We’ve reached the end of our conversation about wisdom, particularly as it relates to the pursuit of health and wealth. Once again, in a final recap of our three-part series on how to be healthy, wealthy, and wise, I have assembled here our Top Ten Wisdom Pathways. Properly followed, these pathways can assist anyone to reach optimal well-being.
My initial research and writing on how to be “healthy, wealthy, and wise” is complete. In early March, I finished our work on health with a summary of the Top Ten Wellness Pathways. Of course they started with desire. If you don’t want to be healthy (or wealthy or wise), you never will be. The Pathways then went on to cover all the health essentials, including nutrition, hydration, exercise, recovery, rest, relaxation, hygiene, and happiness.
From health we turned our attention to wealth, which proved to be a more challenging topic. Unlike health, which can be successfully pursued as an end in itself, wealth comes only to those whose ambition in life is larger and more purposeful than to “die with the most toys.” When more than enough money is the object of the game, there’s no way to win. The pursuit of more is a self-defeating quest.
This caveat notwithstanding, there’s no virtue in being financially uneducated. Optimum financial well-being • my definition of wealth • included consideration of consumption, savings, debt, work, networks, business ventures, investments, and philanthropy. Failing to plan in these arenas, as in most areas of life, is planning to fail. The Top Ten Wealth Pathways, summarized in mid-June, hopefully made financial planning less intimidating and more enjoyable.
Since that time, we have focused on wisdom or simply “optimum well-being.” Henry David Thoreau once said, “It is the characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.” Unfortunately, when it comes to health and wealth, many people operate from a position of desperation. They wait until things get so far gone and so out of control that they flail around and try just about anything, often making matters worse rather than better.
But this is not the way of wisdom. Wisdom proceeds on the basis of knowing and being. It involves learning and releasing things until life comes together in a beautiful, organized whole. Here are the Top Ten Wisdom Pathways that we considered, along with ten distinctions that illustrate and move us forward on the path:
1. Learn What. Distinction: Proficiency vs. Deficiency. This may well be the most obvious of the Pathways, but may also be the most often the neglected. If we want to be healthy, then we need to learn and master the body of knowledge that relates to health. The same holds true for wealth. How can we get where we want to go, if we don’t know what it takes to get there? Learning the “what” of health and wealth leaves us proficient, rather than deficient, in two critical areas of life. Read the literature. Go to school. Attend workshops. Get a coach. Do whatever it takes, but master the subject if you hope to move forward.
2. Learn How. Distinction: Competence vs. Impotence. If “learning what” represents the body of knowledge in a particular field of interest, then “learning how” represents body knowledge. Head learning is not enough. Body learning is what enables us to move from knowledge to mastery. Engineering schools are discovering that many students, in the age of virtual reality, lack body knowledge. They have a virtual view of how things work from the inside out, but they lack the experience that enables them to take that knowledge and actually build things in the real world. So too with health and wealth. If we want to be competent, rather than impotent, then we experiment and play with the body of knowledge until it gets inside our skin and becomes second-nature.
3. Learn When. Distinction: Kairos vs. Chronos. When people say they would rather be lucky than good, they are illustrating the ancient Greek distinction between two kinds of time. Chronos, from which comes the English word and “chronological,” refers to the steady of passage of time as measured by clocks and other time pieces. In this kind of time, we better be good. But there is another kind of time, which the Greeks called “kairos” and which is captured by the English words “opportunity,” “critical moment,” and “season.” What may appear to others as luck, may actually be learning to notice when the time is right. Instead of being “too late,” luck comes in “the nick of time.” That’s kairos. Keeping just the right amount of tension on the line is the secret to catching more than just fish. It’s the secret to being healthy, wealthy, and wise as well.
4. Learn Enough. Distinction: Eager vs. Meager. Lest we find the discussion of learning what, when, and how to be overwhelming, wisdom reminds us that we don’t need to learn the whole body of knowledge before we take action and start moving down the path. On the contrary, taking action on the basis of what we know now is an essential part of learning and a prerequisite to mastery. Do you feel as though your knowledge is too meager and sparse? Then chances are you suffer from a tentativeness that limits and restricts both your action and creativity. Do you feel as though you know enough to get going? Then chances are you feel eager to take action and learn more. The process of life-long learning is exciting because although we can never know it all, we can always know enough.
5. Release Entitlement. Distinction: Endowment vs. Achievement. “The Declaration of Independence of the thirteen united States of America” suggests not that people have achieved, but rather that people are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” and “that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” The distinction here is subtle but important. Endowments are gifts to be enjoyed, cared for, and defended. Achievements are deeds to be asserted, claimed, and demanded. The former leads to an attitude of gratitude, that we would be so blessed as to receive such gifts. The latter leads to an attitude of entitlement, as though the world owes us a living because of our great accomplishments. But this is not the way of wisdom. Release entitlement. Be grateful. Learn to accept and enjoy the gifts of life, whether large or small.
6. Release Anger. Distinction: Outrage vs. Enrage. To quote an ancient verse, it’s possible “to be angry, but to sin not.” The secret lies in understanding the distinction between “outrage” and “enrage.” The former arises in response to social injustice, and it leads to productive action. The latter arises in response to selfish indulgence, and it leads unproductive whining. It also leads to Type A Behavior with all of its negative health and wealth consequences. Do you suffer from low self-esteem, a chronic sense of time-urgency, and free-floating hostility? Then you may be headed for a heart attack or a pink slip. Rage is no more attractive at the age of 30 than at the age of 3, but it is less developmentally appropriate. Fortunately, one can learn to release this anger and to be gracious under fire. That is the better part of wisdom.
7. Release Fear. Distinction: Comprehension vs. Apprehension. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt told the nation on March 4, 1933 that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself,” he was speaking of “apprehension” • that “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” Even though the Great Depression was in full swing, Roosevelt chose to speak from the big-picture comprehension that “our distress comes from no failure of substance,” that “nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it,” that “happiness still lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort,” and that “our true destiny is still to minister to ourselves and others.” Wisdom was speaking through Roosevelt that day. Apart from times of clear and present danger, fear does not help us move forward and keeps us from being generous. Better to trust in the invisible hand of the Great One.
8. Release Impatience. Distinction: Persistence vs. Insistence. I received more reader replies to this distinction than to any other of the Wisdom Pathways. Persistence is the key to all significant accomplishments. “Hang in there!” is the motto of all successful people. Even lucky people have been shown to hang in there longer than unlucky people. Perhaps that’s why they’re lucky. They wait long enough for their luck to turn around. Unfortunately, many people confuse “persistence” with “insistence.” While “persistence” is “holding firm to a purpose, state, or undertaking despite obstacles, warnings, or setbacks,” “insistence” refers to “asserting or demanding something vehemently.” In other words, while “persistence” has to do with determination, “insistence” has to do with demandingness. Are you impatient, demanding, and critical? Wisdom counsels a kinder, gentler way of life if we want to be healthy, wealthy, and wise.
9. Release Apathy. Distinction: Empathy vs. Apathy. Unfortunately, in the pursuit health and wealth many people become quite self-centered and self-absorbed. Even health can become a problem if it is pursued without regard to others. I have known more than one marriage to end when one person lost a lot of weight, became addicted to exercise, and got on a health kick. Wealth, too, can obviously be a problem. We think about our gain without regard to the gains and losses of others. This cutthroat way of going through life is neither wise nor productive. In a so-called dog-eat-dog world, it may seem that looking out for number one is the best way to get ahead. But in reality, looking out for one and all is the only way to go. Empathy means that we are filled with feeling, interest, passion, and caring for life. Apathy is the exact opposite. It literally means caring less about life. Don’t be that way! Instead, distinguish yourself with love.
10. Release Aimlessness. Distinction: Vocation vs. Vacation. Here we saved the best for last. If we want to be healthy, wealthy, and wise, then we need operate from a position of knowing who we are and what we have to contribute to the world. We need a sense of purpose that goes beyond our own private health, wealth, and wisdom. We need a sense of purpose that’s large enough to encompass the very mystery of life itself. The distinction between a “vocation” and a “vacation” is instructive. When we go on vacation we empty ourselves of our every day concerns and leave (or at least try to leave) everything else behind. “It means no worries!” as Timon and Pumba sing in The Lion King. That’s what vacations are for, and I can enjoy a good vacation as much as anyone. But that’s no way to go through life. To be successful and fulfilled we need a “vocation,” a calling, or a sense of purpose. We need something compelling than can fill our lives with meaning and direction. Releasing aimlessness may be the most important pathway we can follow, both for our own well-being and for the well-being of the world.
Coaching Inquiries: Are you healthy, wealthy, and wise? Are you on the way? What steps can you take this week to move forward in the right direction?
LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
I enjoyed your Provision on the topic of purpose, but I didn’t get much direction on how to find it. (Ed. Note: You could always retain a LifeTrek coach, of course, but you could also work your way through the recommended book of the week, Answering Your Call. It contains excellent material and exercises.)
I’m sending you my new e-mail address so that that I don’t miss any Provisions. I really enjoy them. (Ed. Note: Thanks, I will take care of this, but readers take note: you can automatically manage your own subscription by sending any email to Subscribe@LifeTrekCoaching.com (to subscribe) or to Unsubscribe@LifeTrekCoaching.com (to unsubscribe) or by using our online subscription mangement page (Click).
I just wanted to thank you for your weekly Provisions. I have to say that talking about nutrient is one key element that I love to hear people talk about. Thanks.
Sometimes people wake up in the morning with “the malaise of aimlessness and despair” because they know their purpose and are more than a little weary from the combat required to work toward its accomplishment! The world isn’t always welcoming to one’s purpose, you know, especially if it’s not part of the routine surface materialistic consumer mainstream! And especially if one doesn’t “fit in.” (Ed. Note. In my experience, the struggle to persistent in one’s purpose does not contribute to “the malaise of aimlessness and despair,” although it can be quite challenging and even intimidating. Thanks for the note.)
My husband and I really enjoy your weekly Provisions. They are very thought provoking. In fact, I will use one of them as my subject at our next faith at work meeting at my house, next week. Thanks!
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy. Bob Tschannen-Moran
LifeTrek Coaching International
121 Will Scarlet Lane
Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043