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  • Catherine Hodgson


“WISDOM – Seeing Below the Surface and Beyond the Obvious”. Quote seen on

a video presentation by Conscious Leadership coach, Eric Kaufmann

I never thought of myself as being wise. I always associated it with being old and I still don’t feel old enough to be considered wise. However, when I was 45 years old, a fellow CEO in a business organisation referred to me as ‘The Wise Old Owl’. I took offense as one can imagine! Probably not for the ‘wise’ part, but for the ‘old’ part. However, over the next few months, as we had our monthly meetings of eight of us CEO’s, I got used to being called ‘The Wise Old Owl’ and really didn’t mind at all.

So what makes one wise? Why did this colleague of mine, 10 years my junior, refer to me as wise? Looking back now, I can come to some conclusions which are not only based on one having more experience than another person, but also behaviours that make one wise.

Being curious. To be selfless, non-judgmental and in particular curious helps us to be wiser. We are not trying to put our own beliefs, prejudices, feelings and judgements on others. To be curious is to be genuinely interested in what the other person is feeling and saying. We ask questions that are open-ended, non-directional and not leading. In my situation with my colleague who called me wise, I can think back to our meetings and can only presume that it may have felt different for him to have someone who was genuinely curious in a meeting. When we come from a position of curiosity, we can see things differently, we are more open to possibilities and we provide space for the other person to see things more deeply or from a different perspective.

Awareness. Awareness of oneself and others. Being wise means opening our own awareness and creating space for others to become more aware as well. Our energy that we bring to the situation, our memories, prejudices, experiences and learnings all add to how we show up to others. Being aware of our purpose, our values and the influence it has on our decisions, makes us a wiser person. By bringing our awareness to a conversation or situation, we are more open and non-judgemental of others. We can also see a clearer picture, helping another person to become more aware of a situation they may be facing. We are also more open to seeing patterns and behaviours that others may not be able to see. We are able to show others some of their blind spots. We become more accepting of others and the present situation, open to ‘what is’ rather than ‘what should be’.

How do we become more aware of ourselves and our own behaviours before helping others do the same? What do we need to do to create awareness? By being present. To be more aware is to be more present. Alan Seale, founder of Transformational Presence, says “Seeing beyond the obvious, sensing a deeper meaning, recognizing emerging patterns, and intuiting the bigger picture are all part of a set of skills needed to be present.”

Meditation can help with creating more mindfulness and presence. I started meditating many years ago, but only over the last couple of years has it become a more regular ritual. By creating a morning ritual, as I have, of meditating and then journaling first thing when I wake up, I find that I am more present, at ease, mindful, more organised and a lot less stressed. I know it’s quite a thing to build into one’s day, but the benefits far outweigh the time you could be doing other things. If I’m busy, a 10 minute meditation can do just as much good as a 30 minute one. Just ensure it is done regularly – let it become your sacred ritual to greater awareness and more wisdom.

Purpose and Aspirations. Wise people know their ‘Why’ – they know their purpose and they have clear aspirations. They look at the bigger picture, not just focussing on goals which can be smaller and more focussed. By looking at your aspirations first you can, like Eric Kaufman says, “see below the surface and beyond the obvious”. The word aspiration has its origin in the Latin word ‘aspiratio’ which means to breathe/ action of breathing into. If I ask you what your aspirations are, it opens up your mind to think bigger and more broadly. If I ask you what your goals are, you will start thinking in a more focussed way. To be wiser, one needs to think bigger, think beyond a narrow focus and breathe into new thoughts. Ask yourself, “What do I aspire to do? What is my purpose? What is my WHY?” I spent 18 months with a mentor just going through these three questions and opening my mind up to new possibilities. If necessary, find a mentor or coach who can help you with thinking about these questions.

Turning life experiences into lessons from which others can learn. Yes, sometimes those battle scars can be a shining beacon for others. I didn’t realise the power of mentoring until I got involved in building a global mentoring program for a business organisation. I never realised the power of those lessons learnt by others and then shared with mentees, until I became a mentee myself. However, the power is lost when the one sharing his war stories does so at the inappropriate moments, or without relating the relevance of the story to the situation on hand. To be wise is to learn from the lessons of your life and then be able to share them willingly, openly, generously and most importantly, when appropriate.

Lifelong learning. I’m a great believer in continuing to learn throughout one’s life. To be wiser, one needs to continue to improve oneself by learning, reading, expanding our mind and our knowledge. There will always be someone that we can learn from – don’t fool yourself in thinking that you don’t need to continue to learn. The wisest people that I have met are the ones that continue on a journey of lifelong learning. My mother, at the age of 77 years old, learnt for the first time how to swim, ride a bicycle and snorkel – one is never too old to learn! And we become wiser along the way.

Age does not make one wiser. I’ve met many older people who are not wise at all and many young people who have astonished me with their wisdom. Many a time have our young adult daughters given my husband and I wise insights that have stopped us in our tracks. They have asked a question or made an observation that has made me think that maybe they are wiser than I am. Sometimes I can get caught up in the details, look at something with judgement or maybe make an inappropriate remark. They wisely, openly and courageously lead me back onto the right thought path again, show me another perspective or opening my mind to other possibilities. So, if you are young, you too can be wise despite your age…don’t wait to become wise!

I’m now ten years older than when I was first called a ‘Wise Old Owl’. Do I feel any wiser now? Not really! But I do know that I have a lot more of life’s battle scars, I’ve learnt so much from my experiences, I’m so much more aware and more present. Hopefully I can help others to “see below the surface and beyond the obvious”. But, I’m still open to learn from many other old and young wise owls out there.

3 lessons to learn:

1. Wisdom can be developed by being curious – suspend judgment of others, put aside your own beliefs and be genuinely interested in the other person – what they are saying, feeling and where they are coming from. Lean in, ask questions for which you don’t have answers, say to them “I’m really curious about…”

2. Develop your awareness of yourself and others by being present and mindful. By being present you can “see below the surface and beyond the obvious”. Build a meditation practice into your day. Start recognizing when your mind is wandering off on its own path and bring yourself back to the present – aim to live more in the


3. Search for these three answers: “What do I aspire to do? What is my purpose? What is my WHY?” Seek out a mentor or coach if you need someone to help you work on these questions.

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