As we develop ourselves and grow our lives and careers, wisdom reminds us that we need to maintain balance between different aspects of our lives, whilst making choices about where to focus at different stages in our growth.
An interesting perspective on this is proposed by Sir John Whitmore, reflecting an aspect of Roberto Assagioliï¿½s approach to personal psychology, ï¿½psychosynthesisï¿½.ï¿½ In his refusal to focus on the pathological aspects of psychology, we could see Assagioli as an early thinker and leader in what we now describe as ï¿½Positive Psychologyï¿½.
Whitmore puts forward two dimensions of our growth:
- Psychological Growth
Typically, things like: personal achievement, material success, societal recognition, happy family, meeting life goals,ï¿½
- Spiritual Growth
Typically, things like: contemplation, reflection, study, contribution to society, helping others, deep contentment, ï¿½
Out of Balance
Whitmore proposes that if we focus on one, to the exclusion of the other, our lives fall out of balance.ï¿½ As an example, many of us in developed economies focus the bulk of our effort on the horizontal (psychological) axis, allowing ourselves to become divorced from our spiritual growth.ï¿½ At some point, he suggests, we hit a ï¿½crisis of meaningï¿½ and find ourselves needing to move to a point of greater balance: spending a greater time on introspection and community.ï¿½ This, if it happens suddenly, could compromise our ability to meet our material needs, so we need to work to a greater balance before we hit crisis point.ï¿½ I wonder about the relation between this and Jungï¿½s concept of ï¿½mid life crisisï¿½ where thoughts of our mortality impinge on us suddenly and we feel the need to act ï¿½ for one last time ï¿½ as a youth, before resigning ourselves to the realities of age.ï¿½ Jung and Assagioli were contemporaries, fellow students of Freud who each moved away from his ideas, and also had great respect for one another.
Growth and Wisdom
What I find mot interesting are the two paragraphs at the foot of page 207 in the English Fourth Edition of Whitmoreï¿½s ï¿½Coaching for Performanceï¿½.ï¿½ Whitmore equates the horizontal axis with knowledge and the crisis as a breakdown in our belief that this knowledge gives us real power and certainty.ï¿½ In the terms of Smart to Wise, this axis represents Smart.
Wisdom, says Whitmore, ï¿½lies beyond knowledge and is deeper.ï¿½ï¿½ He argues that the line of balance represents wisdom.
And I would agree with him.ï¿½ The road from Smart to Wise is about finding balance and here, it is between poorly understood and applied knowledge, and fanatical and idealistic spiritualty.ï¿½ The one leaves us shallow and the other leaves us ill-prepared to cope with the needs of life in the real world.