Good morning, lovely you!
A New Year. A new chance to become wise. Someone recently sent me a video of their kid in a Christmas play. While the baby Jesus was supposed to be the star of the show, one of the wise men was pulling focus. He was nervously rocking back and forth, seemingly needing to use the bathroom very badly. I guess drinking that big gulp or whatever it was he had right before the play wasn’t that wise of a choice. “Someday, he’ll grow up and know better,” I said to myself.
And that got me to thinking…
The old saying is, with age comes wisdom, but is that really true? I’m sure we’ve all known older people who seemed like genuine idiots and have known younger individuals who seem to possess true wisdom.
So if it’s not age that gives us wisdom, what is it, exactly?
This led me to do an internet search to see how other people defined wisdom. The dictionary definition of wisdom is: The ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting; insight. Others defined wisdom as: to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight…
Knowledge can exist without wisdom, but not the other way around…Wisdom is a gift from God…Knowledge sees the quicksand; wisdom walks around it.
While these are perfectly useful definitions, they didn’t give me any insights as to whether wisdom is something that only some people have, or something we can all cultivate.
Then I found an answer given by the University of Florida, Gainesville sociology professor Monika Ardelt that I liked. She believes wisdom is, “a combination of cognitive, reflective and compassionate qualities.” Ardelt has studied the topic of wisdom for years and believes it is not something that only the elderly possess. She believes wisdom is something that can be cultivated by anyone and, once done, bring significant pay-offs in our lives. Wisdom helps us better deal with life challenges, such as declining health and the loss of loved ones, for instance.
So now the question is, how can we cultivate wisdom? I will share with you some of the traits Ardelt has found wise people share to give you several pathways of getting there yourself, maybe even in the new year.
Wise People Say Yes to Life
Older people are presumed to be wiser because they’ve had more life experiences. Except that a lot of people haven’t really LIVED. According to Ardelt, one of the cornerstones of wisdom is experience. The more open you are, and the more you say YES to life, the more experiences you will gain. This is invaluable.
In the coming year, work hard to get out of your comfort zone and have more of a variety of experiences. Make new friends, go on road trips, volunteer, take a class!
Learn from Those Experiences
It’s not enough to gain new experiences – you’ve also got to learn from those experiences. What’s the point of traveling all the way to Peru if you are going to look through the same old lens? Open yourself up and always be on the lookout for lessons.
They Don’t Know More, Per Se – They Know Deeper Wisdom is not about knowing a bunch of facts.
There are plenty of college graduates with Ph.D.’s who have no wisdom at all. Ardelt says, “But the interesting thing is not that they know more, about, say, the origin of the universe … wise people actually know the deeper meaning of things that are generally known, actually.”
So, for instance, while every human being knows we will all eventually die, wise people understand the deeper significance of this finite amount of time and place significance on personal growth and building authentic connections with others. Make the new year a time to weed out the toxic relationships in your life and build positive and supportive ones.
They Connect with Their Higher Selves
According to Ardelt, self-reflection is paramount, and most of the wise people she has come across use meditation as a pathway to wisdom. We have discussed many times how important it is to connect with your higher self. Make it a priority in 2020 to put time aside each day to meditate.
They Understand That Trauma Can Bring the Greatest Growth
I have said many times that my cancer diagnosis 30 years ago was a wake-up call of the highest magnitude. If you have been diagnosed with cancer or another life-threatening/debilitating disease, understand that you are not alone and that there is no bigger potential for growth than the challenge you currently face. In the coming year, look for the lessons. Look for how your perspective has and is changing.
They are Compassionate
Wisdom means not only understanding your journey but recognizing you are on a planet populated with people who are also on their own journey. Compassion is a key component of wisdom, according to Ardelt.
In the new year, stop from time to time to reflect on how your actions and behavior impact those around you. Not only will cultivating more compassion help you on your path to wisdom but it also just feels amazing.
Here’s to a wiser and more purposeful 2020!