What Makes Someone Wise?

What makes someone wise? That’s a loaded question. Everyone has a different conception; however, you hear the word, and immediately classic images come to mind. Perhaps an owl, a library, someone meditating, or even a trusted matriarch giving her daughter or grandchildren advice.

If you strike up a conversation with someone about wisdom, a lot of times, you’ll hear stories of mentors with years of experience providing guidance throughout different or difficult times.

This rings true to me. Someone wise can look back on their lives and give advice on how to navigate change and move forward. So, I’ve always thought - maybe I’ll get there eventually. Perhaps when I reached the age of one of my grandparents, I’d have the life experiences I needed to make wise decisions and perhaps, if asked, guide others like they guided me.

Here’s the thing - I don’t want to wait that long. I want to feel that the decisions I make are wise. I want to accelerate my development. If I’m able to engage wiser acting now, I’d, hopefully, be able to serve in a more effective way. Maybe if I’m able to do that, I could feel a greater level of peace than I do right now.

The authors of The Wisdom Factor, Alice Darnell Lattal and Carlos A. Zuluaga, ask a simple question, “What if wisdom, specifically wise-acting, was a little bit more attainable than you thought it was?”

I will fully admit - I always have a bit of an internal dialogue. Sometimes I’ll accidentally say a word (or two…) aloud or change my facial expression while the thought exchanges play around in my head. So, I’m working on quieting these voices and replacing them with a think-aloud wise-acting approach.

First Question: “How am I going to show up to this?”

An animated picture of a woman with question marks above her head.

This question really does stop me in my tracks - particularly when I’m about to or know I need to enter an uncomfortable situation. Am I about to act on my environment - wherever that may be - in a way that reflects my values?

I want to move quickly on things. I’m impatient - I often say the right thing at the wrong time or the wrong way. I’m working on that with the next question:

“What effect would my behavior have right now? Would it be the one I’m hoping to achieve?”

The cover of the book "The Wisdom Factor".These two questions help me think through difficult situations - they help me regulate. They help me consider factors before acting.

The final question and this one, sometimes takes a little time to see, “What effect did I just have on others, and (here’s where my patience gets tested) what steps will I take to monitor the long-term effects?”

And that there - factoring in the effects after my behavior - that’s wisdom. Wisdom is a collection of your responses in the environment, the behavior you engage in every day, and the immediate and lasting effects your behavior has on others.



Animated picture with a group of people featuring hearts.

I don’t yet have the life experience of the people who have influenced me the most. I hope to get there. In the meantime, I will take the tool kit from The Wisdom Factor and start changing now.

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