Yesterday a client called me wise. It wasn’t the first time that’s happened. And at some point last night I began to ask myself about being wise and the acquisition of wisdom. How do you get to be wise?
Hang around the planet long enough and it just creeps up on you. Yeah, kinda. I don’t think the two necessarily go in hand but obviously the longer you’ve been around and in amongst it all, the greater the opportunity for life to offer up its wisdom to you. What you do with it is up to you. I’ve seen a lot of stuff. I’ve met and worked with an awful lot of people. I’ve travelled the world quite considerably from a very young age. I would not go so far as to say I’ve seen it all before, but I’ve seen a massive amount of it and unless you simply weren’t paying attention, most of it sticks. History repeats itself and sooner or later the patterns just make sense.
Not necessarily through choice, but mostly, I have observed more than I have participated. I am neither a mother nor a wife and as I have watched my friends and family fall in love, get married, get pregnant, give birth and become mothers, fathers, wives, husbands and significant others, I’ve learned an great deal by watching them do that, observing from a distance. It’s not the same as learning by doing, but it does make for wisdom. It’s like being a scientist, one who studies human nature.
What I haven’t learned by being old and doing or observing, I’ve learned from books. I love reading. It is one of my three favourite things to do on this earth and I learned much of value from books. Interestingly, the wisdom which comes from books is mostly about myself.
My job is to listen to people for a living; I am a professional listener. I also listen to what my clients don’t say, their breathing, their tears and the messages in the spaces between the words. I listen with all of me, not just my ears. And if I listen to you well enough, you tell me all I need to know.
Sometimes I just know. Again, wisdom is not just a brain thing though I do love my brain, see below. It’s a gut thing. Your body knows. I often ask my clients to tell me what their head is thinking and what their body is feeling and I encourage the following of gut wisdom. We always know and then we talk ourselves out of it using our brain, which is mostly wrong. Use your brain as a consultant.
I make plenty of time for peace and quiet in my life so that I can think about things, allow them to settle with me and give me time to work out how I feel. Processing time. Thoughtful time. Slow time. This allows space for wisdom to bubble up. I make time to be wise.
From dictionary definitions it seems that judgement is an important part of wisdom. In preparing for this article I remembered that I am an INFJ personality type and I must confess I have always wondered about the J bit. In the context of wisdom it makes a lot more sense to me now. It’s about discernment.
I do a lot of experiments, I have learned by trial and error. I encourage my clients to give it a go and see what happens. That’s when neither of us knows the answer until one or other of us has a go. Practical wisdom acquired by results.
I am a lifelong learner, fascinated by how things and people work. Lots of things which bored the knickers off me at school have become absorbing during my adult life when it was my choice to find out more. I am quite brainy. I apply what I learn and I seem to retain it easily. As I go along in life all of this adds up quite considerably. I offer it to my clients when they pick my brains but I am not wedded to them doing it my way. My hope is that my accumulated knowledge, experience and wisdom will make their decision-making process and their lives and businesses easier. And their results faster.
Although well-read and half-decently educated, I am not an academic and most of my wisdom comes from being, doing and observing as I’ve said – and for sixty years. I do think I was born wise, an old soul perhaps. But nothing has contributed to the wisdom I have, such as it is, so much as being a Londoner, being self-employed and following my nose to see what happens. That and having been around the block a few times.
And the funny thing is, for one so wise… sometimes I can be incredibly dim! Happily I am surrounded by those who don’t hesitate to tell me. Keeps my grounded, don’t you know? Or so they say.