Wisdom and Positive Psychology


  Wisdom and Positive Psychology

Many people count on the goal of happiness as one of their aspirations in life. But what if happiness is just one of the many goals we have, and it's possible that some goals, like wisdom for example, are more important than happiness? Psychologists since ancient times have always been fascinated with human wisdom, which can be described as a capacity to understand and deal with significant aspects of life. Recently this idea has gained traction in psychology due to the fact that wisdom is needed not only when we are young adults but throughout our lives. It leads to greater self-awareness which ultimately leads us to a happier and healthier lifestyle.
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As discussed in my last article, the course of positive psychology has been set up by Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson. In their book titled "Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification", the two have conducted an extensive study on what they call the signature character strengths of humanity.   The result of which is a list of 24 character strengths that are essential to human beings. While many people may think that success is only measured by wealth or fame, these psychologists have identified virtues like compassion and gratitude as being crucial to our overall well-being.   Still others have believed that education is an essential part of success and happiness. They have come up with this word to describe what they consider to be the key qualities of successful people, which is education attainment.   But is education the key characteristic for success?   In this article I would like to ask the question, what are the real life benefits of acquiring knowledge?
The idea was for a book called "The Biology of Character" which was going to be written by Seligman and Steven Taylor (2013). The book was going to be a compilation of personality traits from previous research done in Seligman's lab and other personnel.   The book was going to be divided into three parts. Part one was going to discuss the different domains of well-being, which are psychological, physical and spiritual.   The second part of the book was going to discuss the most important traits that make up these categories, which are engagement, meaning and competence.   And finally the third section was going to be a commentary section that would describe how these traits collectively support a positive psychology framework.
I've been playing competitive chess in France at a national level for around 3 years now. I started competing because my dad wanted me to learn some discipline from playing against adults so he enrolled me in the competition with my mother's blessing. She was very supportive and was happy that I would improve my chess ability.
It's true that chess is a great pastime to have but more importantly it lets you think in a different manner. One of the major benefits of chess is all the various ways you can analyze a game from different angles where you have to think about your opponent's next move.   In life we are constantly playing against others and for me, this is the best mental exercise I can have, especially during exams or job interviews where you know you will be playing with someone else.
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In my opinion, knowledge is the most important asset to human society.   Think of what would happen if people didn't know how to read or write. In the past, the amount of knowledge that was needed to make our civilization successful was a lot less compared to what is needed today. The demand on our knowledge has increased significantly since the beginning of agriculture when humans started settling down.   In fact, one could argue that human's success as a species is very much linked to our ability to store and share knowledge with each other.
This is because in order for us to grow as a society, we need tradespeople, farmers and doctors who are able to help us stay alive so that we can pass on their knowledge through generations.   So what are the benefits of acquiring knowledge?   For one, knowledge is also likely to help keep you young.   It will prevent you from getting sick or even kill you but perhaps more importantly, knowledge allows people to be more productive and adapt well to changes in the world.   Knowledge makes us better at seeking out new discoveries and most importantly it helps us get ahead in life.   That's because with knowledge humans become more creative. This means we can think of ways that we can make a living that we didn't know about before.  
Overall, it's clear that knowledge is invaluable and I am glad that we live in a society where we are constantly learning from each other.
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Wisdom has been looked at as some sort of end stage of human development. It is believed that with the accumulation of knowledge you eventually become wiser.   However this is a very linear way of looking at the world and our understanding of qualities like wisdom can suffer when we try to understand it with this mindset. If we are looking for examples of wisdom throughout history, we can think about people like Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi who led revolutionary movements against oppressive regimes.   These people were able to inspire others to take up their cause and change the world.  
This can be seen as a positive outcome of wisdom. However, we can also look at people with more conventional success stories such as author J.K Rowling who is able to create great payers in her books.   The interesting thing about her is that she has been a successful author since she was very young and has not had a chance to accumulate too much knowledge during this time so how did she do it?   I think it's fair to say that Rowling is not very wise which is why her books can be considered sub-par by some people's standards but this does not make her any less successful than others with more conventional success stories.   In fact, you could argue that a good example of wisdom is someone who has a lot of knowledge but remains very humble.
I would say that having wisdom is not a substitute for knowledge but rather an end-result of it.   In other words, people are wise when they have a large amount of knowledge and then decide to apply it to real world situations. After enough time, one's wisdom will become apparent based on how they behave in various situations.
In my opinion the most important characteristics for success are motivation and attitude.   These two traits can help someone achieve almost anything.   However in order to understand why I believe this is true we need to look at what makes someone motivated and what an attitude consists off first.

In conclusion, I would like to say that motivation is very important when it comes to achieving success.   In fact, there are many examples of famous people such as computer scientist Steve Jobs who was very determined throughout the course of his career.   This helped him build a firm that is now worth billions but more importantly, it allowed him to create products that have changed the way we live our lives.   It's also important to keep in mind that not all successful people are motivated in this way because some people have great wealth and decide to help others rather than themselves which can be seen as being very noble.

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