75 Wisdom Starts with Your Mindset

Brad C. Anderson

There are several attitudes discussed below that tend toward wisdom. These include:

  • Recognition of the importance of values
  • Recognizing the power and limits of knowledge
  • Humbleness
  • A willingness to act in the face of uncertainty
  • Appreciating that our problems are dynamic and ever-changing

Let’s explore these in more detail.

Attitudes towards values

A critical insight the wise possess is an understanding of the importance of values. Our values drive us to action, just as it is another person’s values that drive their actions.

Social systems require the expression of many values to thrive. Wisdom requires recognition of the importance of those values held by others. Wisdom also requires that we become consciously aware of the values that motivate our actions and how we might balance our values against others to meet society’s broader needs.[1][2]

Do you have a strong sense of what your values are? Could you clearly articulate them to someone else? How about your job, the career you pursue, or the company that hired you? Which values was that career designed to express? Does that company pursue values compatible with your own?

Those aspiring to wisdom use these types of questions to guide them to vocations where they can become .

Recognize the power and limits of knowledge

In addition to understanding values, those striving for wisdom recognize the power and limits of knowledge.[3] Be curious. Become a continual learner. As a practitioner in whatever vocation you have chosen, continue developing your competencies and skills. Deepening your skills to enhance your ability to act

It’s funny, but gaining knowledge also allows you to see knowledge’s limits. The more you learn, the more mysteries you discover. It takes an expert to know what they don’t know.[4]

The Dunning-Kruger effect described below highlights the validity of this perspective.

 

Examples: The Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Dunning-Kruger effect describes the phenomena of an individual’s level of confidence in a subject relative to their expertise.

People with very little training in an area commonly possess unduly high confidence in their ability. As their training advances, they lose that confidence as they begin to recognize their limitations.

With further training, they begin to regain their self-assurance, but never to the same level as when they were uneducated. This pattern emerges because, as your knowledge deepens, you become more aware of its limitations.

If you wish to learn more, click here for an in-depth discussion on this topic.

“Dunning-kruger” by Jens Egholm PedersenWikimedia Commons is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Dunning-Kruger effect has been used to explain why non-medical professionals feel they can challenge physicians’ recommendations to vaccinate their children. It also explains why lay-people with no climate science training feel they can speak confidently about what the science says about human-caused climate change.

 

Humbleness

Wisdom requires humbleness. Our knowledge, after all, is always limited and flawed. Thus, those moments when we feel we are wise, when we are confident of our rightness, are when we are likely in the greatest danger of playing the fool.

A willingness to act in the face of uncertainty

Regardless of our uncertainty, we must still act. Acting while acknowledging our limitations requires us to proceed with a willingness to learn and adapt. We need to develop our ability to improvise when we reach a gap in our knowledge.

Your ability to improvise improves as you broaden your education outside your specific field.[5] This does not mean you need to become a professional student and collect degrees throughout your life but rather to be curious about other disciplines. Create opportunities to learn from others. Doing this will broaden your perspective, which will allow you greater capacity to view problems from multiple angles and come up with clever solutions.

Appreciating that our problems are dynamic and ever-changing

Finally, an attribute of wisdom is the recognition that the challenges we face are dynamic. Once people act, the problem will change. The best solution, therefore, may change over time.

Retain your willingness to adapt as the challenge you face evolves.[6]

 

Key Takeaways

  • A critical insight the wise possess is an understanding of the importance of values.
  • Those striving for wisdom recognize the power and limits of knowledge.
  • Wisdom requires humbleness
  • Wisdom requires a willingness to act in the face of uncertainty, which is enhanced through developing an ability to improvise and broaden your base of knowledge outside your specialty.
  • Wisdom requires recognition that problems are dynamic, and thus our solutions must evolve in lock-step with our problems.

  1. Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R. E., & McKee, A. (2013). Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.
  2. Kessler, E. H., & Bailey, J. R. (2007). Introduction--Understanding, Applying, and Developing Organizational and Managerial Wisdom. In E. H. Kessler & J. R. Bailey (Eds.), Handbook of Organizational and Managerial Wisdom (pp. xv–lxxiv). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.
  3. Kessler, E. H., & Bailey, J. R. (2007). Introduction--Understanding, Applying, and Developing Organizational and Managerial Wisdom. In E. H. Kessler & J. R. Bailey (Eds.), Handbook of Organizational and Managerial Wisdom (pp. xv–lxxiv). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.
  4. Kessler, E. H., & Bailey, J. R. (2007). Introduction--Understanding, Applying, and Developing Organizational and Managerial Wisdom. In E. H. Kessler & J. R. Bailey (Eds.), Handbook of Organizational and Managerial Wisdom (pp. xv–lxxiv). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.
  5. Kessler, E. H., & Bailey, J. R. (2007). Introduction--Understanding, Applying, and Developing Organizational and Managerial Wisdom. In E. H. Kessler & J. R. Bailey (Eds.), Handbook of Organizational and Managerial Wisdom (pp. xv–lxxiv). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.
  6. Jordan, J., & Sternberg, R. J. (2007). Individual Logic--Wisdom in Organizations: A Balance Theory Analysis. In E. H. Kessler & J. R. Bailey (Eds.), Handbook of Organizational and Managerial Wisdom (pp. 3–19). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.

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Wisdom Starts with Your Mindset by Brad C. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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