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The Path to Wisdom

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”

– Confucius

Wisdom is a word that is used frequently in our businesses and communities; but how do we come by it?  Regardless of our age, the path to wisdom prompts us to ask ourselves “ultimate” questions: what do we see as our purpose, and how do we value the events of our lives? I believe that all our experiences – great and small – happen for the instruction of our innermost selves. If we can see that all experience happens for our learning and growth, then the path to wisdom has opened to us.

Consider the Past with Honor and Reverence

Much has been written about the importance – the necessity – of setting clear intentions for the future. Few would question the powerful value of that practice. Clarifying our intentions helps to guide us through the distractions, complexity and difficult times that surely lie ahead in everyone’s life.

But, what if we consider that our intentions are just as important when we look back on our lives as having been influences that helped to make us who we are? We seldom take time to review our past with more than a cursory glance or, perhaps, a therapy-induced attempt to understand current behaviors. Yet how often do we miss what is the most powerful – the most revealing and productive – way to approach and consider our past?

That “way” consists, quite simply, of developing the ability to reflect on our past in a state of reverence that does honor to our experiences – the very substance of our own lives. The process develops into a state-of-mind that places us at an appreciative vantage point for viewing our experiences, the same vantage point that allows us to see our lives with the incisive perspectives that we associate with wisdom. From that point, almost as though it were a hilltop looking down on the trail our lives have followed, we’re encouraged to immerse ourselves in the experiences of our past, appreciating all of life’s complexities, the difficulties and successes of our journey. Once we’ve understood, appreciated and integrated the lessons our experiences have taught us, our attention and energy are available to flow onward once again.

The key to wisdom is not in the experience itself, it is in the quality of the intention with which we consider our experience.

Our intention is the key as to whether an experience–any experience, can be harvested for wisdom. If we infuse our experience with a victim-mentality or self-serving intentions, then the experience will get lodged or stuck within our being. We will use the experience to build walls around ourselves; egoic structures of protection and armor.

As we gather wisdom, we may realize that we choose which of our experiences can be of service to ourselves and others. Which of them are honest, uplifting; which might even represent an example of eternal truth? It is a matter of setting this clear new intention as we look back on our lives. If we can look back with this intention, even the most difficult circumstances can transform; and in this way, we all have the unprecedented opportunity to change the past. How do we do that? By suggesting a different way of looking at the past—with the intention to honor and revere our experience…and mine it for its gift of wisdom.  

As we reflect on this holiday season, there certainly is a lot to be grateful for. This year, each one of us demonstrated true resiliency while leading ourselves, our families, our teams, and our organizations through extraordinary times. The wisdom gained through these trials is an important part of our future growth, and perhaps the growth and development of our teams and organizations.

In this season of giving, we offer you our gift of The Wisdom Project, brought to you through our Best Year Yet Foundation.

The Best Year Yet Foundation (a 501(3)c) provides nonprofit organizations with InteraWorks systems, tools, and other support to help organize, focus, and increase the effectiveness of our most important resource – the people whose energy and focus fuels our mission and vision.

As part of the Wisdom Project, the global InteraWorks teams spent several months interviewing participants around the world who were willing to share their own wisdom, harvested through years of life experience. We know that each one of us can benefit by incorporating shared wisdom from others and remembering to pass on our own wisdom to those who might benefit from our experience.

  • Please visit www.interaworks.com/the-wisdom-project to read more about this project and how you might share your own story for the benefit of others.
  • Special Program Invitation:  InteraWorks is hosting our interactive Wisdom Matters Virtual Event on Friday, December 11th from 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm (CST).  Please visit www.interaworks.com/wisdom-reg to register.

In gratitude, we wish you a wonderful holiday season.

InteraWorks Family

Author – Anne McGhee-Stinson

Managing Partner & Director of Practice


About InteraWorks

InteraWorks is a global learning company on a mission to elevate the human experience at work. Specializing in professional development and performance enablement, we offer top-rated learning programs based on four defined conditions that must exist for individuals, teams including Effective Edge, Best Year Yet, and the Essentials series. Our integrated learning framework and online tools generate immediate and sustainable breakthroughs in performance. Through decades of working at all levels in enterprise companies across many industries, we’ve built a reputation for helping people and organizations harness their focus, mindset, talent and energy to produce results that matter most. 


We’ve defined four conditions that must exist for an individual, team or organization to be effective within the arena of performance and development; Accountability, Focus, Alignment, and Integrity. We’ll continue to explore these and more in our blog and look forward to your engagement and interaction with us. Stay tuned as we engage the edges.