The great thing about wisdom is its timelessness. Whether wisdom is a creation of the divine or man, from thousands of years ago or today, it is always relevant.
Let's look at five steps to gain more wisdom and live a better life.
What exactly is wisdom?
The meaning of wisdom can vary from person to person. What we will discuss in this article is the essence of wisdom and how you can gain more of it. I define wisdom as timeless, unchanging, irrefutable, and trustworthy truths.
Wisdom is wisdom is wisdom regardless of who created it. It could be thousands of years old or from today. Wisdom deals with fundamental truths. Fundamentals are, well, fundamental, meaning they are unchangeable because they represent truth. Therefore wisdom, its underlying fundamentals, and truth are immutable.
Let's examine five steps for acquiring wisdom suggested around 1000 years ago by the neo-platonic philosopher Solomon Ibn Gabirol.
"The first step in the acquisition of wisdom is silence, the second listening, the third memory, the fourth practice, the fifth teaching others." Solomon Ibn Gabirol (1021-1070)
What is more important than silence, especially in today's noisy world? Silence gives us time to think, and we could all use more of that. Taking time to think deeply often provides us with the wisdom we need in our lives.
Meditation and mindfulness work best in silence and are wonderful for acquiring wisdom. We need those quiet moments to tap into our inner thoughts. For this reason, many of us value our early morning time of silence and solitude. When you make time for silence, you can find the reward of wisdom that would otherwise slip by unnoticed.
Reflect on the wisdom of this great English Philosopher and statesman:
"Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom." Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
Did you know the words listen and silent contain exactly the same letters? Perhaps that is why the two complement each other so well. Without silencing our thoughts, it is difficult to listen.
Too many people listen too little today. Who has time to stop and listen in our fast-paced, noisy world? We get so busy and caught up in our thoughts we don't hear what others are saying. When we do listen to them, we often spend so much time formulating our response that the depth of our listening suffers greatly.
Undoubtedly, we acquire wisdom by listening, even if only to ourselves.
As the Brazilian lyricist and novelist so aptly stated:
"All wisdom was the result of listening to one's own soul." Paulo Coelho (1947-present)
Lest we forget, memory is critical to the acquisition of wisdom. Wisdom comes from the life we have lived and experienced. Without memory, our past triumphs and failures would be of little gain.
Rote memorization and knowledge alone will not give us wisdom. We receive wisdom from experience. We find wisdom in recalling what works and what does not work and then applying these lessons to our lives.
In short, our ability to remember and learn from the lessons of life births wisdom into us.
"Memory is the mother of all wisdom." Aeschylus (524-456 BC)
Wisdom is gained from both thinking and doing, not from continual education. It comes by putting what you learn and think into practice.
When you attempt to do something, you learn lessons from what goes right and what goes wrong. Another way to say this is you learn from your successes, mistakes, and failures. Practice is the only way to find and experience the best paths forward, helping you acquire wisdom. In the doing, you find what you know and do not know, which is vital to developing wisdom.
"Practice what you know, and it will help to make clear what now you do not know." Rembrandt (1606-1669)
It is well known the best way to learn something is to teach it. By sharing your wisdom with others, you learn and experience it more deeply.
While wisdom is not teachable, its principles and concepts are. The student can then take what they learn from you and go through the experience of acquiring wisdom on their own.
"You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself." Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
In summary, the first step to gaining wisdom is to be quiet and experience silence. The second is opening your ears and mind to listen. The third is using your memory to recall life's lessons to make better choices. The fourth is putting what you have learned into practice. The fifth is teaching what you have learned to others.
I leave you with some wisdom from the 30th president of the United States.
"Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers… the ability to form judgments requires the severe discipline of hard work and the tempering heat of experience and maturity." Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933)
Why not record and keep Gabirol's five steps in mind as you seek greater wisdom? Imagine the life you can create for yourself and your loved ones by adding to your wisdom!