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Expand Your Capacity for Wisdom

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

In Thrive, Arianna Huffington writes that wisdom is a deeper awareness and connectivity that “frees us from the narrow reality we feel trapped in.”

In one of Psychology Today’s most popular blog posts, Adam Grant, author of Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, defines wisdom as an ability to “embrace nuance and multiple perspectives.”

I like to think of wisdom as moving from black and white into color.

What the three of us all agree on is that wisdom requires more than just a superficial awareness of what is going on around you. To expand your capacity for wisdom, I believe it is important to “get off the field and into the stands.”

Think about how you experience a game as a player versus as a spectator. As a player, you are focused on what is in front of you and immediately important. As a spectator, you are taking in what is happening on the whole field. With that wider perspective, you can see the patterns in the movements of the players and better plan the next move.

Most of our lives are spent “in the fields.” We only see what’s immediately in front of us and our perspective is narrow and focused. Alternatively, “going into the stands” helps you to foster new, more insightful connections with the situation you find yourself in. From an elevated perspective, new patterns and opportunities emerge that could lead to greater success. You are better able to see the nuances in your situation and act on the positive and possible—the mark of wisdom and of truly effective leadership.

So the next time you are frustrated and feeling constrained by your reality, take a moment to get off the field and into the stands. Mentally extract yourself from your emotions to observe the situational dynamics from a different, wider perspective.

Ask yourself: What is really going on here? What am I looking at? What am I seeing? What am I doing? How are others behaving?



Dr. Kathy Cramer

Kathryn D. Cramer, PH.D.
Founder and Managing Partner, The Cramer Institute