I’ve recently been thinking about the relationship between age and wisdom. It is widely believed that in society that wisdom always increases with age and older people will always be wiser than younger people.
But as much as that is what is widely believed, that is not what I see when I look around. Time and time again, I see younger people who are wiser than older people.
But let’s first understand what wisdom is here.
What Is Wisdom?
The simplest definition of wisdom I’ve seen is knowing what to do and doing it. To an extent, this covers the entire scope of wisdom.
It is even evident in the fact that every time people go to older people (who are believed to be wiser), it is when they need guidance on the right thing to do in a particular situation.
So the more situations in which you know the right thing to do, the more wiser you are said to be. If you know the right time or situation to talk, the right time or situation to walk away, the right time or situation to apply a technique, you are said to be wise.
If this is wisdom, then does it really answer to age? Does it really take an older person to know the right thing to do in most situations?
Why Are Older People Wiser?
Anyway, in most cases, older folks are usually wiser and the reason is simple: the more time you spend on earth, the more experiences you will have and the more you will have learnt, from each of those experiences, the right thing to do.
So, we can see that the deciding factor here is actually more experiences and not more years.
The other reason is because their brains are more developed than the brains of younger people. But this again is demystified.
Once a child has gotten to about 7 years old and his brain is fully developed, the difference in wisdom level between him and a 20-year old is no longer dependent on his age but on how well their brains have been exercised.
The exercising of the brain can also be traced to experience.
How To Grow Older Than Your Age
Since we have understood that wisdom comes from experience not age, what you should focus on is how to get more experiences than your time on earth will naturally bring to you
1. Get as much knowledge as possible
Going back to our definition; since wisdom is centred on knowing what to do, the easiest way to know what to do is to get knowledge about as many things as possible.
Learn about every aspect of life: relationships, career, business, communication, emotions, psychology, you name it.
The more you know, the more you will discover that everything in life is interrelated and you’ll be able to instinctively apply the knowledge you have gotten from several subjects to make the best decisions in different situations.
This is the reason behind people who are educated (through school) looking wiser than those who never went to school. Knowledge increases wisdom.
You can get knowledge through books, videos, podcasts, blog posts, conventional media (radio, TV), courses, school etc
2. Volunteer or work in service groups
Another cardinal way of gaining experience is by volunteering in organisations or service groups that you won’t naturally find yourself.
By doing this, you are opening yourself up to the ideologies of people that you aren’t used to and you’re putting yourself in situations that won’t come your way on their own.
Instead of waiting till you get your first job after university to have workplace experience, you can fast-forward that experience through volunteering.
Going to places that are outside your regular circles will always bring more experience. You can get this through school clubs and societies, church activities, non-governmental organisations or any other movement in your community.
Through reading and volunteering you also get free access to the experiences of others and you no longer have to go through those experiences yourself to sap wisdom from them.
3. Think for yourself
I ended the last paragraph with “sap wisdom from them”. This statement points out a very important fact: you can have experiences and yet not be wiser.
People who get wiser through experiences get wiser because they learnt from them. If you were once in a marriage that ended in a divorce but you didn’t sit back to learn what went wrong, you have the experience but you aren’t wiser.
This marriage example is very common in our society today.
The way you can get wisdom through the experiences that come your way is to think for yourself instead of just accepting the obvious or what people think.
Find the reason why what happened, happened. Compare similar situations that had different outcomes to find out what caused the difference. If you are not a deep thinker, your wisdom will still grow at the regular pace it would have grown if the experiences weren’t there.
Now, you don’t have to sit down at a specific “thinking time” to think. You should integrate thinking through your daily life— as you gain the experiences and as you acquire the knowledge.
Albert Einstein, an authority in wisdom said: any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.
So there must be a balance between learning and thinking.
The roadmap I’ve shown you is to become wiser on an overall scale. You can streamline it to a particular area.
For instance, if you want to be wiser when it comes to music, you can apply the same principles: increase your music knowledge, be a part of music circles and think more music thoughts.
I have written a detailed guide that can help you increase your wisdom in specific areas. Read here:
Olusegun Iyejare is a career coach and certified counselor. He helps individuals discover and maximize their potential to live satisfying lives regardless of obvious limitations holding them back.