A friend of mine, a man in his early sixties, went to a school reunion. He was shocked to discover that he found half his school friends to be old, and half were young, even though they were of course all the same age. The “old” ones talked of what they used to do and what they used to be, speaking only of their past. The “young” ones spoke of what they were going to do and what they were going to be, speaking only of their future. My friend defined the “old” ones as simply older, whilst the “young” ones seemed older, wiser and happier.
I was encouraged by this story as I have lots of plans, to spend more time enjoying my writing life, to work less, to be fitter and healthier. I’m young at heart then, even though I’m no longer young in years. 2017 is a turning point year: I’ll be 65 in September. This has come upon me with no warning whatsoever, after at least a decade of successful denial of my advancing years. I’m clearly not middle aged anymore: there’s nobody alive who is 130.
So, older is undeniable, and it does have its compensations. More peace, happiness and joy, as George Clooney suggests. But am I wiser? Is wisdom an inevitable side effect of age, or am I going to have to work at it? What is it and how do I get it and what would it do for me to have it?
These are the questions I’m going to blog about this year. I’m going to wise up, to see if I can claim my older, wiser, happier badge for 2018.
What is wisdom? It’s defined as data, information and knowledge; combine those with experience and insight, and if that then changes the way you think, feel or behave, then you have wisdom.
Knowledge (information, facts, data, theories), have never been easier to acquire: anything we want to know is literally at our fingertips, or at a voice command. But knowledge, though necessary for wisdom, is not sufficient: it must be blended with experiences, thought about more deeply, and developed to a profound understanding and insight that will then change our subsequent thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
I’m doing fine on the data, information and knowledge front. I’m educated in psychology and creative writing, I’m well read, and reasonably informed on current affairs. Psychology is one of the underpinnings of wisdom, providing many of the tools and techniques to accelerate maturity. For the last thirty years, I’ve both learned and taught most psychological techniques, and I think I can claim that has given me some insight, into myself and into others. I suspect, though, that the final conversion into wisdom, especially the changing the way I behave bit, is an area where I could have done better.
Had I not spent the last thirty years running around like a maniac, getting married, divorced, marrying for the third time, having and raising two children, being step mother to three more, establishing and running a successful business and working full time, I would have had more time to stand and stare, to stop and think: in short to become much, much wiser. Too much experience and not enough time to really learn from it perhaps. Now that I have more time and space, I’m hoping it’s not too late. As I think about taking more leisure, eventually to retire, can I go back and revisit moments of truth, and lessons in life, reflect on them and consider whether they did change my thoughts, feelings or behaviour, or whether they could have? Maybe there have been times when I could have learned more, enough to change and become wiser?
Perhaps you could join me, and share some of your own moments of wisdom?In the next post, I’ll talk about different mindsets and ways of thinking, and how they promote or obstruct the development of wisdom.
And a belated Happy New Year….