Our lower mind is rational, analytical, opinionated, busy and often sceptical. It is bound by time and space. We use our lower mind to make sense of our complicated and emotional world. The lower mind is the stuff of business schools, "operations-focused" education and experiential learning.
The lower mind delivers reductionist thinking and mechanistic, conventional approaches to life. The main drawback of living in the lower mind is that it only reflects your internal map of reality. It is like being stuck in your own intellectual zip code, never moving beyond your nine-digit thoughts, beliefs, assumptions, expectations and world views. It is like living in one town, knowing it completely, and never venturing outside the borders of that town.
Intelligent people are generally engaged with their lower mind and left-brain thinking. The lower mind focuses on one corner of the painting. Wisdom does not arise from this place.
The higher mind considers the abstract. It involves intuition, aspiration, heart, soul and spirit and connects with the Universal mind, with Universal truth, with beauty and with goodness. Our higher mind speaks in the language of ideas, ideals, symbols, principles and impulses. It is loving. It guides us to the truth.
The higher mind sees the threads woven between the mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological and social aspects of our life. The higher mind sees the entire painting – the place from which wisdom arises.
The qualities of a wisdom mind
Wise leaders access both their lower and higher minds. Wise leaders understand they are spiritual beings living in a human form. They allow their lower minds to access their higher, helping them to access intuition and impressions that provide insights into the bigger picture of life.
Wise leaders understand the importance of focus, presence, self-discipline, meditation, study, loving service and creative expression. They seek to grasp the next higher level of awareness. They venture outside their historical map of reality – willing to jettison their old, "safe" beliefs, assumptions, expectations and worldviews – to explore the possible and the unknown. They’re open to knowing what they don’t know.
Wise leaders understand that spiritual and personal growth means connecting with higher concepts and energies, be they values, ideas, ideals, potentials, archetypes, higher guidance or intuition. The wise leader develops the capacity to not only connect with these higher concepts, but also to seek to ground them into forms, tasks, projects, relationships and details that inform the way they lead.
Wise leaders don’t stop with experience, but transcend experience – both their own and others’ – in a way that they spend an appreciative amount of time and energy in deep self-reflection and thoughtful consideration around their experience, leading to higher insights, enhanced value and a deeper sense of self-awareness.
"We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us." – Marcel Proust
Wise leadership is not about having experiences but consciously learning from those experiences. The process of learning from experience leads to a process of inquiry – looking with curiosity, not judgment, into the who, what, when, where, how and – most importantly – the why of their experiences. Inquiry is a matter of punctuation; it’s about question marks, not full stops. It is about curiosity.
Wise leaders understand how connections between diverse elements can create something new. They are adept at using analogy and metaphor and seek to recognize patterns, spot trends, draw connections and discern the big picture even when there seem to be nothing there.
A wise leader interacts with her world in terms of a richer and more varied spectrum of possibilities and opportunities. A wise leader understands the importance of relationships – human and otherwise. A wise leader is a systems thinker, a gestalt thinker, a holistic thinker. Wise leaders are comfortable being oriented to their right brain, as well as to their heart and soul.
Inquiry, for the wise leader, is not about "futurizing the past" – using their past experiences, the known, the tried and true – to explain present experiences that are un-common, un-usual, un-familiar. They understand that inquiry involves delving deeply into the self, even parts of the self that, heretofore, might have been unknown, in order to search for new insights, perspectives and understanding – seeking familiarity with the unknown.
"To make no mistakes is not in the power of man; but from their errors and mistakes the wise and good learn wisdom for the future." – Plutarch
For wise leaders, inquiry means creating an internal space unencumbered by old thoughts, beliefs and premises – a new, clear, inviting and open space – entering into a fresh realm without preconception or expectation and being informed with new learning, new sense, new meaning, new WHYs and new HOWs. In other words, new wisdom.
Many intelligent leaders aren’t even aware that they lack wisdom.
When we reflect and contemplate from a deeper level, when we choose to "go inside" and honestly, sincerely and self-responsibly ask ourselves if our stories are true, we are using our higher mind and engaging the wisdom of our heart and soul. Relying on our heart and soul’s inner wisdom and intelligence open us up to new ways of seeing, do-ing and be-ing – discovering and exploring new territory and new maps of reality, new zip codes – supporting us to understand and deal with today’s uncommon challenges in new ways.
Using one’s higher mind is what will support today’s intelligent leaders to become tomorrow’s wise leaders.