Ring in the New Year's Resolution

I’m hitting the one-year mark on the start of my blogs in just a few days. I realized that what I wrote last January is just as applicable for 2010 as it was for 2009 or any year for that matter. Need a New Year’s Resolution that will build into your future for the better? Try this one…(resolution idea is near the end).

We are entering a new year. A new 365 days to make choices. In light of the fact that every decision we make has both an immediate and long-term consequence to our lives, it seems wise to invest some time in figuring out the foundation for making wise choices.

Thing is, oftentimes it takes extra time and energy to think through our actions, reflect on consequences, choose a wise direction and then stick with it. However, I, for one, do not want to wake up one day and think:
“If only I’d done…” or
“That was a bad decision”
Or even “I have no idea how to make this decision with confidence”

Personally, I’d like to live a life free of regret and to avoid irreparable damage to both myself and/or others. There’s only 1 way to make that a reality and that’s by figuring out HOW to make wise choices...well...and then making them.

So, what is a wise choice? For that matter, what exactly is wisdom?

In order to begin with the end in mind, I had to ask myself...”Do I even have a working definition of wisdom that is consistent and timeless and that I apply with confidence to all the different areas of my life?” That, naturally, is step 1.

Let’s look at several different published definitions of wisdom (followed by some questions for reflection).


1 - FIRST: The current Merriam-Webster dictionary:
wis·dom Pronunciation: \ˈwiz-dəm\
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English wīsdōm, from wīs wise
Date: before 12th century
1 a: accumulated philosophic or scientific learning : knowledge b: ability to discern inner qualities and relationships : insight c: good sense : judgment d: generally accepted belief wisdom among many historians — Robert Darnton>
2: a wise attitude, belief, or course of action
3: the teachings of the ancient wise men

    The thing I find amusing here is definition #3, “teachings of the ancient wise men.” Well who exactly are these people? Am I just supposed to know that? And what did they think that make them an ancient wise guy? I imagine they didn’t just make it up and it’s not just cause they’re old surely. So, where did they get this timeless information that is considered wisdom?

    2 - SECOND - Wikipedia definition
    is knowledge, understanding, experience, discretion, and intuitive understanding, along with a capacity to apply these qualities well towards finding solutions to problems. It is the judicious and purposeful application of knowledge that is valued in society. To some extent the terms wisdom and intelligence have similar and overlapping meanings. The status of wisdom or prudence as a virtue is recognized in cultural, philosophical and religious sources.
      So, my question here is: Since different societies on the whole seem to uphold different values, does a particular society’s current values really dictate wisdom? An extreme example: Can I be considered wise in the US but unwise in, say, Italy, if I hopped on a plane and traveled there, since it’s a different society with a unique set of cultural values? That seems silly and obvious. How do we find a consistent global standard for wisdom?

      Wisdom should be consistent and timeless and, if it’s the “ancient” wise guys we’re supposed to be looking at anyway (according to our dictionary) then, current society’s values shouldn’t necessarily dictate the standard. Even our dictionaries encourage us to look backwards in time for the standard.

      3 - THIRD: the 1913 version of the Webster dictionary
      The quality of being wise; knowledge, and the capacity to make due use of it; knowledge of the best ends and the best means; discernment and judgment; discretion; sagacity; skill; dexterity.
      We speak also not in wise words of man's wisdom, but in the doctrine of the spirit.
      - Wyclif (1 Cor. ii. 13).
      Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.
      - Job xxviii. 28.
      It is hoped that our rulers will act with dignity and wisdom that they will yield everything to reason, and refuse everything to force.
      - Ames.
      Common sense in an uncommon degree is what the world calls wisdom.
      - Coleridge

      2. The results of wise judgments; scientific or practical truth; acquired knowledge; erudition.
      Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.
      - Acts vii. 22.
      Wisdom Tooth: the last, or back, tooth of the full set on each half of each jaw in man; - familiarly so called, because appearing comparatively late, after the person may be supposed to have arrived at the age of wisdom. See the Note under Tooth, 1
        Did you know the 1913 version of the dictionary incorporated Bible references as source text? That was news to me. This definition is closer to giving steps on HOW to come up with something wise…determining the best ends and means. This definition recognizes that wisdom lies in the application of knowledge and discernment, not necessarily just the accumulation of it.


        4 - FOURTH – “Widsom Literature” - definition from Wikipedia
        Wisdom literature
        is the genre of literature common in the Ancient Near East. This genre is characterized by sayings of wisdom intended to teach about divinity and about virtue. The key principle of wisdom literature is that whilst techniques of traditional story-telling are used, books also presume to offer insight and wisdom about nature and reality. The most famous examples of wisdom literature are found in the Bible. [1]
          Now, wisdom is linked to divinity and virtue and some famous sources are cited, including (on the website) the book of Proverbs from the Bible. Why not check it out?

          I wonder what the book of Proverbs has to say about itself?

          Proverbs 1:
          1 ¶ The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;
          2 To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding;
          3 To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; 4 To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.
          5 A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:
          6 To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.

          Proverbs says it can give instruction regarding wisdom, understanding, discretion, equity, justice...all things I think we would all like to have.

          New Year’s Resolution Idea:
          Spend some time in 2010 investing in your future decisions by examining a famous source of wisdom. The book of Proverbs has 31 chapters. Since there’s usually about 31 days per month, commit to reading 1 chapter a day for the next 12 months (starting over at chapter 1 at the first of each month). That’s less than 5 minutes a day to invest in learning and applying timeless and useful life principles.

          Timeless, applicable, functional and effective are all things you should find in association with true wisdom....not necessarily Wikipedia’s incomplete definition.

          Besides...it’s not really fair to discard something unless you’ve fully examined (and tried to apply) it.

          As usual, feel free to drop me an e-mail with questions or comments….

          Happy New Year! Hope it’s the best one yet!