Wisdom’s a funny thing.
We grow up thinking our parent’s the wisest creatures in existence only to later find out that they know as little as we do (which is often not that much).
Wisdom is also one of the qualities that is typically gained through nurture instead of nature.
Someone might grow up inherently tender and kind, but they don’t pop out of their mother’s stomach already a wisened old owl.
Whilst being wise might not be a characteristic you consider describing yourself as, you’re likely wiser than you think.
Wisdom comes not only from having your nose deep in a book, but also from living through various life experiences that broaden your perspective.
So what sorts of life experiences can culminate a sense of wisdom within a person?
How many have you already lived through?
Let’s find out:
1) You’re an intrepid world traveler
A privilege many don’t get to experience, yet also one of the most fruitful ways to learn more about the world is through traveling to new places.
In immersing yourself in new cultures (and I don’t mean just staying at the local Hilton and ordering in a pizza), you deepen your understanding of how people live differently around the globe.
Bonus points for if you’ve been traveling alone.
Whilst I love holiday-ing, I learned the most in the year that I spent backpacking with my own company.
It can seem terrifying at first, but hoisting up a heavy backpack and navigating the world by yourself grants you an immense amount of confidence and independence.
Pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone and starting conversations all by yourself, making friends halfway across the world, and dipping your toes in unknown waters do wonders for making you world-wise.
(Just be cautious if you do consider traveling alone and learn how to do so safely).
2) You’ve read a ton of books
Okay, so my point in the introduction wasn’t completely moot.
Reading can also provide you with so much wisdom and knowledge.
Ranging from self-help books, to fiction, to autobiographies.
Without the power of books, you wouldn’t be able to dive into what it was like to survive World War II. Or learn about how Cleopatra hoodwinked Caesar.
If you can be found reading in your spare time and have learned more from books beyond trailing through schoolbooks in highschool, you’ve likely expanded your mind willingly and know how much knowledge and wisdom reading can bring.
3) You’ve navigated conflict and debated ideas
Although disagreements can be tiresome and stressful, they contribute hugely to what we know about people and teach us how to better resolve conflict.
This largely comes from surrounding ourselves with people who have different opinions to us.
If you perpetually live in a world where everyone nods their head and says “OMG you’re so right”, regardless of what they actually think, your ego might grow – but your wisdom stays stunted.
Being able to have healthy debates with people who challenge our thinking stimulates growth in our own thought processes.
Thus, if you’re someone who doesn’t shirk from conflict but instead enjoys stumbling upon someone who has a very different opinion to you, and is happy to engage in hearty debates, you’re likely wiser than you think and ready to get wiser.
4) You’ve loved and lost
This can be both learning from the vulnerability of putting yourself out there and loving with all you heart, only to have it broken, or to mourn the death of someone you loved (and still love).
Grief changes and shapes us in colossal ways.
Learning to navigate life in the absence of someone invites independence and encourages new ways of thinking.
Additionally, mourning opens up wider questions about philosophy and what lies ahead.
Although heart-wrenching, if you’ve experienced either (or both) heartbreak and loss, you’re likely a more nuanced and contemplative person than those that haven’t.
5) You’ve quit an addiction
If you’ve willingly thrown yourself into addiction recovery and overcome that addiction, you have a hell of a lot of impulse control.
On top of that, you’ve likely developed a sense of wisdom and confidence in your ability to overcome what at one point might have seemed like a habit that consumed you and controlled you.
Beating a nicotine addiction, substance abuse, toxic relationships.
Successfully quitting any of the above for good has likely provided you with a lifetime’s worth in wisdom of how to navigate future addictive tendencies.
And even if you slip up in the future, you’ve taught yourself the tools and techniques you can implement to move swiftly into quitting bad habits.
6) You’ve hit rock bottom
Unfortunately, a lot of wisdom comes from life’s less pleasant experiences.
Diamonds are made under pressure etc.
Experiencing failure and rejection and hitting (what you think to be) your rock bottom means you start to understand your own limits.
Plus, you learn how to make a comeback.
You realize the true strength of your character and strength in overcoming obstacles and rising up from the ashes. Even if you feel pretty beat down in the process.
The path to wisdom…
Can be lonely.
Learning new things means that you sometimes find yourself at odds with people of your past.
Especially if those individuals are close-minded and unwilling to join you on the journey to self-discovery and cognitive expansion.
We often have to leave people behind as we grow, particularly if they stunt or prevent us from flourishing to our full capabilities.
Wisdom isn’t purely gained through suffering and grief, although we do learn more about the world and our inner strength in navigating these challenges.
The more you see, the more people you meet and speak to, the more you read and learn, the wiser you’ll get.
So keep an open-mind and an open-heart; you’ll be surprised when you look back in a few years and realize quite how much you’ve learned.