not the other way around. One can be knowledgeable without being wise. Knowledge is knowing what to say; wisdom is knowing when to say it and when to keep quiet.
So if wisdom includes so much more than just knowledge – how can we cultivate it?
Through a regular practice of reflection.
With reflection, we can attain a sense of wisdom that comes from truly observing’ life and learning from it.
We don’t necessarily need to experience everything directly in order to learn from it – becoming a really good observer of others and learning from the signs around us can add to our wisdom tree. Oprah Winfrey has said this of the practice of reflection: “When you reflect on your life you are able to take better care of yourself. “
This resonates strongly with me. For years I did not stop to reflect on my life, I just kept going in a crazy ‘busy’ness and I found myself repeating patterns and situations that were not best for me. Now, on reflection, I can see the signs were there all along, I just didn’t stop to ‘notice’ and as a result I missed the crucial insight necessary to course correct.
Reflection offers wisdom and in the process of developing that wisdom about ourselves, we can begin to realise what we can really count on ourselves for. This level of inner wisdom is priceless – it changes everything – in particular, it changes how we show up and how we move through life. At the end of the day, it’s not what other’s think about us but what we think about ourselves that’s going to hit home the hardest – how we treat ourselves, how we care for ourselves and how we journey through life with ourselves. Are we friend or foe? Are we learning as we go or making the same mistakes again and again? Are we growing wiser or just growing older?
3 Ways to Cultivate Wisdom:
1. Observe, Notice and Listen: Observe others and notice what their experiences are teaching them so that you can also learn from other’s experiences. Listen to others’ opinions. Listen to podcasts, the radio, audiobooks, from people talking about a variety of topics. Do not believe everything you hear but use wisdom to become discerning. There’s a saying: Who is the wise person? He who learns from all people.
2. Learn from your mistakes: The saying, ‘history never repeats’ is not always true. Some people make the mistake of thinking that they can do the same thing over and over and expect different results. We need to learn from our mistakes and use failures as a lesson for the future. It’s so important to be able to discern, analyse, think through, decide carefully, and listen to the small voice of reason that speaks to us.
3. Collect Wise Principles (and create your own): Have you ever been in a situation where someone says something profound and wise that stops you in your tracks, makes you think and brings instant clarity? Just one piece of wisdom or a wise saying can transform a bad day into a good one. Some wise sayings that have helped me include:
- When things go wrong stop and ask, “what is this here to teach me?”
- This, too, shall pass.
- Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown your own inner voice.
- Doubt means don’t.
What are some wise principles from your own life that reflect your values and beliefs? Try the exercise below to create a list of your own wise principles. When you face something challenging, remind yourself of them.
Try this: Develop your own Wise Principles
Wisdom is good for the soul, so it makes sense to pursue it.
It is said that wisdom comes from living, so I wonder what wisdom has come from your living? What do you know for sure as a result of your human experience? When we don’t stop to reflect, it’s easy for our life to become one big blur. The weeks roll into months, the months roll into years, and the years roll into decades…
Take a moment now to stop and reflect on the lessons you’ve learned throughout your life – think of the experiences you’ve had that have shaped who you are – the good and the bad. What did you learn from them at the time? What do they reveal to you now as you reflect back on them? What do you know for sure as a result of these experiences? Write them down to create your own Wise Principles.
Let’s take the time to grow wiser so that by the end of our life when we look back, we come away with a sense of fulfilment from a life well lived.
This concludes the last part of my research into the ‘Developmental Stages of Women’. If you’ve missed out on previous parts of this research, you might like to have a look at Developmental Stages of Women – An Introduction, followed by Cultivating a Sense of Self, and Cultivating a Sense of Purpose.