I always feel like I walk a thin line between being “nice” and being truly kind. Old me is a burnt-out people pleaser. To be authentic in relationships with people that used to know me before I started this journey is an ongoing lesson! See, with new acquaintances, it’s easier: they have no expectations of what I will be like or how I will express myself. But in older relationships, I still have to catch myself.
Be authentic! Stop acting and pretending, stop fawning and being “nice and polite” in socially acceptable ways. Instead, remember to show up as the kinder version of you.
While it might seem obvious sometimes, there are many moments in life when we think we know how to tackle a situation, but there’s a sense within us holding us back. Perhaps we feel pressure to conform with the desires, but it doesn’t sit well within. Other times, we want something, but our gut kicks in to say “hold on” without clarifying clearly why we need to take a step back. Wisdom is more than just “thinking informing action” and “action informing thinking”.
Wise choices incorporate knowledge, experience, and understanding into thinking and action. There’s a sense of compassion and profound self-awareness, which is more than just academic learning or data and information.
Wisdom in action begins with wise planning:
It starts with creativity and planning, from a place of compassion & self-awareness. Wisdom knows that when you only consider the needs and desires of other people, life becomes empty and meaningless. You find rewards in showing yourself love and support so that you can better support others. Self-compassion is a source of strength, not a weakness.
When we plan what to do, there’s a moment for considering ourselves and other parties that will be impacted. In business, we might refer to these parties as stakeholders. But the reality is that even in our personal lives, any decision and choice we make (even professionally) may impact our relationships. Wisdom is being able to foresee the long-term impact choices might make on our relationships. Then take those factors into account when planning.
Hopes, dreams & values: prioritise your actions
Hopes and dreams are much loftier than goals. Often, they are much longer-term as well. But it’s these hopes and dreams that give us the feeling of “a life well lived”. When our plans overlook these deeply held desires, we begin to feel inauthentic. If we carry this way for too many years, life begins to feel like it has no purpose and meaning.
So, rather than just considering what you think is “a good idea”, inform your planning from your values and what is truly important to you. Make sure that these plans align with that vague picture you have in the mind of your ideal future self, the one that lives in alignment with your hopes, dreams and values.
Wise planning identifies personal issues of risk, safety & security
Fear stops us and shuts us down on so many levels. It inhibits our ability to think straight. And in some cases paralyses us from taking action. Mindset & willpower will only take us so far. But it can be exhausting to be continually at war within yourself while trying to push forward on a goal.
If you truly want to set goals that you will complete, consider the angle of personal boundaries and your feelings of safety & security in the planning stages. Perhaps the problem to be addressed is not the goal you are chasing but the route to get there. Does your plan allow you to feel safe?
When your plan addresses your personal issues of safety and security, you will find it easier to light a fire deep within you to move forward. Creating safety will allow you to direct your energy towards your protection or activities rather than expend energy on protection and boundaries.
Your inner wisdom expands your sense of self.
When you know what to do and are confident within, it’s because you have a sense of “this is who I am”. It fosters a greater sense of personal power, enhancing your ability to say “yes” to what you want to achieve. This also makes it so much easier to say “no” to all the busy activities and urgencies that arise along the way.
When you aren’t totally sold on the idea, it’s easy to get distracted and busy doing other things. You might know what the plan is, but are you focused on doing what needs to be done? Is all your energy flowing towards this purpose in wise action?
Wisdom is more than “a good idea.”
It’s easy to teach information, knowledge and processes. Unfortunately, wisdom is not taught in schools or at universities. It is so much more than thinking, analysis, processing, or even problem-solving. We can intellectualise without truly understanding.
Even if something is “a good idea”, does that make it a good idea for you? At this moment and stage of your life? How does this good idea impact those you love and care for?
Does it consider all the knowledge and data available to me about what I want, desire and my life goals? Does it incorporate good judgement of my resources, time constraints and limitations?
For our plans to succeed, they need to include compassion for ourselves and others. I like to think of compassion as a breath we take. We cannot exhale more compassion for others than we have inhaled compassion for ourselves. Likewise, if we’re busy only inhaling compassion for ourselves, we’re going to get light-headed at some stage.
Good planning and execution have both wisdom and compassion. There is such a thing as “dumb compassion” – acting on our feelings without thinking things through.
Wise compassion can see ahead, have insight, plan. Wisdom is not simply taking action without thinking of the short and long-term impact that this will have on ourselves and others. How many people do we see working themselves to the bone – with the wisdom to recognise the need for effective self-care? When illness or chronic disease takes hold, they say, “I should have thought it through better”.
Similarly, we might throw our energies into our careers or businesses, thinking we will make time later for our families. When the family fails to stick together, we recognise the role we played in our absence.
Wisdom sees the pitfalls in a plan, staying alert, and exercising compassion regularly to allocate our energy, time and priorities.
I sometimes wonder if the inventor of the guillotine regretted his creativity when it was used to behead him. Or consider Thomas Midgley, who fixed the problem of gasoline’s dependability – by adding lead. He then (without knowing the future consequences or danger) invented freon and CFCs, which we know have a role to play in the hole in the ozone layer.
On the other hand, you might remember the Chinese scientists and planners responsible for killing all the sparrows as a solution to food shortage, which resulted in the largest plague of locusts ever to devastate the grain production of China.
Just because we can do something, should we?
Wise creativity takes into account more than just our creative mind! Without compassion and heart, our mind is no better than the mind of a psychopath or sociopath. It is highly creative and ingenious. But we need the emotions, wants, desires and compassion of the heart to soften and guide the mind.
Wise creativity will incorporate your hopes, dreams, feelings, and values. It will consider the impact of your relationships and weigh up what is truly important to you. It takes into account authenticity, safety and security, and potential challenges in the future.
Wise creativity is both realistic and compassionate.
All of this leads us to a place of wise courage: taking action that is aligned with our plans and dreams. Action without wisdom is foolishness, the same way that action without compassion can be cruel.
Wisdom in action is using both our heart and our mind as guides. It is a deep-seated fire that burns within us, acknowledging our sense of self and creating safety, even while moving the boundaries of our comfort zones. This action-taking is not movement merely for the sake of moving forward, but rather it is directed consciously.
It is embodied wisdom: heart, gut instinct, and mind all working together as one.
It’s easy to get caught up trying to focus on change without doing the inner work. We want the quick fix: tell me what I need to do to get the results I’m looking for.
A lot of coaching is performance-based, which is great for short-term goals and wins. This coaching will often provide you with tools and habits that you can integrate long-term for life changes. However, it’s easy to get the win and then fall back into old habits. This is the difference, in part, between transactional versus transformational coaching.
Professional and personal communication is one of my biggest challenges. As an INTJ, I can be brutally honest, speaking my mind without sensing the effect my words and tone have on others. I just blurt out what I want to communicate without considering whether it’s the right time or place to do so.
I’ve found I have better skills when I write it all out in an email or written correspondence. But this misses many nuances and can be misunderstood.
Most of us have emotional triggers that we aren’t aware of until we blow up or “lose it”. These learned responses helped us to survive unpleasant situations (often in our childhood). Unfortunately, those very habits (cues/triggers, course of action or response, and rewards) that allowed us to survive in childhood now sabotage or hamper our growth and relationships.
I’m not talking about PTSD triggers: those are at another level, where it’s not merely a habit. These triggers actually require deeper assistance, such as therapy.
These habitual responses are survival tactics, often learned in our childhood. I adeptly overlook and sidestep the bigger issues when I ignore the hidden rewards of my habits. The slowing down of 2020 gave us much needed time to sit and do the inner work of looking at our survival tactics.
Even 2021 has shown me (especially on social media) how I respond to certain types of posts and comments. There are people that I have been tempted to block “for my peace of mind”. Nonetheless, my commitment to healing and working on myself continues. So, I decided that rather than block them (or engage or shoot back), I would make time to actually look at where I have lost my freedom to respond gracefully.