10 signs you’re becoming a wiser person, according to psychology

Getting older should mean getting wiser, at least that’s the ideal!

Is it actually happening?

Psychology has some useful answers about what it means to get wiser in the course of your life. 

Let’s take a look at the signs that your maturity and wisdom is in a growth cycle. 

1) You have learned to be more accepting of what you can’t control

Many of life’s worst anxieties and problems come from worry, anger and sadness at things which are out of our control. 

This can include everything from whether or not somebody we’re attracted to feels the same as us, to a tragedy like losing somebody we love. 

As you get wiser, you learn that many parts of life truly are out of your control and that you shouldn’t beat yourself up and must find a way to accept reality as it is. This isn’t always easy, but it’s wise. And it tends to come with age. 

As psychologist John Amodeo, Ph.D., MFT writes

“We feel life and all that it contains—the beauty, the awe, the preciousness, as well as the sorrow and grief that is part of the rhythm of life. As we allow ourselves to welcome it all rather than push anything away, we become larger.”

2) You’re able to more effectively manage your own emotions 

This relates to the previous point about acceptance, because another key sign that you’re growing wiser with age is that you’re able to manage your own emotions more effectively

You still feel strongly and you still get overwhelmed at times, but you are able to understand and process your emotions in healthier and more responsible ways than you did when younger. 

You’re able to accept that life is a series of ups and downs and that feeling a sense of wellbeing and inner peace isn’t always a reality. And just accepting that, ironically, tends to bring you much more inner peace. 

“Laura Carstensen of Stanford University has produced a substantial body of research over the past two decades showing that the ability to focus on emotional control is tightly linked to a person’s sense of time and that older people in general seem to have a better feel for keeping their emotions in balance,” explains Stephen Hall. 

3) You’re consistently learning and growing as a person 

Getting older doesn’t always mean getting wiser by any means, although the two often and generally do correlate. 

But one of the signs that you’re using the years to your benefit is that you’re continuing to learn and grow as you get older. 

You stoke your curiosity on a wide range of subjects and branch out into friendships and professional and personal connections of all kinds to broaden your knowledge and mind. 

You’re using your time wisely (to get wise!)

As clinical psychologist Noam Shpancer, Ph.D. observes:

“The question to ask when it comes to wisdom is not how much time you’ve had, but what you chose to do with your time.”

4) You strive for improvement and realism, not perfectionism

Becoming wiser is all about becoming more realistic and attuned to objective reality. 

You find that perfectionism no longer tempts you in any area of your life. While you do want to keep improving, hitting your goals and succeeding, you aren’t trying to get it perfect. 

You realize that everybody makes mistakes and that as long as you do your best and take responsibility for where you go off track, you’re on the right path. 

This is the kind of wisdom that comes with age and with maturity formed through life’s variety of experiences. 

“As we get older and wiser, we recognize that rather than strive for perfection, we can embrace our humanity and make choices that increase our joy,” notes Amodeo. 

5) You’re able to think long-term and be rational 

Getting wiser can be seen in your ability to think longer-term and be more rational. 

You’re able to delay gratification and have mastered some discipline over your impulses and urges. 

You can see an attractive person without trying to get their number or being tempted to cheat; you can be at a buffet and stop yourself after two plates even when the food tastes delicious.

You’re able to balance your desires and immediate impulses with a reasonable and logical response. 

“A wise person, in addition to having world knowledge and self-knowledge, is one who lives their lives rationally and reasonably,” Shpancer notes.

6) You’re becoming much more self-aware 

lack of self awareness 10 signs you’re becoming a wiser person, according to psychology

As the years go by and you experience more of life, you’re becoming more self-aware

Your knowledge of both your strengths and weaknesses is changing and you’re learning more about what drives you and where your blind spots are. 

This is all helping you to grow in pursuing your purpose in life and in working on those parts of yourself that you want to improve and change. 

As professor of psychiatry and neuroscience Dilip Jeste writes:

“Empirical studies have shown that older people are better than younger ones in terms of control over emotion, knowing themselves better, making better decisions that require experience, and having more compassion and empathy towards others. 

7) Your empathy and emotional intelligence is increasing with the years

Wisdom isn’t just about cold, hard logic and long-term planning, of course. 

It’s also about emotional intelligence (EQ) and your empathy for yourself and others. 

You find that you’re starting to see how we’re all in this together and how even people you don’t like or consider wrong or misguided are still just struggling through the journey of life like you are. 

You’re truly feeling empathy for what others go through and realizing that even the times you’ve been badly victimized you haven’t been as alone – or as unique – as you once may have thought. 

8) You’re able to see things from truly different perspectives 

This ties into the previous point, because your growth in wisdom is also about being able to see things multi-directionally. 

You are able to walk in somebody else’s shoes in a very real way that used to be beyond the realm of your ability. 

But now you can think about “what would it be like if…?” and really ponder it. You’re able to also hear views and experiences that you totally disagree with or find upsetting and still gain some wisdom and insight from them. 

As psychological researcher and sociology professor Monika Ardelt says

“The reflective dimension is a prerequisite for the development of the cognitive dimension of wisdom. 

“A deeper understanding of life is only possible if one can perceive reality as it is without any major distortions. To do this, one needs to engage in reflective thinking by looking at phenomena and events from many different perspectives.”

9) You have had highly unique and formative life experiences that you’ve learned from

Your life experiences have been highly unique and formed you into a person you never thought you’d be:

This goes for both positive and negative ways, but the key is that you are continuing to learn and grow in ways you didn’t expect. 

You’re living in the present and becoming a complex and psychologically solid individual because of the unique tapestry of experiences that’s made you who you are. 

“There is no universal trajectory of wisdom development; whether and how much individuals grow towards wisdom depends on individual constellations of life experiences and intrapersonal and interpersonal resources,” writes psychology professor Judith Glück. 

10) You find your decision-making ability has improved 

The final sign you’re getting wiser with age is that your ability to make good choices has improved. 

You are less reckless and you take your time to think things over. 

When a decision does have pressure, you do your best to balance your head and your heart and get outside advice when that can be helpful as well. 

As Jeste points out:

“Some things get better with age, like the ability to make decisions, control emotions, and have compassion for others—in other words, we get wiser with age.”

The paradox of age and wisdom

As we go through life, we inevitably gain more experiences and observations. This often increases wisdom, as outlined in the pioneering research work of German developmental psychologist Paul Baltes.

In his Berlin Wisdom Project, Baltes concluded that “wisdom is defined as an expert knowledge system concerning the fundamental pragmatics of life.”

He also found that it tended to increase as we age. 

However there’s also a catch. 

As Glück observes

“Wisdom comes with age, as it is based on accumulated life experience. 

“However, wisdom may also decline with age, because some of its components do: the ability to grasp complex problems or to regulate emotions in stressful situations tend to decline as individuals age.”

The key sign that you’re getting older is that your understanding of yourself and others is increasing, and so is your empathy and ability to make effective decisions that find win-win solutions and lead to your own fulfillment. 

Picture of Paul Brian

Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on www.twitter.com/paulrbrian and visit his website at www.paulrbrian.com

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