Do you want to be a wise person? I certainly do, and I believe you do too. Being wise is different from just being smart though. Here is a definition of wise from Dictionary.com:

titlehaving the power of discerning and judging properly as to what is true or right; possessing discernment, judgment, or discretion.

And, to complement that, here is Wikipedia’s definition of wisdom:

Wisdom is a deep understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to apply perceptions, judgments and actions in keeping with this understanding.

As a comparison, here is a definition of smart from Dictionary.com:

having or showing quick intelligence or ready mental capability.

So, as you can see, being wise is more than just being smart. Being wise is about the ability to make the right assessment of a situation and, from there, to know what to do. It’s about making the right decision given the situation you are in.

From this understanding, it’s obvious that being wise is essential to live a full life. The wiser you are, the more likely you are to live a full life. Why? Because it helps you make the right decisions in life.

So the question is: how can we be wise?

Well, there could be other ways, but there is one that I believe is essential:

If you want to be wise, you must learn to see the big picture.

Yes, the big picture. It’s essential. Let me explain why.

Making the right decision depends on making the right assessment of a situation. But to make the right assessment, you need to understand the big picture. You need to understand the context of the situation and how everything fits in. Only then will you be able to assess the situation correctly and, from that, to make the right decision.

This, unfortunately, is not how many people live. Instead, they are so busy with the details of their lives that they can no longer see the big picture. As a result, they tend to just follow the crowd and do what everyone else is doing. Or they just follow their natural inclinations. Obviously, this is not a good way to live.

I’m not going to go into details in this post, but here are a few things you can do to see the big picture:

  1. Learn how the world works
    To see the big picture, you need to understand how the world works. This way you can see how your situation fits in the present world. Among others, it means learning about globalization, technologies, new trends, and the global economy.
  2. Learn history
    While the point above deals only with the present world, you also need to see how the present world fits within the larger context of history. This will give you a deeper insight of your situation. Moreover, there are many events in history that you can learn something from.
  3. Read biographies
    As I wrote in How to Learn About Life, a good way to learn about life is to learn from the lives of exceptional people. Through their biographies, you can see the big picture of their lives, along with their good and bad decisions. This will enrich your life and help you see your life in a new way.
  4. Check your life map and patterns
    Talking about the big picture, you should also see the big picture of your own life. One way to do this is to create a life map. It helps you see how your life has been throughout the years. This, in turn, will help you make strategic decision for your life. You should also find patterns in your life such as your passions and things you care about. It will help you figure out the right direction to go to.
  5. Have a regular “think time”
    While all the points above can help you see the big picture, it’s easy to lose sight of it because of one thing: busyness. Once you get busy with the details of your life, it’s easy to forget the big picture. So it’s important that you take time away from your busyness to connect again with the big picture. It can be in the form of reflection time, prayer, or whatever it is that works for you.

Do you have other ideas on being a wise person? Feel free to share them in the comments.

Photo by W Mustafeez


Categories: Learning, Thinking

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  • Anna

    Inspiring article! I liked that you gave practical ways to see the big picture.

  • http://www.lifeoptimizer.org/ Donald Latumahina

    Thanks, Anna!

  • http://www.DepantsingTheClones.com Gary Korisko

    Donald:

    Well-put. I enjoyed the post. It’s good advice for anyone to step back and see things from a broader angle. Something I constantly do my best to remind myself of.

    Thanks!

    • http://www.lifeoptimizer.org/ Donald Latumahina

      Yes, that’s also something I need to remind myself of from time to time. Thanks for stopping by, Gary!

  • Wang Zhenhai

    Thanks for sharing?I want to be a wise man.And half an hour of running every day really helps to have a regular “think time”.

    • http://www.lifeoptimizer.org/ Donald Latumahina

      That’s a good way to have a “think time”. You keep your body and your mind fit at the same time :)

  • http://www.shibin.info Bin

    Yes, indeed.
    I have 15 minutes for meditation every morning and night as my think time.

    • http://www.lifeoptimizer.org/ Donald Latumahina

      That’s twice a day. Nice!

  • http://optimizethyself.com John Paton

    Personally I think that increased perspective is what distinguishes a wise person from someone who is just smart. I think that your suggestion to study history and to look at biographies is spot on. Both of these things gives us the ability to see the word through new eyes.

    I wonder if wisdom is associated with a certain personality type? It seems to me that we often associate wisdom with a calm, slow-twitch demeanor. Is this a generalization that you would agree with?

    Thanks

    • http://www.lifeoptimizer.org/ Donald Latumahina

      I agree with you, increased perspective is key.

      I’m not sure about the association between wisdom and personality type. I personally think that there is no association, but I haven’t found enough facts to be conclusive.

  • http://www.ergsec.ca Jonathan Story

    I wonder if there is a danger in broadening one’s view indiscriminately. It seems to me that the wisest people we know — think the Dalai Lama as a starting point — are not the smartest or even particularly well-read. What they have, however, is the ability to distinguish the important from the not important.

    I wonder if those who are very well-read run the risk of losing sight of ethical touchstones. For example, historians will note that many of today’s great achievements were created because of conquest or corruption: Roman antiquities and law; English; the United States, etc. A historian might conclude from this that the ends justify the means — a concept that rankles most ethicists.

    • http://www.lifeoptimizer.org/ Donald Latumahina

      I haven’t really thought about wisdom from that perspective, but that’s a good point. Thanks for sharing it.

  • http://blog.sina.com.cn/happywellness W. Ying

    Yes. In order to be wise, the first step it to think. Obviously, the first thing to think is the validity of happiness.

  • http://www.GarthBox.com Garth Beyer

    I like the idea of creating a life map. I’d like to see a picture of one. Do I have a right to give you a challenge to draw one and write a post on it? I’d love to see/read it.

    Aside from that note, you made very good points. I have always viewed the way of becoming wise is through experience. I suppose, by reading biographies, you experience what that person has experiences. Interesting.

    -Garth E. Beyer

    • http://www.lifeoptimizer.org/ Donald Latumahina

      I have an example in the post I linked to above. It’s more like a list than a picture, but you are free to create your own format.

      Exactly. Reading biographies is a way to learn from the experiences of others.

  • Lavinia

    I will begin sharing your blog content as I find it truly interesting. Keep on!

  • vivep

    nice article.
    Being wise is better than being smart.

  • Augustine Akpan

    This site makes´me love technology and life i belive there is more to discover.

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