What do you need to be wise?

In our quest to understand and measure wisdom, we’ve come a long way since the 1950s.  Scientists have strived to empirically capture this elusive concept, and today, we have several “wisdom scales” recognised for their reliability and consistency in assessing wisdom.  But what exactly are these scales measuring?

Thankfully, the diligent work of neurologist Dr Dilip Jeste and psychiatrist Dr Thomas Meeks has provided us with a standardised list of six components that appear consistently across the ten wisdom models they examined.  These components encapsulate the essence of wisdom and offer valuable insights into what it means to be wise:

  1. Prosocial Attitudes/Behaviours: The commitment to promoting the common good and transcending self-interest.
  2. Social Decision-Making/Pragmatic Knowledge of Life: The ability to navigate effectively through the intricate web of complex social situations that humans frequently encounter.
  3. Emotional Homeostasis: Striking a balance by curbing prolonged negative emotions and fostering the uninhibited expression of positive emotions like happiness, love, and gratitude.
  4. Reflection/Self-Understanding: Engaging in introspection and self-reflection to gain deeper insights into one’s thoughts and actions.
  5. Value Relativism/Tolerance: The capacity to embrace and respect diverse value systems other individuals or cultures hold.
  6. Acknowledgment of and Dealing Effectively with Uncertainty/Ambiguity: Recognising the presence of uncertainty and ambiguity and, crucially, maintaining emotional composure in these challenges.

I would also add spirituality to the essential wisdom “toolkit”.  It appears in some models but not enough for Jeste and Meeks to include it in their final cut.  To recognise something greater than yourself I consider an essential for some of the other components on this list to function well.

This comprehensive list of wisdom components offers you and me a personal growth and development roadmap.  It serves as a reminder that wisdom isn’t just an abstract concept; it’s a tangible set of qualities that can be nurtured and cultivated in our lives.  As we reflect on these components, consider how you might integrate them into your own journey, forging a path towards a wiser and more fulfilling life.  The great thing about it is that we can actually grow in wisdom and that we’ll discuss at another wisdom session.

So, I leave you with this takeaway: wisdom isn’t an unattainable ideal; it’s a set of traits we can aspire to embody.  As we navigate the complexities of life, let’s strive to embrace these wisdom components, not only for our own growth but for the betterment of the world around us.  In doing so, we can each contribute to a wiser and more harmonious society.

About the Wayfinders' Blog

The Wayfinders’ Blog helps individuals, teams and organisations discover and develop their unique strengths. I provide valuable insights and practical tips to my audience empowering them to develop their talents into strengths and achieve their goals.

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