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Wisdom as a Unifying Concept

To be able to make wise decisions when confronted with complex situations, where the wellbeing of the people and entities involved is at stake and there is no obvious right answer, is key to our work as professional coaches and supervisors.


The critical question is, can we actively develop wisdom in ourselves and our clients? While wisdom had traditionally been seen as the preserve of philosophers, over the past 40 years it has become the subject of scientific study by psychologists and, increasingly, neuroscientists and psychiatrists. Dr Dilip Jeste (2020) has defined wisdom as ‘a form of advanced cognitive and emotional development, driven by [reflective] experience. It can be…learned.’ So the answer is - yes!


What this means in practice is that there are 'wisdom behaviours' which we can cultivate. Of the many that have been identified by researchers, I have put together eight – the ‘Eight Ss’ - covering five domains of human activity: Self, Other, Curiosity, Judgement and Purpose.  They are grouped to align with many of the behaviours already recognised as foundational to the work of coaches, co-visors and metavisors, and as such can act as a unifying concept in coaching and supervision.

The 8-S Wisdom Framework 230430.jpg

It's worth noting that, alongside reflection, one of the most powerful ways of increasing our capcity for wisdom is a mindful awareness practice. be it yoga, tai chi, meditation, centring prayer or walking in nature (see Awareness page). What these have in common is to focus attention on our experience of the present moment. Done regularly, this has been shown to increase internal awareness and to strengthen the connections between different parts of the brain, leading to more effective - wiser - behaviour overall. 

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