The Art of Being Wise

It has been a long-held belief that wisdom involves certain aspects of thinking. Philosophers and psychological scientists suggest that our ability to be wise is based on our ability to recognise uncertainty, our acceptance of change and our intellectual humility – where we’re open to the possibility that the things we believe in may, in fact, be incorrect.

Our Ability To Be Wise

According to research by social-cognitive scientist Igor Grossman at the University of Waterloo, Canada, ‘It appears that experiential, situational, and cultural factors are even more powerful in shaping wisdom than previously imagined.’ These become embedded in the subconscious mind influencing all that we think and do.

‘We are possibly all capable of some aspect of wisdom. It’s just not all the time.’

Igor Grossman, social-cognitive scientist

Grossman’s research findings imply ‘that wisdom is not simply a stable trait that you either possess or don’t.’ His research shows that when we’re with friends, we’re more likely to consider the bigger picture, to be able to look at other perspectives and to recognise the limits of our own knowledge. Whereas when we’re alone, we tend to ruminate and get overly involved in a situation, so much so that we’re incapable of thinking about alternatives.’

Open Our Minds

But what if the friends we’re seeking guidance from are as caught up in the crisis as we are? What if they have an extreme fear-based approach to life? Then they’re likely to negatively influence our thoughts and our attitudes, even impacting our personal values and our behaviour.

‘We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.’

Albert Einstein

It helps, therefore, to open our minds up to new ways of thinking. Seek out mentors we admire. Read books that have been well researched. Listen to podcasts on topical debates that present different points of view that open us up to alternative ways of thinking. And take the time to reflect on our situation. Only then can we make informed choices.

Emotional Power

According to Oxford Languages, when we refer to being wise as an ‘art’ it implies that being wise is an emotional power of sorts. And William James, the father of American depth psychology, tells us, ‘The true art of being wise is knowing what to overlook’. Implying we should be able to ‘acknowledge’ and move on. But this requires the ability to be thoughtful and reflective, able to see the bigger picture and remain calm in a crisis. This is what enables us to apply knowledge to life’s experiences and to discern with greater ease.

Knowing what to overlook may be easy to do when we’re in a good place but not so easy to do when we find ourselves challenged or emotionally charged. According to neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman, three things happen when challenged, 1. We become stressed, 2. We become agitated, 3. We become confused. It helps to remember that this is just the brain changing. Dr. Huberman explains that as soon as we accept these as normal and natural responses to being challenged, then we’re better placed to move on from them. 

Dealing With Stress

It helps if we can find healthy ways to deal with our stress. Meditation, breathing exercises, walking in nature, playing sports are all healthy ways of coping with stress. Dr. Laura Koniver, The Intuition Physician, tells us that merely touching a plant or tree, holding a stone, walking barefoot on grass brings about amazing changes in our energy systems, helping bring our body into a natural state of rest and recovery.

While you cannot control what happens in life, you can control your attitude to what happens. It’s worth remembering that wherever your focus is, that’s where your energy is, and not everything in life needs our focus and attention. When we focus on love, it feeds our energy, as love is high vibration. When we focus on fear, it drains our energy, as fear is low vibration.

We have free will; we get to choose. So, choose wisely.