Wisdom is a curious thing. There’s a common misconception that wisdom and age go hand in hand—that simply living through many years will automatically grant you wisdom.
But then, how do you explain the folks who’ve gotten older, but still with no wisdom in sight? Why are they in their 50s, for instance, and still dealing with things the way they did in their 20s?
The truth is, wisdom is not a natural by-product of age. Rather, it’s the result of learning and growing from one’s experiences.
How do you know if you’re becoming wiser and not just older? Here are some telltale signs to guide you:
1) You have foresight
I don’t mean that you’ve suddenly gotten some psychic powers as you grow older. I’m talking about how you’ve now become more thoughtful about your actions.
Where you used to react impulsively, you now pause and think about the consequences of the things you say and do.
In the past, you might have gone to a party mid-week and partied way too hard, waking up in the morning with a bad hangover. Or you might have thought nothing of eating fast food every single day.
These days, you have more control – you factor in your health and how your daily habits would affect it.
It’s not just your physical health. More importantly, you also think about the decisions you make in all other areas of your life and how it will affect other people.
And one more thing, you now take the wise use of your time into consideration.
2) You appreciate the value of time
I suppose this is something that comes with age. The older we get, the more conscious of time we become.
Let me rephrase that – it’s something that comes with age, but only if you’re wise.
How does a wise person show they value time? I propose a formula to encapsulate it:
YOLO + Mindfulness = Wise Use of Time
Does that make sense to you?
Maybe that YOLO threw you off. But you see, I think that there’s so much wisdom in balancing mindful, authentic living and the seizing of worthwhile moments.
In this context, I’m not talking about using YOLO to justify rash or inconsiderate decisions. I’m talking about using it to make fantastic memories.
Which means, even if “you’re only living once” indeed, those moments should still be meaningful in the bigger picture.
For instance, if you’ve always wanted to paint, but your 9-to-5 has always gotten in the way, you now go ahead and pursue it.
When you choose to pursue your passion, even with a busy schedule, you’re applying the YOLO concept wisely and living your life to the fullest.
Wisdom, in this sense, is about acknowledging the impermanence of moments. That means you’re giving more value to your time, choosing wisely how to spend it and with whom.
3) You’re okay with not being in control
Another sign that you’re becoming wiser and not just older is that you’ve let go of the idea that you can control everything.
This is an area that so many people struggle with all the way to their 80s and 90s. It leads to a lot of strained relationships and inner frustration.
Being wise means understanding that all we can control, really, are our actions.
Everything else, we have to let it go.
Once you apply this principle in your life, it becomes easier to deal with everything life throws at you, which includes this next thing…
4) You’re embracing change
Change. Of course, there will be many changes along the way. The question is, are you adapting or resisting?
The answer to that will tell you if you’re becoming wiser. See, being able to embrace change and adapt is a sign of wisdom.
If you can do this, that means you’ve got:
- A healthy sense of self-confidence
- A desire to keep learning
- The courage to overcome your fears
If you ask me, that’s pretty wise!
5) You accept imperfections
The great thing about being able to embrace change is that it also means that you can now accept imperfections.
I used to be a perfectionist, so this was something I really struggled with. I’d spend hours doing and redoing my work until I got it closer to my idea of “perfect”.
I’d even expect the people around me to be perfect. And of course since they aren’t, I’d end up feeling disappointed and dissatisfied so many times.
As I grew older, though, I realized how selfish that was. How could I expect perfection, especially from people, when I was so imperfect myself?
Once I started practicing more compassion, both towards others and myself, I began to see how our flaws actually make life so much more interesting. Being wise enough to love and accept people for who they are deepened my relationships so much.
6) You seek depth in relationships
Take a look at your circle. Do you have a) quantity over quality, or b) quality over quantity?
With wisdom comes the understanding that it’s not the number of friends in your life but the quality of those friendships that truly matter.
So, wise people have learned to approach relationships and friendships differently. They’re no longer after “more”. They’re after “better”.
They’re all about making deep and genuine connections. They might not go to every party they’re invited to, but they are always present for the ones who truly matter to them.
7) You listen more than you speak now
Less talk, less mistakes. Does this saying resonate with you?
If yes, you’ve certainly grown in wisdom. You now understand the importance of speaking mindfully, but more than that, you now listen more than you speak.
Because it means you’re willing to not be the center of attention. You’re generous enough to give other people your time. And you’re engaged and invested in understanding them more.
Again, that points to how you seek depth and connection in every interaction you have!
8) You recognize that not everything needs your reaction
Oh, this one’s a huge sign. It’s definitely one I recognized in myself when I realized I was no longer allowing myself to be drawn into every argument that arises.
In the past, I would react to everything.
Controversial topics or news? I’d be right on Facebook and Twitter airing my opinions.
Someone cut me in traffic? I’d be honking my horn in a rage.
Coworker made a rude offhand comment? I’d be all up in their face.
Over time, I realized that I didn’t have to do all of that. Maybe it was tiredness. Maybe I just cared less. Maybe it was understanding that I couldn’t control everything.
Whatever it was, it definitely was wiser. There’s power in choosing our battles and conserving our energy for the things that matter most.
9) You can say “no”
Part of conserving our energy is saying “no” to what doesn’t serve us.
I’m sure you’ve felt what it’s like to spread yourself thin. To juggle so many balls in the air to keep everyone happy.
But as you grow wiser, that desire to accommodate everybody wanes, and as I mentioned earlier, you begin to see how valuable your time is.
So, you’ve learned how to set boundaries. How to prioritize. How to protect your space from energy vampires.
10) You value experiences over possessions
Another shift I’ve observed when someone becomes wiser is the tendency to value experiences over material things.
I have a friend who used to collect designer bags. She’d spend so much buying the latest Hermès or Chanel releases and house them in a glass display cabinet.
But in my last conversation with her, I noticed how she had become so much simpler.
Instead of talking about fashion, she was talking about things like her solo adventures, the garden she was tending, her evening walks with her husband.
I mentioned this to her, and she said, “Well, it just feels so much more satisfying than collecting expensive bags.”
It was such a great testament to her newfound wisdom!
11) You find joy in simplicity
As my story above shows, wisdom means finding joy in the simple things. In quiet moments. In the everyday pleasures of life.
The world tells us, you can’t be happy without money, success, fame, or perfect relationships.
But the person you are now disagrees.
Because you’ve already seen just how much joy there is in living a simple life. You already know that happiness is an inside job that requires none of those worldly pleasures.
For you, a successful life is one with inner peace. You understand that less really is more.
As you can see, being wise isn’t automatic with growing older, although it does happen often. You can even be a wise person in your 20s. Or even in your teen years!
The distinction lies in the ability to turn inward, figure out your core values, and live as authentically as you can.
Regardless of age, anyone who can do this can gain the profound insights that make them a wise person.