Here are 8 Ways to Develop More Wisdom in Your Life
Wisdom plays a massive role in practically every one of our daily pursuits. While wisdom is valuable to all of us, it is especially vital for our leaders. Those who manage our governments, our workplace, and our homes are more effective when they are wiser.
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Oddly enough, the people who think of themselves as wise are usually the ones who have the least wisdom. It makes perfect sense when you give it some thought. When a person assumes they are wise, they close their mind to more learning.
Wisdom and Society
Wisdom is essential in all societies. This is evident because the word ‘wisdom’ exists in the vocabulary of almost every language in the world. It is considered the highest human trait in many cultures.
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Amazingly, this topic has not been studied very much until recently. One reason for this is because our greatest thinkers have difficulty agreeing on a definition of wisdom. Like the terms love, success, and happiness, we understand them, but they are hard to define.
Preparing to Gain More Wisdom
Here’s a comforting thought in your pursuit of wisdom. The intention to become wiser will help your cause. This is a great way to start. What also helps is the willingness to be more introspective in an honest way.
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Becoming wiser is closely linked to our level of self-awareness. We must be more aware of how we react to events in our environment. The path to wisdom starts here. Those with low self-awareness will struggle more with becoming wiser.
The good news is that no matter where we start, we can grow and improve from the place we are now.
8 Ways to Become Wiser
Here are eight mental skills that embrace mindfulness and develop more wisdom. Understand that they require practice, and formal meditation will significantly enhance their effectiveness.
Constant observation of the mind’s habits
We begin by observing our thoughts, and we must be honest without any bias. It is essential to take notice of the defenses that our mind builds. Behind these mental walls are opportunities to become much wiser.
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Next, we must see how we are habitually reacting to the world around us. For instance, we often project our faults onto others, but don’t see them very clearly.
As we keep observing objectively, we gradually see thoughts that judge, stereotype, idealize, and denigrate. Then we start changing our outlook.
Get outside of our routine thought flow
When we begin paying attention to our moment-to-moment sensory experiences, we get a perspective on the way we process our thoughts. We also discover that our thought process is a habit. Upon a closer examination, we can see the influence of our culture and family.
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Our thought flow is a result of how we were conditioned to think by others in our life. Family members and other figures of authority have had the most impact. This is why people who move away from their childhood community often grow the most — they’ve gotten away from this mental conditioning.
This is why it’s important to step out of our habitual thought flow. It allows us to see the footprints of our past conditioning and lets us be who we really are. Viewing the world objectively lets us find a stable reality in an otherwise chaotic perspective.
Embrace opposing points of view
We all have strong points of view — some of them are stronger than others. And we tend to defend these stronger views more fiercely. The question is, how willing are we to listen to those who directly oppose our most valued opinions and beliefs?
The ingredient we seek here is tolerance. Regardless of what we believe and hold dear, there will always be opposition to that view.
The key to achieving tolerance lies in how we perceive different viewpoints. Do we see an attack, or do we see a different belief? It depends on both the perspective and perception.
Whenever someone sincerely expresses an opposing opinion, then we should see a different belief and let it go. However, if someone with a different view begins to criticize and belittle us, then this is an attack. Either way, a calm mind will prevail. We must refuse to get lured into an emotional outburst.
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Also, keep in mind that the other person is reacting to what they perceive from you. If they suddenly get emotional and attack you, then something you said has triggered that response. Be objective enough to determine whether or not their attack was legitimate.
Learn to accept some discomfort
We live in a world of instant gratification. This is because humans have a natural tendency to avoid pain and seek pleasure. This is how our ancient ancestors survived, so it should not be surprising that we have also embraced these practices.
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Marketers today understand that creating instant gratification for people will earn big profits. Therefore, we see more and more of this, and it also becomes normalized in our society.
However, there are two reasons why we should be hesitant about instantly fulfilling the pleasures we naturally seek.
- Several studies discovered that students who were willing to postpone rewards for their efforts were much more likely to succeed in their lives¹. This is actually a form of wisdom as they understood that sacrifices are needed to reach worthy goals.
- Those who are extremely eager to find instant gratification typically have a poor self-image. Without this gratification, they have to accept their lives as they now exist² — which is the sum of every choice they have ever made. Those who abuse drugs fall under this category. Gratifications are a way of sweeping their mental dirt under the rug.
We are not saying that instant gratification is always bad, but there should be some moderation. What determines whether they are bad is how we view them mentally.
Disconnect from automatic reactions
Let’s imagine that our spouse or partner brings up a sensitive topic, and we immediately deploy an emotional response such as anger, disgust, or clam up. This has become our automatic reaction to that topic. We have hundreds of automatic reactions like this that are programmed into our psyche³.
What if we were to engage with them calmly and seek a common solution or compromise in earnest? Can you see how this could be a life-changing decision?
When we gain more wisdom, we become more skilled at identifying our automated behaviors. All humans have them. Some of them are good, but it’s the bad ones which cause turbulence in our lives that we are most concerned about.
Simply identifying them will significantly increase your self-awareness. What you will find is that many of your auto-responses use the same algorithm, so when you correct one of them, many others will be corrected as well.
The final step is crafting an alternate response to use instead of your negative one. Eventually, this will gradually become your new algorithm and will affect all of your future auto-responses.
Observe how our minds create their own suffering
It is quite amazing how we humans have learned to torment ourselves with our thoughts. Think about those nights you couldn’t sleep because you were worrying about something. Or how about the presentation that you knew would go badly. These are examples of how our minds cause us to suffer.
Let’s discuss the two specific things about our minds that make us suffer.
Judgments. Whenever we make judgments and form strong opinions about things and people, we have also planted a mental seed to defend and justify our stance. There are times when our thoughts become dominated by defending our position within our minds⁴.
In essence, we are arguing with ourselves. This is not only fruitless; it expends an enormous amount of our mental energy that could be spent elsewhere. Remember, we start each day with a limited amount of this energy.
This is why it is so important to release as many judgments as we can, and let the world be itself. You will be surprised at how much more mental energy you will suddenly have.
Time management. This is not the productivity time management we hear so much about. This is about keeping yourself in the present moment. When we fail to do this, we introduce all sorts of stress and torment into our thoughts.
When we are not in the moment, we are either in the past or in the future. Whenever we are having thoughts about the past, we experience guilt. Whenever we are having thoughts about the future, we experience anxiety. Whenever we stay in the present, guilt and fear both vanish.
The real key to managing your thoughts is to focus only on the things you can control. We have zero control over painful moments from our past. They are done and gone.
Similarly, we can’t do anything about the things we fear will happen in the future, other than preparing ourselves as best as we can. However, most of the time, the things we worry about happening in the future never occur⁵.
: Emily Swaim. (May 11, 2020). Delayed Gratification and Impulse Control. https://www.verywellmind.com/delayed-gratification-why-wait-for-what-you-want-2795429.
: Sarah Williams. (July 31, 2015). Why Instant Gratification Doesn’t Create Lasting Happiness. https://chopra.com/articles/why-instant-gratification-doesnt-create-lasting-happiness.
: Jeffrey S. Nevid Ph.D. (March 4, 2018). Is Your Brain on Automatic Pilot? https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-minute-therapist/201803/is-your-brain-automatic-pilot.
: Steve Pavlina. (June 3, 2010). Suspending Judgment. https://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2010/06/suspending-judgment/.
: Amy Morin. (May 9, 2017). How to Stop Worrying About Things You Can’t Change. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201705/how-stop-worrying-about-things-you-cant-change.