Perspective and Wisdom

This is usually the ultimate goal of Wisdom and Knowledge. Many people may find the search for knowledge as a fulfilling goal by itself—and they should—but without perspective and wisdom, one's knowledge remains a mere series of data and facts. Perspective and wisdom is required to use that new knowledge to improve your life (and the lives of those around you).

As mentioned earlier, wisdom is the insight to act upon your knowledge in a way that improves your life. In fact, it seems everyone knows at least one person that is very bright and smart, but continues to make terrible decisions throughout life. Wisdom prevents this fate from happening to you (if it hasn't already). Perspective is the ability to see things clearly outside of your own personal bias, or to see outside of yourself to put it in another way. Without perspective, your wisdom will be forever tainted and never complete.

Consider this example of perspective: one woman really wants an expensive, new HD TV. She may feel a buzz of excitement, wanting this new toy more than anything else on her plate at the moment, but if this same individual is able to stop and look outside of her current emotions, she might be able to also make a decision based on income, what's really important in the long run, and how this decision might affect a spouse or other loved ones (of course, the TV might still be a viable decision). For a more inter-personal example, imagine that one man is very angry with another for breaking a promise. Now, this angry individual might feel justified to break off the friendship immediately in his rush of rage, or to return harm back to the offender—and his anger is probably justified. Yet, if this angry man had perspective, he might recogize the temptations or difficulty the offender encountered when it came time to keep the promise, or maybe realize that he too had broken promises before—also with the best of intentions. Perhaps he will see that the relationship is more important that his hurt feelings or the offence that was committed. As you can see, perspective is an important part of the virtue of temperance.

Now, I don't mean to imply that wisdom will always teach you to keep every friendship. There will be times you want to rush to forgive someone due to an emotional attachment. If you have the ability to look outside yourself, however, you might realize that this friend or partner has hurt you over and over again and has little control over the behavior that he or she is swearing off forever. Perspective can teach you that its time to leave an abusive relationship or to distance yourself from a friendship. Note that I am not advocating bitter feelings! You can still forgive those whom you decide to move away from. If you need to be bitter in order to go through with a separation, then you need to look at improving your inner-strength!

Working on your perspective and wisdom could be one of the most important steps you will take, so take it very seriously. Here are some activities that might help you.


  • Experience and Enjoy other Viewpoints: This activity has been part of other traits within the Wisdom and Knowledge category, but this is important here to. Enjoy media and art from people who think differently from you. Take the time to have conversations with friends and acquaintances (when appropriate) about their own views. When you are arguing, take the time to listen to the point the other is trying to make—and don't listen only to construct a counter-argument, try to empathize. Some people are very uncomfortable with hearing other opinions, but how can you look outside yourself if you edit the world around you (and attempt to edit your friends and family) to your own worldview?
  • Find Good Role Models: This can be dangerous, because we imperfect beings often choose the wrong ones, but try to find role models that exemplify good wisdom. Also try to find more than one, quite a few more if possible. Try to find some outside of your own culture-group or from another way of life altogether (like an influential Eastern person if you're from Western society). Read less biased biographies that point out their failings as well as their strengths—you can learn from their mistakes as well as your own. If you have better role models of wisdom, you will likely become wiser.
  • Start Writing a Personal Journal: Just record your personal thoughts and experiences. Try to use this as an opportunity to see things from outside your own perspective too, and also as an exercise try to find the motivations and viewpoints of those you interact with throughout the day.
  • Count Backwards, Get Away, etc.: If you are about to act in the moment of your anger or other strong emotions, make use habits that will help calm your thoughts. You can count backwards from twenty or just get away until you calm down, for example, but find out what works for you. Analyze the problem and think about what the consequences your self-proposed actions will have on yourself and those around you, and try to see things in other angles other than your own. Practice makes sorta-perfect!
  • Look at the Other Value Systems on this Site: You may not want to start a regimen on some of them, but just reading about them is a quick way to get different perspectives about how to look at life and how to live it.
  • Work on your Humanity, Temperance, and Open-Mindedness: This Virtues will help you if you are having difficulty.

Your Record

Every time you act out solely on your emotions or anger, consider this a "fault". If you make a bad decision that could have been avoided through better reflection, this is a fault. When you focus on this trait, make personal goals based on the activities above or your own needs, and when you fail to meet the goal mark yourself as at fault.


The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is a knowledge of our own ignorance.

Benjamin Franklin

To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.

Marilyn vos Savant

Being happy doesn't mean that everything is perfect. It means that you've decided to look beyond the imperfections.


Golden Mean


Recommended Reading

The Essential Crazy Wisdom — by Wes Nisker

This is a more surface examination of "crazy" wisdom, or wisdom from people ahead of their time. It is a good starting point for inspiration.

A Handbook of Wisdom: Psychological Perspectives — edited by Robert Sternberg, Jennifer Jordan

It's a textbook and not necessarily best for all people, but a thorough account of different perspectives on wisdom from the past and present, with ideas about its future.

The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types — by Don Richard Riso, Russ Hudson

This book has interesting perspectives on different types of personalities, their most likely strengths and foibles, and how the interact with one another. Good for an attempt to make an unbiased study of yourself, and to get a better idea of what decisions will be best for you.

General Rules

Practice virtues daily so that they become ‘habits of the heart’.

Don‘t strive for perfection.

Never give up! Remember: even the greats have off days.

Rely on your intuition.

Avoid extremes. Strive to achieve the golden mean between excess and deficiency of a virtue.

Have fun and enjoy the program with humor and optimism.

Business, more than any other occupation, is a continual dealing with the future; it is a continual calculation, an instinctive exercise in foresight. Henry R. Luce