What is wisdom?
Wisdom is the combination of experience and knowledge that leads to good judgment. In other words, wisdom helps you make good choices.
The irony of wisdom is that when you’re young — and you need to make choices that might shape the rest of your life — you don’t have wisdom. When you’re older and you do have wisdom, you don’t have much to do with it…other than share it with people who may or may not be interested.
If only there was a way to get wise, when you need it most…
As it turns out, there are a few of them.
#1: Embrace the sound of silence.
Most of us today are inundated by tweets, pings, and dings from our multiple social media accounts. These mostly banal messages fill our mind with chatter that makes it nearly impossible to concentrate on anything for more than a few seconds. Minimize your social media use as much as possible. Set aside a weekly time for contemplating on the choices you’ve already made and reflecting on what you can do to make better choices moving forward. It’s no empty stereotype that silence, meditation, and seclusion are associated with wisdom in pretty much every culture.
#2: Read classic literature.
Business books are great for learning about how to make money, and magazine articles are great for short term entertainment, but they won’t make you wise. Wisdom comes from life experience, so reading about the lives of others can give you a power shot of life guidance. Classic literature and the biographies of people you admire are two great sources for taking in an entire life of choices (good and bad) within just a few hours. And don’t assume that movies or TV specials can do the trick here — your brain is too passive during screen time. The moral of the story won’t sink in as well as it does when you invest active effort by reading.
#3: Discover your heritage.
Most cultures and religious creeds have a wealth of wisdom literature and traditions handed down from generation to generation. Even if you live in the melting pot of America — and have never looked into the idea of connecting with your heritage — chances are you’ve come across enough clues in your lifetime. You may have attended religious services. Your grandmother may have made a special food item on holidays. There may be certain pieces of artwork or cultural items in your home. The places you’re ancestors came from are replete with folktales and expressions that are gems of life guidance. Reach out to parents, grandparents, siblings, and clergy who can help you explore the wisdom that’s already part of your DNA.
#4: Develop the skill of gratitude.
A big part of wisdom is having perspective to see the bigger picture of life and all of its ups and downs. Something that seems bad in the moment may in the long run turn out to be a good thing. When you’re younger, it can be hard to see how getting turned down from a job you really wanted or getting dumped by an ex would benefit you in the bigger picture. But there’s one way to stay cheery and keep your eyes focused on the long game: gratitude. Get thankful for things that happen to you, good and even bad. You can express this gratitude in your prayers or even just reflect on it quietly. As a side perk, it will make the good things in life even better as you focus on and appreciate them more. One easy way to do this is by making a daily or at least weekly list of things you are thankful for.
#5: Take good care of your health.
Wisdom is all about making good choices, but you can’t make good choices from a place of desperation. And as it turns out, making poor choices about your health can put you in a constant place of desperation. Eating too much junk food can leave you hungry at all the wrong times — like when you’re grocery shopping; you might fill your cart up with appealing snack foods, running up your bill. Staying up too late too often and depriving yourself of sleep can also lead to bad decision making, as can the general fatigue that sets in from not staying active on a regular basis. Eat right, exercise, and get the sleep you need. You’ll rarely see someone wise who is intentionally in bad health.
So what does wisdom matter, again?
Wisdom matters because it helps you make good choices.
It times past, people would apprentice themselves to a master, and that’s how they developed professionally and personally. The path to adulthood and maturity these days is far less personalized, and more people than ever leave the educational system feeling kind of lost and unsure of where to go, or who they are.
They stumble through life, things happen, and at the end of it all, they look back and know what they did wrong and what they should have done differently.
It doesn’t have to be like that for you. You can get wise beyond your years by leveraging some of the tips above.
The choice to make good choices — is your choice.
This post was previously published on Medium.com.
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