David Wilkinson

Author and expert on Ambiguity and Emotional Resilience.

Want To Be Seen As Wise? Follow These 16 Principles

Want To Be Seen As Wise? Follow These 16 Principles

What is it that differentiates the wise from the rest of us?

In this continuing series on Wisdom at Work here are the 16 things wise people do that make the difference:


  1. Aspire to find the truth of a situation even if it goes against your own interests. Ego and self-interest are the most common assassins of wisdom.
  2. Self-knowledge. Reflect (at length) on your own strengths, weaknesses and biases in an effort to get as close to the truth as humanly possible. Self-knowledge is one of the keys to wisdom.
  3. Understand your effect on others. Be aware as you walk your path of the impact you have and the trail you leave.
  4. Understand the impact of your thoughts on your emotions, feelings and desires. Then know how your emotions, feelings and desires change and alter your thoughts. Recognise these processes in others.
  5. Stay in constant touch with both your head (thoughts) and heart (feelings and emotions). What are they saying? What is affecting them?
  6. Value, indeed invite diversity of thought. Reality exists in many forms.
  7. Be curious in all things. You never know what might be important in this decision or situation. To make a judgement that something is insignificant is not to seek the truth. How do you know the significance of anything until the end? Ask questions.
  8. Have empathy. The ability to walk in another's shoes enhances wisdom. It is also part of our moral and ethical compass.
  9. Have concern for the future as far out as possible. What is the likely affect of this on all agents not just immediately but in years and generations to come?
  10. Know the past but don't be beholden to it. Knowing and understanding history helps prevent previous mistakes... however legacy thinking (or paradigm paralysis) is one of the biggest failures of rationale in times of change or uncertainty.
  11. Don't leap into action just for the sake of feeling that you are doing something. The wise observe, think and feel first.
  12. Understand that wisdom is a process. The result may be a decision, choice or action.
  13. Be a critical thinker as opposed to being critical.
  14. Think systems. Everything is part of a bigger system. Strive to identify and understand the systems involved.
  15. Recognise you don't know. When you think you do know - beware. This is the most dangerous moment.
  16. Have patience. With yourself, others and situations.


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