W is for Wisdom
Updated: Apr 5
“Of all human pursuits, that of wisdom is the most perfect, the most sublime, the most profitable, the most delightful” Thomas Aquinas
Wisdom derives from the root weid-, ‘to see’ and is related to a number of words including the name of our species, Homo sapiens, which signifies ‘wise man’ which shows we have potential at least even if we don’t act wisely at times! The word philosophy literally means ‘the love of wisdom’ and is the foundation that philosophy is based on.
Wisdom is the first of six categories of general human virtue, which are universal across cultures and nations as defined by Psychologists Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson. It is then divided into the following character strengths : Creativity Curiosity, Judgement, Love of Learning, Perspective.
I think that knowledge is concerned with gaining information and subsequently understanding (the tools if you like) whereas wisdom is the application of knowledge i.e. someone may possess all the knowledge necessary and maybe even understand in theory but lack the wisdom to use that knowledge in a situation practically for a variety of reasons.
The conclusion that I have come to is, that for me, wisdom is something that you acquire through knowledge which often comes from experience and by reflecting on these new experiences this leads to insight, understanding, the ability to discern and having good sense in future experiences or situations.
Following this logic through, I think that wisdom can be gained by learning as much as you can (i.e. Lifelong Learning), reflecting on and analysing this knowledge and life experiences – your own, or those of other people, then constantly putting to the test your theories/the knowledge gained and adapting as you discover more understanding and insight.
“When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change”
If you do the same thing every day, visit the same places and mix with the same people it is harder to have new experiences, gain different perspectives, and opportunities to learn, make mistakes, reflect and adapt.
“The obstacle is the way “ Ryan Holiday
By doing new things rather than those that are familiar, we aid the neuro-plasticity of our brains by creating new neural pathways and develop a growth mindset. It is easy to use technology to make our lives easier but this doesn’t always help our cognitive ability, if we want to develop more insight and wisdom, it is perhaps better to make things harder for ourselves sometimes so we are forced into using our brain cells e.g. using a map rather than the SAT nav, taking a different route than the same way home.
When we try new things and make mistakes, and then learn from those mistakes we learn faster and more permanently and are then better equipped to navigate through life.
“When emotion is high, logic is low”
I think that wisdom is also linked to self-awareness and our core values and is not dependent on our emotional responses. It is seeing past our learned or biased responses to the actuality of a situation and then having and acting on true insight.
We all have role models who have helped us along the way and each and every one of us too can lead by example and perhaps help others by our actions when we are open and non-judgmental and listen to understand.
Some questions to think about/or discuss below:
What is wisdom for you?
Can you think of people in your life that you consider wise? How have their actions served as a role model for you?
Can you think of people in history or in the wider world who you consider wise?
If you want to explore this subject further, here are a few links to get you started:
The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing. —Socrates