Wisdom and the Science of Well-being

 

  Wisdom and the Science of Well-being


We often think of wisdom as a virtue prized in our society.

But what does it really mean to be wise? Can all people become wise, or is wisdom reserved for the chosen few? And what does science say about well-being?

Thankfully, there's quite a bit of research on both points! In this post we'll explore the definition and characteristics of wisdom, and look at what science has uncovered about how to increase wellness in ourselves and those around us through things like kindness and gratitude.

Wisdom is the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment. It involves the successful application of knowledge in a practical way to achieve goals.

Wisdom is what you get when you apply knowledge and insight into practice in order to achieve your goals. The word "pragmatic" is often used to describe someone who is wise. For example, a pragmatic baker won't follow a recipe that calls for things they don't have or can't get easily, because she knows that if she wants to run a successful business, she has to be pragmatic about her choices about ingredients.

Wisdom is a form of personal or emotional intelligence. It's about understanding how to apply what you know in order to live the life you want.

Thinking about wisdom in the sense of an ability makes it easy to think that it's something we either have or don't have - that the wise choose wisely, and all the rest of us have challenges making wise choices. But usually a person who is considered full of wisdom (a wise person) had to build up their knowledge and skills over time and learn their lessons along the way, just like anyone else. They may indeed be wiser than someone who has struggled perpetually in life, but they haven't been chosen at birth as having special powers of wisdom.

The term "wise" is also used as an honorific, or a way to show respect for a person's experience and achievements. Sometimes people are called wise because they are older, but the term is not necessarily experienced or age-related. In some cases, rather than calling a person wise, we might call them brilliant, giving them credit for their mental knowledge and capacity.

In this post from Stanford Magazine , Dr. Carol Dweck describes wisdom as personal intelligence. She says, "Personal intelligence is the ability to reach your full potential by developing a growth mindset and working hard to improve yourself. Wisdom is the ability to make good judgment calls about complex, ambiguous issues."

In other words, being wise means you understand how to apply what you know in order to achieve the results you want. It means that you know what you know well enough that when new information comes your way, you can understand its impact on what you already know, and how it changes your view of things.

In this post from Psychology Today , Dr. Kristin Neff describes several components of wisdom: getting older (i.e. more experience), being self-aware, having empathy, being able to acknowledge uncertainty, using your resources to their fullest capacities, and finally, the element of time.

"I think wisdom is derived from the ability to listen to our inner voice and also our outer voice. If you're listening only to your inner voice or only your outer voice you're never really going to be able to move forward in a meaningful way. Wisdom is about finding your authenticity - living with purpose and passion." — BrenĂ© Brown

So wisdom implies knowing what you know well enough that when new information comes your way, it's integrated in a meaningful way. It means you've experienced enough that when new information comes your way, it's not overwhelming or confusing.

Wisdom is achieved when you can look at a situation and see the context behind it. Wisdom is knowing what to do, how to do it and why you're doing it.

In both these posts, Dr. Dweck describes wisdom in terms of growth mindset and Dr. Neff emphasizes the importance of time-related conditions for wise decision making and healthy living: "The modern position of wisdom seems to be that in order to be wise, one must first be old enough - 45 or older - but this doesn't necessarily mean one has spent one's entire life learning new things. I think that one key to wisdom is being able to learn from one's mistakes - indeed, as Aristotle points out, one of the hallmarks of a wise person is their ability to benefit from the mistakes of others. In order to do this, you must be aware of times when you have made mistakes and then reflect on what you learned from them."

Wisdom has been described as the ability to use knowledge and experience in a practical way. If you're looking at it that way, you might see that wisdom doesn't necessarily have anything to do with people being born with different capacities for it. It can be learned! It's more about understanding what makes sense than about how smart or experienced someone is.

WHAT IS WISDOM? HOW DO WE MEASURE IT?

Whatever the definition of wisdom, it can be measured by asking people to explain their decisions based on experience. It can be measured by asking people to weigh the good and bad consequences of a variety of actions.

Throughout history, wise people have consistently outperformed the less wise. This is because wisdom is a specific kind of knowledge that comes from experience, and it's related to the ability to make wise decisions based on what you know. The more experience you have in life, the more likely it is that you will make good choices. This is because wisdom or knowledge comes from chronos - time - not kairos-now.

For example, let's say you're deciding whether to go to college or not.

Conclusion A: The wise decision is to go to college.

Conclusion B: The wiser decision is not to go to college.

Read the following statements and rank them from 1 ("very unwise") to 4 ("very wise"), then answer these questions:

You're graduating from high school and considering your options for the future. Thinking back on your early experiences in school, you understand that you don't learn as well from lectures as you do from independent studying. You know that your reading skills are good, but you never took notes in class because you preferred doing research on your own. You also know that you rock at taking tests but have a hard time focusing on classes.

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