What You Need To Know
Practical Wisdom: Everything You Need To Know

Wisdom is the type of knowledge that matters. It has both a moral and practical component to it that knowledge does not.

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Personal Development
Personal Development
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Wisdom is the type of knowledge that matters. It has both a moral and practical component to it that knowledge does not. Additionally, not only does wisdom enrich our lives by ushering us to make wise decisions - it simply makes the world a much better place.

If you’re interested in learning more about this powerful virtue, keep reading. Here’s everything you need to know.

Everything You Need To Know About Practical Wisdom

The history - in regard to the term practical wisdom - is an interesting one that dates all the way back to ancient Greece and the philosophers known as Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle.

Back in the day, somewhere between 384 BCE and 320 BCE, the three of these famous philosophers would get together to discuss the nature of existence and the meaning - or 'purpose' - of life. In particular, they debated the nature of virtue and the notion of what was considered “right” and deemed “doing the right thing.”

Plato was a student of Socrates who deeply believed that the purpose of life was to look for Sophia or wisdom; wisdom based solely on concepts of generalized thinking. An example of this is abstract thinking. Plato and his meteor Socrates believed that once wisdom was attained, it gave individuals an insight into the nature of value.

Now, rather than diving into the years of debate between these two men and having to don our Togas, let's discuss Aristotle - a student of Plato who had different thoughts than his mentor and Socrates.

You see, Aristotle believed that in order to live a virtuous life, it was essential to have another type of wisdom, a more practical type of wisdom. A kind that wasn’t exactly abstract. Aristotle referred to this type of wisdom as phronesis.

Phronesis is a word from Ancient Greek, commonly translated as prudence, however, it's also translated as meaning a particular kind of intelligence or wisdom; “practical wisdom.”

When an individual has this type of wisdom, Aristotle believed that it was enough to be virtuous and to know what was “right” from “wrong.” He believed that wisdom was not for theoretical debate but for practical application.

In today’s society, the use of the word “practical” side by side with “wisdom” may itself seem kind of like an oxymoron as we so often associate wisdom with knowledge, academics, or aspects of the mind where we tend to relate “practical” as being more of an action or process. Simply having information or knowledge of itself does not necessarily make it useful rather, it is the appropriate application of the use of information or knowledge through life experiences that make a person wise.

In the simplest of terms, we could say that “practical wisdom” is the hands-on application of experience, knowledge, and wisdom. You need experience in order to cultivate practical wisdom.

Experience is key. Think about it: Would you want to get in a car with a driver who had only ever read a manual and has never actually driven a vehicle before? Probably not.

Aristotle believed that individuals could develop traits like perseverance, loyalty, mindfulness, and kindness; he called these virtues. The master virtue, the foundation for developing these traits, he argues, requires practical wisdom.

Here are three signs of someone exercising practical wisdom:

  • A wise person understands how to take on the perspective of another - to see the situation as the other person does and, therefore, to truly understand how that person feels.

  • A wise person understands how to use emotion as an ally of reason, to rely on it to signal what situation calls for, and to inform proper judgment without distorting it. He or she can feel, intuit, or ‘just know’ what the right thing to do is, enabling him or her to act quickly when timing matters most.

  • A wise person is an experienced person. Practical wisdom is a skill or a craft, and all good craftsmen are trained by having the right experience. Aristotle said that people learn to be brave by doing brave things. The same logic applies to honestly, justice, loyalty, caring, counseling, and listening.

Practical wisdom calls for more than just the skill to be perceptive about others. It demands the capacity to perceive oneself - to assess what our own motives are, to accept and admit our failures, to figure out what has worked and not worked, and why.

Perception, mindfulness, deliberation, mindfulness, empathy, learning from past experiences, using emotions as our allies - these are all required to exercise practical wisdom, to act morally, thoughtfully, and wisely.

How To Develop Practical Wisdom In Everyday Life

There are two ways to develop - and tap into - this quality of practical wisdom in your everyday life and two associated practices which allow you to develop it:

Directly: This is done through mindful practices. It’s all about learning how to pay close attention to what’s going on within and around us as we go about our daily lives.

Indirectly: This practice is done as a form of reflection at the beginning or end of a day. By filtering through what's going on in your mind (which is often a collection of feelings and thoughts associated with past experiences) both recent and not, you’re able to uncover useful insights that offer more of this virtue of practical wisdom.


The first, ‘direct’ practice, is developed through practices such as mindful eating, driving, walking, and good old everyday loving-kindness! Really any activity that you typically do in your daily life, done mindfully, is effective for developing this quality.

Learning to be mindful can be tricky, but the most effective way to get better at it is to practice. Here are five simple tips for practicing mindfulness every day:

Observe your breathing. Take a few seconds of your day to observe your breathing. Take a little longer to inhale than you normally do, and then take a longer exhale than you normally do. We often act based on our emotions, which can sometimes get us into unwanted outcomes. This simple yet effective breathing practice will help you to calm yourself during those situations while observing your emotional and physical state.

Look at yourself in the mirror. Looking at yourself in the mirror helps you to observe your own unique facial expressions. You can see how you look when you frown or smile, or even how you look when you’re feeling angry. This will help you to better adjust your reaction towards others when you are dealing with them.

Savor every bite while you eat. Mindful eating is a great way to practice being more mindful overall. Focus on chewing while you're eating. Put all your devices aside, turn off the TV, and close your laptop. Really savor and enjoy every bite of your meal. This will help you to practice focusing on your current action and appreciating the food you are eating.

Practice being present. By not turning away from painful things in our lives, we can learn to remain open to all the possibilities in each situation. This increases our chances of healing and transformation in meeting the pain we face. Additionally, it also gives us a way to be with those situations when there is nothing more we can do to “run from the pain,” but must find ways to be with it. We can discover that the quality of mindfulness is not damaged or destroyed with contact pain, that it can know pain as completely and fully as it knows any other experience.

Keep it short. Our brains respond much better to bursts of mindfulness. So being mindful several times throughout the day is going to be more helpful than a lengthy session or even a weekend retreat. While twenty minutes seems to be the gold standard, starting at a few minutes a day is perfectly okay, too.

Mindfulness isn’t a luxury - it’s a practice that trains your brain to be more efficient and better integrated, with less distractibility and improved focus. And only by being mindful will you discover true practical wisdom.


Second, ‘indirect’ practice is developed through quiet reflection in the form of a more formal sitting meditation practice. However, make sure you’re practicing mindfulness meditation. There are many different forms of meditation, and they all offer valuable benefits, but only mindfulness meditation can offer the kind of practical insights that represent practical wisdom.

Here are some tips for practicing mindful meditation:

  • Set aside some quiet time.

  • Observe the present moment as it is.

  • Let your judgments roll by.

  • Be kind to your wandering mind.

It’s often said that mindful meditation is very simple. But the truth is that just like learning to be ‘mindful,’ practice makes perfect.

A Final Word

Practical wisdom is a quality that helps us move about life in a more effective way. From finding meaning in the little things to navigating daily challenges with strength and resolve, this powerful virtue offers endless applications that help us lead a happier and more meaningful life.

If you are interested in developing this virtue but could benefit from a little guidance, we recommend giving a great course like Kabbalah ONE a try.

These incredible classes will teach you the tools you need to enrich your life and learn virtues, such as practical wisdom.