How do we acquire wisdom? Most often we acquire it from others who have learned it from their hard experiences in life or from the lessons we learn through our own hard experiences. But that doesn't mean that hardship is the only way to acquire wisdom. We all have more wisdom within us than we realize, and all we need to do is learn how to tap it.
Wisdom is something that goes beyond knowledge, beyond judgments about right and wrong, and beyond what is provable. Science tells us what is real. Laws tell us what to do and not do. Wisdom is the perspective that tells us what is right under complex and uncertain circumstances. Breaking the speed limit might be physically dangerous and legally wrong, yet absolutely the wise thing to do when we can’t wait for an ambulance to get a loved one to the hospital in time.
Defining wisdom isn’t easy. It's simply the result of wise thinking. So what's more important than acquiring wisdom is acquiring the ability to think wisely. So what is the wise way to think? Holistically.
Holistic thinking is multidimensional. It integrates different sources of information that come from different perspectives. Wisdom results from the integration of reason, emotion, and intuition coming to you from your head, your heart, and your gut. When you learn to integrate these unique sources of awareness, your perspective will expand to see the bigger picture – not just the trees on the ground but the whole forest from above. The more complete your perspective is, the wiser your decisions will be.
Reason, emotion, and intuition are processed in different regions of the brain, and these regions do not always communicate or agree with one another. Many people make decisions based on reason alone without reflecting on emotional or intuitive signals. Others follow the signals from their hearts or their guts without exposing them to the light of reason. Making decisions based on the head, heart, or gut alone can be unwise and regrettable. In hindsight we my kick ourselves for not "listening" to our head, heart, or gut before making a decision.
Imagine a family with two parents who offer different kinds of care to their children. One parent acquires information, organizes, analyzes, and creates rules to guide their children’s behavior. The other parent relies on empathy, intuition, understanding, and compassion to meet the emotional needs of their children. How much their children will benefit from their different influences will depend on whether their parents cooperate to integrate those influences or compete over which are best. The children need both of their parents’ influences to mature in healthy ways. In other words, the wisest way to raise children is with an integration of reason, emotion, and intuition. This is just one example of how wisdom is uniquely created by integrating limited perspectives into a holistic perspective.
Because we process different types of information in different parts of our brains, integrating their separate perspectives into a more holistic perspective requires some internal communication (aka, reflective thinking). One of the best ways this can be done is by having the left hemisphere of your brain (the reasoning side) communicate with the right hemisphere of your brain (the emotional, sensing, intuitive side). The most effective way I've found for doing this is through the use of two-handed writing, which has been the source of my own accumulation of wisdom for more than 30 years (see The Amazing Benefits of Two-Handed Writing)
Wisdom generated by holistic thinking does not mean that you won’t make mistakes or have regrets about your decisions (though there will be fewer of both). But when your head, heart, and gut make decisions together like unified parents, your mistakes will be less regrettable because they'll be the result of a united mindset instead of a divided one.
Wisdom is ultimately about identifying the choices that make us more whole, and wholeness results from learning how to integrate parts that are different from one another. Unified parenting is wiser than divided parenting because children become more whole when the differences between their parents can be internalized without conflict. This is how children learn to integrate these different parts within themselves. We are all wiser when our heads, hearts, and guts work together as a whole rather than in competition with one another.