how to become wise

Last Updated on August 28, 2023

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how to become wise

Confucius once said that there were three ways to learn wisdom: “First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” Gaining wisdom, the most prized of virtues across almost all cultures, is an exercise in life learning, careful analysis, and thoughtful action.

Gaining ExperienceDownload Article
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Cultivate the mind of a beginner. Do you remember the first time you saw dinosaur bones at the museum? Or the first time you ate a really good peach? Your world expanded at that moment by a fraction and you became a little wiser. The Buddhist concept of “beginner’s mind” refers to the approach of a person just starting out, filled with the wonder of new learning, and being challenged anew by it. Always keep a curious and open mind.[1]
Rather than prejudging situations, learn to keep your mind open and tell yourself “I don’t know what to expect,” which will allow you to learn and gain wisdom. When you cease to have a fixed idea of people, things, and situations surrounding you, you grow in wisdom by soaking up changes, new ideas, and don’t set any person above or beneath you.[2]
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Ask lots of questions. Learning doesn’t stop just because you might have graduated from high school or college, or that you’ve got kids and have lots of experience you’d like to teach them. Even if you’re a teacher at the highest level or an expert in your field, you’re not done learning. A wise person questions their motivations, questions widely accepted knowledge, and learns to love asking questions in moments of ignorance, because a wise person knows when it is time to learn.[3]
Anais Nin neatly summed up this need to continue learning: “Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”
When you share knowledge, you also learn better since you recognize your own understanding and how you may organize the information better.[4]
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Slow down. Be still at least once a day, to allow yourself time to rest and to stop taking in the rush of the world. Being constantly busy and worrying incessantly about being seen as inadequate may make you a paragon of workplace virtue but it does not make you wise. Stop. Stand still. Take in what the unhurried perspective brings to you.[5]
Fill your time with contemplation. Fill your free time with learning rather than distractions. If you find yourself filling downtime with television or video games, try to substitute an hour of television with 1 hour of reading or choose instead to watch a nature documentary you’ve been meaning to watch. Better yet, go outside and go for a hike in the woods.
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Think first and talk second. It’s not always important to voice your opinion in a group or to contribute something just because you can. Wise people don’t always need to prove their knowledge. If your opinion is necessary, give it.[6] An old adage goes, “The best samurai lets the sword rust in its scabbard.”
This isn’t to say you should withdraw socially or never speak. Rather, be receptive to others and be a good listener. Don’t just wait for your turn to speak because you think you’re wiser than everyone else in the room. That’s not wisdom, that’s egotism.

Imitating WisdomDownload Article
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Learn from mentors. Find people whom you respect and who emulate the values and ideals that represent wisdom. Look for people doing the things you find interesting and of importance. Ask those people questions. Listen with great care to what they have to say, for you will learn much from their experience and reflection.[7] When in doubt, ask your mentors for advice and guidance; while you don’t necessarily have to agree with what they have to say, it will certainly give you food for thought.
Mentors don’t have to be successful people or people you want to “be like.” The wisest person you know might be a bartender, not a professor of mathematics. Learn to recognize the wisdom in everyone.
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Read everything. Read the writings of philosophers and social commentators. Read comics. Read Lee Child adventure novels. Read online or on mobile devices. Get a library card. Read contemporary Irish poetry. Read Melville. Read as if your life depended on it and form opinions about the things you read and talk with others about what you’ve read.[8]
Read especially about your particular fields of interest, whether it be your job or your hobby. Read about other people’s experiences and learn how others before you have dealt with situations that you’re likely to face.
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Share with your mentors. It’s a mistake to think that the wise are above it all. Never troubled by their emotions, wise people float above the rest of us in an unfeeling bubble of their own making. Not true.
When you’re feeling frustrated or disappointed in something, it’s natural to want to discuss it with someone who will understand. Surround yourself with willing and receptive wise people who’ll give you a sounding board. Be open with them and they’ll be open with you.
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Practice humility. Is it wise to sell yourself? The business and marketing world has convinced us self-promotion is a necessity, because we’ve managed to turn ourselves into commodities in need of a good sales pitch, and business language frequently reflects this. However, there is a huge difference between acknowledging to yourself and others that you are good at doing something and exaggerating a range of skill sets beyond your comfort zone just to keep up with the competition.[9]
Being humble is not about abdicating your self-worth; rather, it’s about being realistic and only emphasizing all that is good and capable within you. In turn, people will know that they can depend on your reliability for those traits.
Being humble is wise because it allows the real you to shine through. Humility also ensures that you respect the abilities of others rather than fearing them; the wisdom of accepting your own limitations and connecting with other people’s strengths to bolster yours is infinite.
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Be there for others. Wise people don’t have to live in caves, growing wizard beards in their hermitage. Exchange wisdom with others to help guide them. As a mentor and teacher yourself, you can help other people learn about critical thinking, embracing feelings, loving lifelong learning, and trusting themselves.
Avoid the temptation to use learning as a barrier against others. Knowledge is for sharing not hoarding, and wisdom will only grow when exposed to everyone else’s ideas no matter how confronting they may be.
ReflectingDownload Article
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Learn to recognize your faults. The hardest journey is often the one that requires looking inside yourself and being honest about what you find. try to work out what beliefs, opinions, and biases you harbor. Unless you’re willing to know yourself well and learn to love both the strengths and weaknesses within you, it is difficult to be wise. Knowing yourself provides the space in which you can grow and forgive yourself as you journey through life.
Be wary of any self-improvement advice that claims to have “secrets”. The only “secret” to self-improvement is that it requires hard work and constancy. Beyond that, you can fiddle at the edges (attested to remarkably by the massive success of the self-help industry) but you cannot change the reality of having to do the work of personal introspection and reflection on the world yourself.
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Accept that you can’t know everything. The wisest of people have long been those who realize they actually know very little, often in spite of decades of learning and reflecting. The more you think about people, things, and events, the more it becomes clear that there is always more to know and that what you do know is but a pinhead amid all knowledge. Acceptance of the limitations of your own knowledge is a key to wisdom.[10]
Don’t confuse expertise with wisdom. Expertise refers to a high level of knowledge in a distinct field, whereas wisdom refers to the broader notion seeing the big picture of that knowledge, and to live calmly reassured of your decisions and actions in light of your knowledge.
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Be responsible for yourself.[11] Only you can know who you are and only you can be responsible for your ultimate choices. If you’ve spent years doing what was right according to someone else’s standards rather than your own, you’re not being responsible for yourself. Change the job where nobody recognizes your talents and find one where people will discover the tiger within. Move somewhere you’re comfortable. Find a way to earn a living that doesn’t compromise your compassion, care, and interests. Self-responsibility, including learning to accept the consequences of making your own decisions, increases wisdom.
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Uncomplicate your life. For many people, a sense of meaning in life is “created” from being overly busy and by complicating everything from work to love. Complexity can make a person feel important and wanted but it is not wisdom. Rather, it’s a form of distraction from oneself and from dealing with issues in life that really do matter, like questioning what your purpose is and what life is all about. Complication rules out reflection and leaves you vulnerable to the mysticism of expertise, causing you to make things harder than they need to be. Keep it simple and wisdom will flourish.[12]
As you grow wiser in a topic, it should become more simple for you to understand. If something still seems complex to you, you may not understand the basic building blocks of the subject.

habits of wise person

Proverbs 16:16 states, “How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver!”

This is sage advice, but not really a prevailing attitude in today’s culture. Today, we often see people racking up huge bills on their credit cards because they can’t wait to get the latest and greatest products and services. We see people with huge homes and expensive cars, but empty, sad hearts. We see people on the brink of destruction due to bad decisions and bad habits. As the proverb says, wisdom, not wealth, gets you through this life successfully. If you are a wise person, you can wisely manage your finances as well.

If you want to become a wise person, you need to start acting like one. Here are some characteristics of a wise person to consider emulating:

Characteristics of a Wise Person

  1. They Educate Themselves.
    Educate yourself. Wise people learn the basics of personal finance, including information about budgeting, retirement accounts, mortgages, and life insurance. You can’t make solid decisions about money without a deep understanding of all of the elements involved in your finances.

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  1. They Are Disciplined.
    Wise people exercise self-control. If you’ve invested in a stock as a long-term investment opportunity, don’t panic and sell the stock based on one day of volatility. If you have a set budget, use discipline to stick to your budget as you walk though the shopping mall. Tip: If you have trouble following a budget, try the envelope budgeting system.
  2. They Admit Their Mistakes and Learn From Them.
    People learn from their mistakes because they must live through the consequences. For example, if you’ve ever lent money to a friend or relative who wouldn’t pay you back, you are wise if you never lend money to these people again. No matter how hard the fall, always get back up and start again. Begin by admitting your mistakes, and then use those mistakes as learning opportunities.
  3. They Are Patient.
    Patience is a virtue, and valuable when it comes to personal finances. A wise person saves enough money to purchase a fun, new gadget instead of charging it to a credit card. Wise people take their time when making important decisions, like buying a new car, or a home. When you exercise patience, you give yourself a chance to properly gather information, and to weigh all of your options.
  4. They Take Instruction Humbly.

A wise person admits that they don’t know everything. They accept the fact that other people are more qualified and more knowledgeable than they are, without dismay. By valuing others’ opinions and knowledge, a wise person opens up to the possibility of acquiring and retaining valuable information. Wise people are not entitled, and they welcome the input of others.

  1. They Can Handle Rejection and Failure.
    A wise person doesn’t worry about rejection when asking for a promotion during a job performance review. A wise person takes action on side business ideas to earn passive income, without worrying about failure. If you don’t risk failure, you may never obtain significant success.
  2. They Know That They Can Only Control Themselves.
    Wise people don’t worry about what other people think or what other people do. They know that they can only control themselves and that what other people think doesn’t matter. For example, if a wise person lives in a small, modest home because the house was affordable, he or she doesn’t worry about people in larger, costlier homes.
  3. They Are Guided by Wisdom.
    Wisdom is better than riches. Wealth is important, but does not take precedence over family, friends, and health. Money should be used as a means to achieving one’s goals, but should not be the end goal.
  4. They Know Their Priorities.
    Wise people put first things first and last things last. They put family time first, before hobbies or free time. They pay off debt, before they buy something new. Wise people have their lives sorted out, and they know where they should direct their attention.
  5. They Are Trustworthy and Steadfast.
    A wise person treats others as they want to be treated, because they know it will help them, not hurt them. The wise person is who we always go to when we need solid advice. Wise people are who we turn to and who we trust in times of need.
  6. They Take Calculated Risks.
    Without some risk, there is limited chance of success. Wise people take risks in support of their goals, without endangering themselves or harming others. Most great stories about entrepreneurial success started with someone taking a chance.
  7. They Make the Most of Their Relationships.
    Wise people understand and revere the power of networking. They don’t shy away from asking advice of successful friends and family members, and they share their successes with others. Wise people continue to learn and increase their base of knowledge, and they know this is significantly impacted by the relationships they cultivate.
  8. They Don’t Live Beyond Their Means.
    Wise people pay their bills on time and only buy things they can afford. They don’t feel pressured to spend money on items they don’t need.
  9. They Don’t Pay Full Price.

Wise people clip coupons, sign up for discount clubs, and shop during sales. They don’t mind holding up the line at the grocery store while cashiers ring up coupons (i.e. extreme couponing). They willingly buy half-price sweaters in the summer, and discounted sandals in the winter. They comparison shop online to find the best prices for big purchases, and they never, ever pay full price.

  1. They Don’t Squander Money.
    Whether it’s a tip, winnings from a poker game, or a well-deserved bonus at work, wise people know they need to save or invest this money. Many people squander “found” money, but wise people know this money can help them achieve their long-term financial goals. Instead of wasting this money on something that won’t last or on items they don’t need, wise people put found money to work for them.

Final Word
If it’s true that you can become a wise person by emulating one, this article gives you the blueprint for success. Whether it’s gaining knowledge, putting family first, or taking risks, there’s a lot to be learned from wise people. Take a close look at your personal finances to determine whether you make wise financial decisions and how you can improve. It might just the right time for a change.

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