Balancing Smart & Wise
Left brain, right brain, science, arts, positive, negative, there are so many areas where we have to avoid extremes if we are to enjoy a fulfilled life. Recently a friend asked me who are the happiest people I come across as clients. Reasonable intelligence is a prerequisite to any sort of thoughtful contentment. Humour is a big factor in facing the vicissitudes of life. And simply avoiding extremes importantly contributes to happiness.
But the more I ponder the question, the more I realise that there is another dimension we often overlook. It is the balance between smart and wise. How do we achieve a position that allows us to exercise speedy analysis and action on the one hand while demonstrating considered, experience-based judgment on the other? In today’s world the money is usually on the smart but the person who wants to influence and lead must essentially be wise.
Opportunism is a cutting edge in life. Not always the most enchanting aspect of humanity, our species would be nowhere near as knowledgeable or advanced if our ancestors had not been extremely opportunistic at some stages of our development. If you judge a successful life by the measure of control you have over it, humankind demonstrates an almost frightening ability to advance. Even in my lifetime the change has been dramatic. But that level of development pales into insignificance by comparison with what is to come in their lifetimes for my great grandchildren.
Control is not, however, the only aspect of living that makes us an uniques species. The ability to contemplate and hopefully work out who and why we are is the side of life that makes Mozart as important a contributor as Brunel. The deep and persistent feelings we have are legitimate. Some of them require us to control behaviour that they might give rise to. That makes them challenging, not wrong. Our sensitivities can be used to make us more interesting and useful people – just the sort of people who are happiest.
Invasive psychological excavation is not what I am talking about. Some people, it is true, are psychotic and need specialist, professional treatment. For others such treatment merely encourages introspection, the cause of more unhappiness than any other single activity. A good self-awareness, reviewed about once every six months gives us all we need to know about ourselves and our progress. The rest of the time we should spend looking outwards, learning to enjoy, celebrating existence.
Here are my suggestions for having a balance between Smart and Wise:
Begin with the smart. You probably would anyway. Smart depends on Observation, Imagination, Conclusion – so become and OIC.
OBSERVATION. See what is going on. We have become extremely unobservant because observing is being done for us. Notice everything around you all the time. Don’t stop. You will learn so much about life if you do this.
IMAGINATION. Imagine all the consequences you can – even really wild ones – in order to have a set of scenarios in place to enable you to react swiftly. You have to have a creative streak in you to do this. If you don’t have one, get one. It’s not difficult, we help people do it all the time.
CONCLUSION. Deduce the outcome you want, the outcome you can reasonably expect to get and the outcome you will settle for if the first two don’t work. Knowing your destination for everything you do and understanding where your “red line’ is, together make for success.
When you’ve mastered OIC go on to WILBER – What I Leave Behind Equals Reward.
We all want to have made a mark in the world, however small. Exhibitions of immense wealth or power have a certain validity but when we ask people how they would like to be remembered neither wealth nor power appear in their answers. They care most about how decent a human being they are. Quite right.
When OIC dances with WILBER you have balanced smart with wise.
You will be better for it.