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How to Gain Wisdom

Three Parts:Gaining ExperienceLearning from Wise PeoplePutting Wisdom Into Practice

Wisdom is a virtue that isn’t innate, but can only be acquired through experience. Anyone who is interested in trying new things and reflecting on the process has the ability to gain wisdom. By learning as much as you can, analyzing your experiences and putting your knowledge to the test, you can become a wiser person.

Part 1
Gaining Experience

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    Try new things. It's hard to gain wisdom when you stay in and do the same thing day after day. You get wiser when you put yourself out there and give yourself the opportunity to learn, make mistakes and reflect on the experience. If you tend to be on the inhibited side, work on cultivating an inquisitive spirit and the willingness to put yourself in new situations.[1] Every time you experience something new, you open yourself up to the possibility of learning and getting a little wiser for having tried it.
    • Going to places you've never been before is a great way to get some life experience. Such as booking a trip to another city, or taking a road trip to the next town over. Make an effort to eat at a restaurant that's popular with the locals, rather than going to your favorite chain. Every chance you get, choose newness over the familiar.
    • Trying new social activities is another good way to open up your world. If you tend to spend your time watching sports, get tickets to see a play. If you're a total bookworm, you could sign up for a hiking club or join a bowling team.
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    Step out of your comfort zone. If you’re afraid to do something, perhaps that’s the very thing you should try to do. When you have to deal with an awkward or scary situation, you come out on the other side better equipped to handle fear the next time you face it. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face . . . we must do that which we think we cannot.”
    • For example, if you’re afraid of public speaking, volunteer to give a presentation.
    • If you dislike talking about your feelings, make an effort to have a conversation with a loved one telling the person how much you care. Ask the person how he or she feels, too.
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    Make an effort to talk to people you don’t know very well. Talk to people from different backgrounds and with different perspectives from yours, and pay attention to what you can learn from them. Try not to judge them based on your own narrow point of view. The more you're able to empathize with others, the wiser you will be.[2]
    • Practice being a good listener, and ask a lot of questions to find out more. Really pay attention to what people are saying instead of letting your mind wander. Every conversation gives you the chance to understand someone better, broaden your views and thus become wiser.
    • Share yourself with the people you're talking to, too. Work on going deeper than casual conversation and fostering new friendships.
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    Be open-minded. Instead of judging things you don’t know much about, consider them from every angle and make an effort to understand.[3] It's easy to base our views on the limited experiences we've had in life, but that's not the way to gain wisdom. You can't help that you've grown up in a certain place with certain people, but you can decide how open you are to learning about different ways of life.
    • Don’t base your opinions of things on what other people think, or whether something is popular. Do your own research and look at both sides of the story before you decide what you think about something.
    • For example, maybe you think a certain type of music isn’t cool because none of your friends like it. Before you jump on the bandwagon, try seeing a band play the music live, and read up on its history. When you've taken time to understand something, you can decide you don't like it, but not before then.

Part 2
Learning from Wise People

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    Enrich yourself with education. If you’re interested in learning something new, one of the best ways to do it is by taking a class. The classes you take can be affiliated with a university, but they don’t have to be. Do some research to find out if community members where you live teach classes or workshops on their areas of expertise.
    • Self-directed learning is just as valuable as taking classes. If you don't have access to a class on a subject you'd like to know more about, find alternate ways to learn. Check out books from the library, interview people, and learn by doing.
    • For example, if you want to learn a new language, you could take a class or do so completely on your own. Find a group of people who speak the language, read books written in the language, and travel to the country where the language is spoken.
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    Find wise mentors. Who in your life strikes you as wise? Wisdom comes in many forms. It could be a pastor who gives people something important to reflect on each week. It could be a teacher who has the ability to inspire people with his or her knowledge. Maybe it’s a family member who reacts to every difficult situation with a level head.[4]
    • Identify why you feel the person is wise. Is it because the person is extremely well read? Does she give excellent advice when people are in need? Does he seem like he's figured out the meaning of life?
    • What can you learn from him or her? What life choices and behaviors can serve as an example to you? In a given situation, try asking yourself yourself what he or she would do.
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    Read as much as you can. Reading is a way to absorb other people’s perspectives, no matter what subject they’re writing about. It gives you an insight into the way other people think that’s impossible to get in any other way. Reading up on both sides of important matters gives you the information you need to form valid opinions and make reasoned decisions.
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    Realize that everyone is fallible. As you gain your own wisdom and experience, you’ll find that those you looked up to as mentors have their own failings. Don’t hold people to such high standards that their mistakes shock and repel you. Strive to see people’s humanity, which means not holding them up on pedestals but taking the bad along with the good.
    • Every child reaches a moment when he realizes his parents aren’t perfect, that they’re struggling to find the right path just like everyone else. Reaching the point where you see your parents as equals, people who mistakes just like everyone else, is a sign of maturity and wisdom.
    • Practice forgiveness when someone you revered makes a mistake. Try to empathize with people instead of kicking them when they're down.

Part 3
Putting Wisdom Into Practice

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    Be humble in new situations. As Socrates said, "The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing." It's difficult to fully grasp this concept until you're faced with a life situation that completely stumps you. No matter how smart you are, and how many experiences you've had, you'll encounter times when the line between right and wrong seems fuzzy and you aren't sure what choice to make.[5]
    • Don't go into a new situation presuming that you know just what to do. Examine the problem from all angles, meditate or pray, and then act according to your conscience. It's all you can do.
    • Accepting your limitations is a high form of wisdom. Know what you have to work with and use your talents to the fullest, but don’t pretend you have more than you do.
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    Think before acting. Take as much time as you need to deliberate on a problem before making a decision. Think about the pros and cons, taking your experience as well as others’ advice into account, so you make the wisest possible choice.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Turn to someone you think of as wise and ask for advice. However, even advice offered by someone you wholly trust should be taken with a grain of salt. Ultimately, you are the only person who can decide what's right for you to do.
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    Act on your values. Looking to people, religious tenets and books for advice and wisdom will only get you so far. Don't just accept a set of values because that's what you were taught. Ultimately, your values should be aligned with your conscience, that gut feeling that tells you what to do based on what you know to be true. When you have a big decision to make, call up your values and stick to them.
    • For example, let's say there's a person at work who's getting bullied, and you know sticking up for him will make your boss angry. What's the right thing to do? Think carefully and decide what's most important to you: keeping your job or helping someone who's hurting.
    • Stand up for your values in the face of criticism. This is no easy task, since throughout life people will tell you what they want you to do. Separate your values from those of other people and do what you know is right, no matter what.
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    Learn from your mistakes. Even a carefully considered decision can end up being the wrong one. Each time you have a new experience, reflect on it and think about what went well and what didn't. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, see what new findings you can apply the next time you face a similar situation.[6]
    • Don’t kick yourself for making a mistake. You’re human, and all you can do is learn from the growing pains you experience.
    • Realize there’s no such thing as perfection. The goal isn’t to be perfect or godlike, but to do your best to act on your conscience and be a good person throughout life.
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    Share your wisdom with others. That’s not to say you should tell people what to do; rather, lead by example. Show others the wisdom of being open, nonjudgmental and thoughtful in all situations. Think about the mentors who helped you along the way, and find ways to play that role for other people who might be able to benefit from what you've learned.
    • If someone asks for advice, do your best to point them in the direction that seems right. Don’t let your personal desires cloud your advice.

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Categories: Philosophy