on wisdom and its opposite

Adam Grant offers some tips on how to think like a wise person today: integrative thinking, self-reflection, curiosity instead of judgment, seeing nuances, considering the common good, challenging the status quo, maintaining a sense of purpose.

Grant notes that wise people are not actually happier than their peers, meaning they didn’t experience more positive emotions. But I’m curious whether wise people are more content than their peers. Contentment, in my mind, is not “happiness,” not a positive emotion. It’s neutral. That kind of disposition simply must make it easier to think like a wise person.

I read the Motherlode blog of the New York Times this morning, and was struck by the lack of wisdom we’re capable of when we’re not content. Consider the mom who confessed that she refuses to abide by her six-year-old daughter’s wishes to get a haircut. The mother feels “that when you are given a gift of hair like that, you appreciate it, the way [she] always wished [she] could. It doesn’t come to everyone. It’s special.”

The mother knows she is wrong, knows she is projecting her own issues (putting it mildly here) on her little girl. The girl cries, screams, when her mother brushes her waist-length, blond curly hair. The two fight, to the point where the brother has intervened.

The mother is resolute. The hair will remain long.

I want to write to that mom, and remind her that hair, um, grows. Even after a cut. I want to tell her to get herself some blond extensions (she could have them made out of her daughter’s locks?) and brush her own damn hair. I want to send her daughter to my hair stylist to get a glorious bob.

But none of that would be wise.

I’m left hoping that this mom finds contentment elsewhere, and not on the shoulders of her daughter.

What do you think?

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