How To Honor 'Practical Wisdom' In Today's World

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What does practical wisdom mean in today’s world? Does the answer rest in your response to certain questions?

Are you a practical person? Or, do you consider yourself a wise person?

If you answered "yes," you’d think you could agree on what practical wisdom is with anyone who answered the same, wouldn’t you?

But, more often than not, that's not the case. Today’s polarization is so vast and so common, agreeing on what is practical, much less wise, seems impossible.

In the past, practical wisdom referred to taking the right action to reach the target goal.

Deeming an action to be "right" rested on an assumption of good judgment about the situation at hand.

So, practical wisdom was determined by what you value. In a less-complex world, a simple morality defined the values. But, today’s morality seems more complicated.

It allows values to range from caring for those who can’t help themselves to taking care of yourself before all others and everything in between.

It would seem that the understanding of what practical wisdom means today and how to find it has something missing.

Opposing camps claim different avenues to what appear to be conflicting goals.

Each camp holds on to the definition of their perspective as the way to practical wisdom and the best solution to the problem.

Could both be right? Or is one "right way" all there can be?

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How can there be two "right" ways?

In 2016, the Moral Foundations Theory was created. This offers six values believed to be common for all human beings. The assumption is that all humans are endowed with these six values.

However, there are multiple ways to organize these values and to have them interact. This theory stated that the way a human being orders these values in importance will create the face of their morality.

And that becomes the basis for their choices and decisions about what is right and wrong.

The prime values the theory espouses are care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority, and sanctity.

What follows is an exercise to test out the value of this perspective for yourself.

Put these six values in the order you deem them to be important for a few specific situations — like immigration, marriage, the federal government, climate change, wealth, dieting, parenting, etc.

Number the importance of each value for each situation.

Rate them with the most important value being number one to the least important being number six. If all six don’t apply, then don’t put them on the list for that situation or circumstance.

You most likely moved the values around in several of the situations you chose, if not all of them.

If you didn’t, it just means you’ve decided some values are more important to uphold even when they conflict with the values in another situation or circumstance.

If you approach practical wisdom in this way, it may offer some insight into how others can believe things so diametrically opposite to what you believe. So, your confusion around this may have a bit of a respite.

But what to do with these differences when they're so emotionally laden?

There's a war between opposing values.

Despite how much we understand human values and their influence on our sense of morality, we still keep missing one or two very salient points.

It's probably obvious to you, by now, that everything has an upside and a downside. You know that eventually, the upside will turn into its downside.

There's just no certainty when that movement will happen. But, you do know that life moves from youth to old age.

Roses bloom and then wilt. Each season has its easy days and its tough days.

There's an inherent rhythm in the flow of life from one thing to the next. After a while, it’s pretty obvious that a repeating pattern is occurring.

But, there's something that keeps getting missed when it comes to discerning the rhythm of cooperation between competing values.

Each seemingly opposing set of values carries a part of the solution to the problem. Each has some part of the much sought-after "truth" about the best way to handle the problem.

How come we keep missing that?

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What happens when beliefs graduate to the truth?

Being blind to this rhythm of cooperation between competing values is even more predominant today as beliefs seem to have been graduated to the status of truth — one of the most dangerous things that can occur.

Why? Because every value has both strengths and weaknesses. Neither one is complete without its balancing opposite.

If you claim a particular value as yours, the tendency is to only see its strengths. If you reject the opposing value, you will usually only see its weaknesses.

The solutions, or truths, being sought today can only rest in embracing the notion that seemingly opposing values are both valid and incomplete on their own.

Together, however, they provide the sought-after "right action."

Together, they offer clarity about how to respond and behave.

In addition, when opposing values are perceived as complementary, conflict is defused.

We keep missing this point, over and over. So how can two completely opposite values complement each other?

Here’s the answer: The weakness of each value is balanced out by the strengths of the opposing value.

We keep missing this very important point because the friction between the two opposing viewpoints or values feels very unpleasant. And humans don’t like unpleasant.

So, we avoid it or try to get rid of it. But that friction is actually not a bad thing. It’s not an antagonistic tension, despite how it feels in your body.

If you examine it closely, you’ll see that it is a creative dynamic tension. Yes, there’s an element of competition.

But, the co-existing element of cooperation smoothes it out. We seem to have lost access to this dynamic act of balancing.

And this loss may be more cataclysmic than imagined possible.

There's a way to gauge your own practical wisdom.

Want to be daring and test this out? Explore what happens to your own sense of practical wisdom when you pick an area where you feel disturbed by what’s happening.

It could be politics, racial or economic inequality, the appointment of the next Supreme Court justice, problems at home, or the pandemic.

It doesn’t matter what it is. Just something that upsets you and gets you all fired up about doing things the "right way."

Write down your own point of view or value. Then, write down the opposite point of view or value you feel is not right. Identify the weaknesses of your own point of view.

Then, see if you can identify the strengths of the opposing point of view you’re against.

Doing this simple inquiry opens the door to safeguarding the emergence of cooperation and balance. Give it a try.

May you and your loved ones stay safe and healthy, with an eye for bringing yourself back to balance as often as you can.

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Ragini Michaels is an author, hypnotherapist, mentor, coach, and International Trainer of Unconscious Communications and Modeling Skills, specializing in Behavioral Change. For more information, visit her website.

This article was originally published at Reprinted with permission from the author.