Wisdom: Foundation for Optimal Performance
by George Pitagorsky
Optimal performance is gracefully, happily and effectively achieving multiple, often conflicting, goals and objectives, continuously, as everything changes.
Wisdom is an ingredient; some say the essential ingredient, in optimal performance.
Wisdom is many things to many people but in the end all agree that it is the absence of ignorance. Wisdom dispels ignorance, cutting the roots of the problems ignorance causes.
For example, one who has wisdom is not likely to engage in emotionally fueled conflicts, and is likely to be compassionate, competent and happy.
What is wisdom?
Wisdom is not easily defined. Socrates believed that one is wise because he knows when he is not wise. He was said to neither claim to know when he did not know nor claim to have wisdom when he did not have wisdom.
Various sources define wisdom as having experience, knowledge, and good judgment and to apply them to achieve sound actions or decisions. Very practical.
Wisdom is seeing things as they are and acting prudently and effectively.
Thanissaro Bhikku says "For all the subtlety of his teachings, the Buddha had a simple test for measuring wisdom. You're wise, he said, to the extent that you can get yourself to do things you don't like doing but know will result in happiness, and to refrain from things you like doing but know will result in pain and harm."
Others say wisdom is to know things as they are - impermanent, imperfect and without any permanent existence. Wisdom sees everything as process.
Nisgadarta Maharaj's says "Love says 'I am everything', wisdom says 'I am nothing', between the two my life flows".
Wisdom is displayed as compassionate action, self-understanding, competence, adaptability and emotional stability.
Not everyone who is smart is wise.
Belief, Faith, Blind Belief, Confidence and Conviction
Belief is a state of mind of confidence or conviction that some idea is true or not true; some person is worthy or unworthy, some event took place in a particular way or not.
Faith is belief, especially with strong conviction, often associated with a system of religious beliefs.
Blind belief is "belief without true understanding, perception or discrimination." It is being convinced without testing and questioning. It is the conviction that something is true without critical examination.
The difference between confidence and conviction is an important one. Confidence leaves a belief open to and is a foundation for scrutiny.
Conviction leaves no room for appeal.
When blind belief reigns, there is no room for logical dialogue or reflection. Communication is distorted. Distorted communication leads to discord and discord leads to unskillful, ineffective behavior.
Blind belief leads to distrust and denial of any experience that threatens the belief. Blind believers reject fact based argument, and exhibit antipathy towards non-believers. There is no dialogue. Debate is futile. Minds are closed. Righteousness becomes aggression.
Many who proudly believe blindly, damn nonbelievers to hell, stone them, crucify them or burn them at the stake; beat them down and blow them up.
Blind believers ignore or deny facts and create stories to support their belief. They do not leave open the possibility that the basic premise of their argument or belief is inaccurate. That the stories are not true is, of course, also a belief.
Beliefs, in and of themselves, are nothing more than thoughts. One can give them great power or not. Knowing that behavior is rooted in the way one thinks, one's mental models, enables objectivity and the questioning that leads to wisdom.
Ignorance is not recognizing one's beliefs as beliefs, taking them as givens, as part of the fabric of existence, like the air or gravity.
What to do?
What can one do to cultivate wisdom and the action that arises from it?
Start by accepting the fact that your behavior is driven by your mental models, your beliefs about how a system operates. Beliefs are thoughts conditioned over time. Watch your thoughts and let the ones you hold onto spring from compassion, loving kindness, sympathetic joy and equanimity.
Cultivate a model that promotes ever increasing wisdom. A model that includes the idea that you can change the way you think, that you and everything around you is in process, continuously changing, that you are part of a greater whole and that what you say and do effects that whole.
Question everything, including your most cherished beliefs because unless you do you are operating in the dark. See who you are when you are no longer identified with your beliefs.
See for yourself how wisdom leads to optimal performance.
© 2012 Pitagorsky Consulting