If you ever feel as if your shoulders are scraping the cement sidewalk, remember what Deborah found in the garage and Jan discovered over breakfast: Women have a remarkable way of helping other women. The wisdom of women can be a life raft when you are engulfed in a transition.

Wisdom is not something we are born with. It is the cumulative result of life lessons gained through personal experience. The good news is that we can “borrow” wisdom from other people. By accessing people who have “been there, done that,” we can capitalize on their successes and avoid their errors.

The best news is that collective wisdom is available to every woman, no matter her community, background, or education. All she has to do is reach out to those around her who are willing to share and who have some of the characteristics that iconic psychologist Abraham Maslow identified as being “wise.”

Maslow said wise people see things clearly and act in effective ways. They handle whatever arises in their lives with peace of mind and with effective and compassionate responses. They control important emotions like fear, anger, jealousy, hatred, and greed, because they know these emotions are the cause of human suffering. Wise people have strong ethical boundaries. They live compassionately, take full responsibility for their choices, and work to maintain a positive outlook on life—no matter the circumstances.

Finding Wisdom

We’ve come to believe that we each need at least three wise women in our lives. These mentors share how they have faced and overcome difficulties, and advise us on how we can do the same. We no longer have to re-create the wheel, because we have the benefit of their experiences and support.

Trust us when we say that wise women are everywhere. They can be found among your family members, in your workplace, in organizations and churches, and certainly in every community around the world. All you have to do is reach out to those around you who are willing to share their insights and observations.

Start by looking around and asking yourself: Whom do I admire? Whom do I respect for what she has accomplished or overcome? Who has been down the path I’m about to travel?

You may be thinking: “This person is busy. Why would she want to help me?” Good question. She’ll want to help you if you honor the Three As of being a protégé: Ask. Act. Appreciate.

When you approach your proposed mentor, make sure your first words are: “I know you are busy, but may I have five minutes of your time?” This is a gracious way to let the woman know you’re considerate of her other demands.

Next, describe your dilemma or your goal: I’m about to have my first child. Or I’m interested in launching my own business. Then ask if she is willing to share her own experience—perhaps a couple of things she wishes someone had told her when she was starting out. Take notes so she realizes how much you honor her input.

Be sure to thank your wise woman immediately and tell her how you intend to act on her suggestions. Then get back in touch to let her know how her advice worked out and how much you appreciate her contribution. If you ask, act, and appreciate, you make this a win-win situation for you and for the woman who has generously shared her wisdom