Smart vs. Wise

Smart Vs. Wise

Some people are incredibly smart, but they aren’t terribly wise.  What does this mean?

These people get into all the right schools.  They work super hard.  They achieve tremendous outward success, but they often aren’t that happy.  They are under so much stress (most of it internally generated) that they regularly fall ill.

They are smart.  They know how to calculate the odds.  They know how to see what’s coming at them and avert problems in the real world.  But they aren’t in balance.  They aren’t at peace.  They don’t bring deep and lasting joy to those around them because they are too tense.  They may be smart, but they aren’t very wise.

Smart AND Wise — It’s Not Either Or

You can be super smart and not very wise.  Somewhat smart and very wise.  Very wise, but not very smart (this is rarer).  Semi smart and semi wise.  The point is, don’t try to pigeon hole yourself as “wise” or “not wise,” “smart” or “not smart.”  For many years, I lived a smart life with less room for wisdom.  I achieved outward success, especially professional success.  I wasn’t unhappy, but I was way out of balance.  Above all, I was busy, busy, busy.

Slowly, gently, over time, a bit more wisdom emerged.  I’m still working to allow more.

Steps Toward Wisdom

  • First, some great news.  Developing wisdom doesn’t require you to take a bunch more “massive action.”  One of the signs of someone who is smart but not wise is intense, perpetual, dizzying, exhausting action.  Slow down.  Stop all the calculating.  Just be.  When you calm your mind, your inherent wisdom has a chance to emerge.  Wisdom grows patiently, over time, like a mighty oak in a golden meadow.
  • Just be.  Seriously.  Just carve out time to sit around and enjoy the moment.  This can include going to a café and looking around and smiling at life.  Maybe reading a book you find inspiring.  Or taking a nap.  Seriously.  Rest (in particular resting your mind) allows wisdom to come up and smile through you at the world.
  • Make mistakes.  Yep.  Here’s more good news.  Each time you make a misstep, you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off, learn a little something, and move forward.  However, gaining wisdom doesn’t require exhaustive, deep analysis of your mistakes.  When you find yourself obsessively trying to unravel why something went wrong, you may be drifting back towards “smart” rather than “wise.”  But we can and should learn when things go wrong.  Wisdom sometimes blooms out of the ashes of failure.
  • Read books that offer a fresh perspective and broaden your horizon.  These could be religious works, self-help, travel writing, anything that broadens how you look at matters.  Acquiring wisdom is an ongoing process.  So the more you can broaden your horizons, the more your wisdom can deepen.  Again, no need to overdo this.  Just gently read books that help you shift and deepen your thinking.  I suggest your emphasis be books rather than blogs and other online content.
  • Pray.  Praying keeps you humble.  Praying connects you to source.  Praying stills your mind.  Praying grounds your being.  So pray!

So there you have it.  A few humble thoughts on smart vs. wise.  Both are very useful.  Smarts helps you get things done in the world.  Wisdom gives joy.

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