Wisdom is Knowing What to Do

Knowing what to do next gets to the heart of decision-making, problem solving, and taking effective action.

Wisdom sign on a tree in the woods

Brush Dance, the publishing company I began many years ago, once published a greeting card that says:

Wisdom is knowing what to do next.”

Wisdom, in relationship, business, and life may be as simple or as complex as knowing whether to act or not act, to step in or out, to make tremendous effort or let go – all with an abiding awareness, and with consideration of what actions might have the best possible outcome for others, for the environment, and the planet as a whole. Knowing what to do next gets to the heart of decision-making, problem solving, and taking effective action.

Having the presence to consider what words or actions might have the best net result is especially useful when there is conflict or strong emotions involved. Practice #7 – Keep Making It Simpler – in my book, Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader, reminds us to consider what is most important in any given situation. When we shift from acting on autopilot to a more mindful way of being we avoid taking our own stories and viewpoints too seriously, and can relax our tendencies to label things as “right” or “wrong.”

When you view your work in terms of goals, achievements, money, and ambition, though essential and important, you are only looking at one side. The other side, one to not lose sight of, involves viewing your work as a place to build awareness, connections, and understanding – a place to solve real problems, for people, your business, and beyond. Similarly, if you view your work only from the aspect of developing understanding, you’ve left out the other side, the side of getting things done. Wisdom is embracing the mundane and the sacred, getting things done and developing character, and understanding that they are not different, and also not the same.

There is an Irish Prayer that says:

Take time to work.
It is the price of success.
Take time to meditate.
It is the source of power.
Take time to play.
It is the secret of perpetual youth.
Take time to read.
It is the way to knowledge.
Take time to be friendly.
It is the road to happiness.
Take time to laugh.
It is the music of the soul.
And take time to love,
And be loved.

The Irish know a great deal about wisdom.


When faced with a decision at work, try to approach it by asking: What action might be best for all involved?

Make a commitment to begin and end each workday with the question: What’s most important, right now?

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