Experiential Wisdom

  • Debbie 

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written.

I’ve actually been busy reading instead. I’ve learned that while I can set intentions to do things (such as write daily) I really can’t force it when the motivation or inspiration isn’t there. I’ve learned to allow whatever I’m being called to do instead. Trusting there’s a reason for it.

I still battle with the feeling I should be doing that thing I’ve committed to.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve felt a bit restless. Feeling like I should be writing but not wanting to write for writing’s sake. I prefer to write when I have something meaningful to say. So I struggled along, following the impulse to acquire knowledge rather than impart it. And trying to relax into it, reminding myself when I’m able to let go and follow where I’m being led, it always leads me someplace worthy.

This time was no different.

I was called to pick up a book a friend had recommended months earlier. I had started reading it at the time but it wasn’t speaking to me so I had set it down. Clearly now was the time I was supposed to be reading it. I immediately dove in and saw so much relevance to my life and the journey I’ve been on for the past five to 10 years.

As I was nearing the end of the book yesterday afternoon, I began to see that reading the information in this book was validating what I had been experiencing. There was comfort in knowing that my feelings, emotions, and struggle to discover my next step in life are not unique to me. In fact, this book is all about mastering life transitions as an adult. And it’s not a new book. It was written 18 years ago. It’s as relevant today, perhaps even more so, as it was back then. I’m not sure the author, Frederic M. Hudson, founder of the Hudson Institute, could have predicted the chaos our world has seen in recent years, culturally, environmentally, or politically.

As I pondered this idea that what I was reading was actually validating what I’ve already learned (but maybe not trusted or embraced), I realized there are three methods of learning.

  1. Information
  2. Knowledge
  3. Experiential Wisdom

There is no shortage of the first: Information.

Information is the act or fact of informing.

You’ll find it in books, on blogs, websites, television, radio stations, podcasts and flowing from the mouths of everyone you meet. Information should be taken at face value. It may be valid and true, or it may be infused with opinion, hidden agendas, or even malice.

Information seems to be more valuable when it comes after knowledge or experiential wisdom, in the form of validation of personal experience and learning. For it is only then we can discern what is true, or at least true for us.


Knowledge is the acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation.

Let’s say you take a class to learn how to market, or build a website. What you learn in the class is information. When you take that information and put it into action, you begin to acquire knowledge.

Knowledge is one step up from information. It starts to take into account personal experience. And we begin to validate or negate the information as true or false, in general, or at least for us.

The third method of learning is Experiential Wisdom.

Wisdom is accumulated philosophical or scientific learning.

The key word here is accumulated.

Wisdom comes from years of personal experience. Through trial and error. Through success and failure. Through pain and joy. It’s a byproduct of living life. It can’t be found in a book or on a website, though it may be espoused by mentors, authors, gurus or others with expansive experience.

But we can only truly own wisdom through our own experience.

That’s why I like to refer to it as Experiential Wisdom.

When you’ve gone through something personally, as we all do in this thing called life, you accumulate experiences. You can choose to go through life aimlessly, never really connecting the dots of those experiences. Or, you can choose to look at those experiences as your greatest teacher.

I believe we often doubt our own wisdom because we think it’s just how we feel. Maybe it’s not universal. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe everyone else feels or experiences something different.

Reading that book taught me a valuable lesson.

That when we doubt our own experiences and the wisdom they’ve imparted we are not honoring the truth of our existence. We are all here to learn and experience. We all have our own unique external journey, but the older I get the more I am beginning to realize (and the book confirmed this) our inner experiences are a lot more alike than we may believe.

In closing I’d like to give you something to think about.

  • Are you giving yourself credit for the experiential wisdom you’ve accumulated in your life?
  • Or are you continuing to look to others who seem smarter or more successful?

I believe it’s important to remain an avid learner.

There are always things we can learn from others that will expand our knowledge and enrich our lives. But in the end, the wisdom we gain from our own personal experiences, and that we hopefully share with others, is what has the power to change the world.

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