(This post is part of a series chronicling my Women on the Verge journey. Read all updates in the series.)
I’m in a phase of my life when I’m recognizing and appreciating wisdom – in others and (surprisingly) in myself as well. Wisdom looks and feels so much different than I thought it would. It’s not simply an accumulation of experience; it’s a melding of one’s mind and heart. So it’s not just that I’m thinking I’ve been around the block enough times to be able to claim that wisdom has automatically “descended” upon me. It’s something that’s cultivated over years of considered, engaged living. The most poignant characteristic of wisdom is that it’s an ever-evolving state of being, not a destination. To be wise is to continuously be open to being affected by the circumstances around you.
I observe wisdom in those who continuously challenge their minds to take in and understand new ideas; to accept that there is always more to know about situations, people and the world at large. The wise understand that life’s path is winding, not linear; that there’s no “right” way to live but only a need to find a way that’s authentic for the individual. Wisdom is an awareness that, as humans, we have the ability – and the responsibility – to not only discover our own truths, but to respect the truths of others. Being a certain age doesn’t bring wisdom; wisdom is a state of being, not something bestowed upon elders as a matter of course.
Wisdom allows us to apply a deep sense of humanity to the way we view our lives and those of others. I’ve discovered, the more I stretch out of my emotional and intellectual comfort zone, the more I understand the myriad of viewpoints that others hold – each as valid as my own. There’s a lot of acceptance and empathy in a wise person.
“We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.” George Bernard Shaw
The key to unlocking wisdom, I believe, is what you do with your observations; how you allow them to inform your beliefs and your overall mindset throughout your entire lifetime. For wisdom to take root, you must maintain an agile heart and mind. Be convinced that, although you always believe you’re doing your best, that new (and even challenging) intel can (and should) occasionally inspire you to change your mind or rethink your attitudes. I experience my wisdom as a deep knowledge that I will never know everything I need to or want to know. I will never be done becoming me.
“I didn’t realize…”
“I never knew…”
“I hadn’t thought of it that way…”
These are the hallmark statements that a wise person considers when they come upon new information that may contradict what they thought or believed. They are open to the notion that what they previously thought is, at this point in time:
- no longer true
- never was true in the first place
- can now viewed in a different light
- was decided upon at a very different, or less-informed time in their life
Unwise people drag bags of unnecessary, unwieldy, outdated mental and emotional baggage along with them for decades, without ever taking time to examine whether it’s still valid. As a result, they rarely, if ever, change their beliefs, even when presented with irrefutable fact. That’s because, at some point, they allowed their identity to become forged in stone, no longer able to be molded by nuance, new information or changing societal norms. A lot of “back in my day” mindsets illustrate how individuals become incapable of accepting opinions and attitudes that differ from their own. They have stopped growing in wisdom.
The truth is that to be wise is to be willing to entertain ideas that are foreign to your way of thinking and being in the world; to embrace your own emotional evolution. Once you stop being open to the other, your journey toward wisdom stops in its tracks.
A profound gift of life is wisdom; guiding us forward to deeper connection with our world and our fellow humans.