Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Posts tagged ‘walk in another’s shoes’

Developing Wisdom

When you ask someone what they would change about their life, they usually think for a moment and then comment, ‘nothing really because I wouldn’t be the same person I am today if I changed anything.’ Well, let’s think about this for a moment. Let’s assume that you would be the same person and know everything that you know now but could still have one ‘redo’ in life what would it be? You only get one so think hard before you decide. This practice is called, strangely enough, thinking about thinking and it is a valuable skill to develop because it is the initial step in developing wisdom. To think about what you have learned through the challenges and opportunities in life – the life lessons – and what you would have done differently if given the chance is more than wishful thinking. It is part one of developing wisdom.

Although we all have the seed in us to develop it wisdom doesn’t develop automatically as one becomes older it needs to be cultivated. In fact, there are many young people who just seem to possess a certain wisdom about life and have some lessons to teach us regardless of our age. By observing them, we watch them consciously reflecting on events or situations in their lives as if they are a bystander watching someone else. We often hear them saying, ‘ ….happened and next time I intend to do …. differently.’ They are in a constant mode of self evaluation, trying to unearth the lessons in their recent experiences for the purpose of becoming wiser.

People who possess wisdom refuse to see the world in absolutes. Sometimes you run across people who are so busy directing things and telling you how to think and what to do that it is exhausting. They are the black/white, right/wrong, for/against type of thinkers. Their thinking and behavior is the antitheses of those who are wise. People who have developed wisdom see in what one author calls ‘the shades of grey.’ Realizing that each situation and person is unique they try to put themselves in another person’s shoes. They refuse the simple and dangerous act of judgment or simplistic answers and move rather toward a deeper understanding of the person and their circumstances at the time. They are attentive listeners who do not offer input unless asked and then give it only after careful thought. Frequently, they will first ask you how you feel about the situation you are describing to them. Their most important concern is how you are feeling not merely voicing their opinion on the matter at hand. They look for the road less travelled – the more challenging analysis in the situation.

Folks who have developed wisdom in life just seem to have a purpose than involves others as well as themselves. They have the perfect blend between altruism and taking care of self. We often watch and marvel at how things just seem to work out for them. Yet, in reality, these folks truly work at it. They understand that to achieve what they want others must also receive and benefit in the process. Life for them is a win – win. Although they give as much as they receive they would, if needed, put themselves second for the sake of a better outcome for others.

Look around you this week and see if you can spot someone who epitomizes the attributes of wisdom. They are a pleasure to behold. The good news is that we can all become wiser if we choose to put in the effort to do so. It’s a practiced skill. The more you practice it the better you get at it. No one has the corner on the market for wisdom. It is an equal opportunity skill just waiting to be developed.

Have a great few days!

A Friend Indeed …

The World Happiness Database (yes there is such a thing!) has found that people who have close friendships are happier, more empathic, display greater honesty and altruism. On another front, evolutionary biologists have found that these are traits that are very important to give and receive for survival. As Homo sapiens we are basically just wired to be social animals.

What causes some people to have more friends than others? I’m not talking here about the ‘friends’ we may have on Facebook or other social media sites but the kind of person (friend or a family member who is also a friend) that you could call in the middle of the night because you feel the need to talk. Could it be that they have developed greater empathy and curiosity for others?

If you watch them closely, you see that they truly care about others. They are more interested in letting the other person talk rather than keeping the attention on themselves and taking up all of the ‘air space.’ They find other people interesting and are curious about their world views. You can just feel a genuineness about them. They are not simply giving you 5 minutes of their time but are actually interested in what you are saying! Their energy is positive, uplifting and seems to naturally draw us in with their empathic regard. They want to walk a step or two in our world to better understand us, without value judgments but simply to more fully understand.

George Orwell serves as a tremendous example of a person who purposely experienced different world views to expand his empathy and understanding. After serving as a colonial police officer in British Burma in the 1920’s he returned to Britain determined to develop a deeper understanding of what life was like for the economically poor street people. As he spent time, dressed as a beggar, he realized that homeless people are not simply ‘drunken scoundrels.’ He wrote a book entitled, Down and Out in Paris and London about his experience and stated that it was the ‘greatest travel experience of his life.’

Rarely do we hear of such extreme learning examples such as Orwell’s but the truth remains, when you take the time to observe, listen with your heart and try to walk in another person’s shoes, even for a few moments, you develop greater empathy and respect. Without even realizing it, you find the numbers of friends you have increasing because you have taken the time to show you care. After all, we are all doing the best we can in this lifetime as we work at learning our own unique lessons.

William Shakespeare said, ‘A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.’ Doesn’t get much better than that right?

Have a great few days!