Older and Wiser? Four Steps to Finding Wisdom at Any Age

“Wisdom is the supreme part of happiness.”

– Sophocles

Now at the end of my forties I expect that I am wiser than I was 20 or so years ago. Isn’t that what’s supposed to happen?  Age brings wisdom?

Often, however, I still feel like I am muddling through life on a daily basis, not really sure of what I am doing or where I am going. And of course it’s true that I don’t have all the answers.

At the same time, I also have to recognize that I do know a lot more than I did when I was in my mid-20s or mid-30s or even early-40s. I am beginning to acknowledge my own wisdom, and that feels great!

But you don’t have to wait until “middle age” to seek and find wisdom. It’s a life-long process that begins when you’re young. I’m convinced that the key to wisdom is how you approach life and yourself.

Being wise has a lot of benefits. It doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes every day. It doesn’t mean I’ve answered all of life’s questions.

It does mean that I know myself better than I ever have. It means that my self-confidence is growing because I’m learning what I’m good at and what I enjoy. It also means I am learning what is good for me, what makes me joyful and content.

So if you crave wisdom, here are a few places to start on your journey:

1. Recognize and accept constant learning.

The trick to learning is that you have to actually listen to the lesson presented to you. My simple approach is to first acknowledge that I learned something and then consciously add it to my collection of self-knowledge. I always say to myself “Lesson learned,” just to reinforce that I really got it.

2. Practice compassion.

Learning a lesson means accepting that we made a mistake, however big or small. And many of us can be really hard on ourselves when we make mistakes. Wisdom will not come from self-criticism. Wisdom can only come when we accept who we are, with all of our flaws and all of the beautiful uniqueness we add to the world. Be gentle with yourself. Forgive yourself and collect another piece of your wisdom puzzle.

3. Live consciously.

You won’t be able to recognize lessons learned unless you pay attention. Pay attention to physical clues—I have butterflies in my stomach; I had a hard time sleeping last night. Try to figure out why you are having a significant reaction to a situation.

Pay attention to your emotions and ask yourself why you are upset or happy or fearful.

Pay attention to connections (seeming coincidences) in the world—I just said that or thought that yesterday and now I heard the same idea on the radio. Tune into these kinds of connections; they may be trying to tell you something. (But you have to pay attention to figure out the message.)

4. Stay on the journey.

The route to wisdom is self-knowledge. And self-knowledge comes from never-ending curiosity and exploration. Read books, talk to people about ideas, join a self-development/ philosophical/ spiritual/ etc. discussion group, journal, use your creativity.

Expand who you are in order to know who you are in this moment and who you strive to be.

I am on a journey toward self-knowledge and clarity. I realize I will be on this journey for the rest of my life. To me, this is a big part of what makes life interesting. Along the way, I am picking up bits of knowledge from every source possible and adding them to my own personal fountain of wisdom.

Becoming wise can be both difficult and easy. Often the path to wisdom—the experiences we have been through to help us learn—is long and difficult.

And it takes courage to face our own fears and faults. But once we muster up the courage to be really honest with ourselves, wisdom flows.

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