A while ago, an idea popped into my head to do a public talk. Almost instantly, thoughts crowded in to rubbish it. They were soothing, matter of fact and as reassuring as the snake in the Jungle Book. ‘What if no one comesssss, Clare? You could make a fool out of yoursssssself….’ And this all sounded very wise, very sensible. Let’s forget that crazy idea and stick with the wisssssdom that says stay safe.
Which do you listen to?
Do you listen to the familiar, ultra-reasonable, ‘this is how it is’ voice in your head that stops you from making yourself vulnerable to failure or mockery? It seems to be working hard for our security, and our protection and so this sensible sounding voice can often seem like purest ‘wisssssdom’.
Or do you listen to the idea that came out of the blue, that will take you into the unknown, that comes with no guaranteed outcome… Sometimes when all we want to do is to shrink back and be safe, following this idea doesn’t seem so wise.
And this persuasive voice of ‘wisssssdom’ does have our best interests at heart in its own way. It is there to keep our fragile identity intact and to reinforce our view of the world so that we can believe we have a handle on it all, so that we can feel safe and secure.
This can easily sound like Wisdom. But it is not. It is ultimately limiting, illusory and untrue.
Because, when we believe and obey that reassuring voice of wisssssdom that tells us we will mess up, that people will mock us, that we don’t have what it takes, the inevitable happens. We stop growing and expanding. We get stressed by the stressful thoughts. We find ourself in conflict with the people we believe are out to get us. We become stagnant and stuck in a cage of our own creation.
When we don’t pay this any attention, life takes on a whole other direction. We act on the insight and the fresh ideas and with no belief in the insecure thoughts to hold us back, we expand, excel and allow Wisdom to change the world.
Martin Luther King said of his nomination to lead the bus boycott, “It happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to think it through. It is probably that if I had I would have declined the nomination.’ Nicolaus Copernicus feared rejection and ridicule to such an extent that he refused to publish his discovery that the earth revolves around the sun for 26 years. Steve Wozniak initially rejected the investment offer to start up Apple as it came with the requirement he had to leave Hewlett Packard, ‘Because I was just afraid’.
Adam Grant who describes these examples in his book Originals, says, “They feel the same fear, the same doubt, as the rest of us. What sets them apart is that they take action anyway.”
It is the ultimate job of a coach to help clients distinguish between the apparent keeps-me-secure ‘wisssssdom’ on the one side and the bolt-from-the-unknown ‘Wisdom’ on the other.
A clear sign of ‘wisssssdom’ is that it seems realistic. It seems to be based on the ‘truth’ of how the world is, how we are, how other people are. And we know in our hearts this cannot be the truth. It just doesn’t make sense to base our life on thoughts that change from one moment to the next. When it comes to the enormity of the world and of ourselves and of what is possible or not possible, we can never, in the truest scheme of things, be ‘right’.
The idea that suddenly appears in us, that surprises us, that we know in that moment makes sense. That is Wisdom. And we can know it makes sense without for one minute thinking that it is necessarily ‘true’ or ‘real’. So we simply use it as our guide and we stay curious. We stop coming from the old, fixed patterns and instead are propelled into a new reality where everything is up for grabs.
Wisdom is: ‘in this moment, this is occurring to me to do… I don’t know what people will make of it… I don’t know for sure how it will turn out… But I’m going to do everything I can to make it awesome.’ This is Wisdom whether we are a CEO, a brain surgeon, a dancer, a PA or an athlete.
A prompt to experience, to love, to serve, to bring the best of everything we have, to create, to expand, to put ourselves in the arena regardless of what will happen, regardless of what other people will say or think, regardless of whether it is ‘right’?
Now we are on to something.