Older and Wiser? Four Steps to Finding Wisdom at Any Age

finding wisdom

“Wisdom is the supreme part of happiness.”

– Sophocles

Now at the end of my forties I expect that I am wiser than I was 20 or so years ago. Isn’t that what’s supposed to happen?  Age brings wisdom?

Often, however, I still feel like I am muddling through life on a daily basis, not really sure of what I am doing or where I am going. And of course it’s true that I don’t have all the answers.

At the same time, I also have to recognize that I do know a lot more than I did when I was in my mid-20s or mid-30s or even early-40s. I am beginning to acknowledge my own wisdom, and that feels great!

But you don’t have to wait until “middle age” to seek and find wisdom. It’s a life-long process that begins when you’re young. I’m convinced that the key to wisdom is how you approach life and yourself.

Being wise has a lot of benefits. It doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes every day. It doesn’t mean I’ve answered all of life’s questions.

It does mean that I know myself better than I ever have. It means that my self-confidence is growing because I’m learning what I’m good at and what I enjoy. It also means I am learning what is good for me, what makes me joyful and content.

So if you crave wisdom, here are a few places to start on your journey:

1. Recognize and accept constant learning.

The trick to learning is that you have to actually listen to the lesson presented to you. My simple approach is to first acknowledge that I learned something and then consciously add it to my collection of self-knowledge. I always say to myself “Lesson learned,” just to reinforce that I really got it.

2. Practice compassion.

Learning a lesson means accepting that we made a mistake, however big or small. And many of us can be really hard on ourselves when we make mistakes. Wisdom will not come from self-criticism. Wisdom can only come when we accept who we are, with all of our flaws and all of the beautiful uniqueness we add to the world. Be gentle with yourself. Forgive yourself and collect another piece of your wisdom puzzle.

3. Live consciously.

You won’t be able to recognize lessons learned unless you pay attention. Pay attention to physical clues—I have butterflies in my stomach; I had a hard time sleeping last night. Try to figure out why you are having a significant reaction to a situation.

Pay attention to your emotions and ask yourself why you are upset or happy or fearful.

Pay attention to connections (seeming coincidences) in the world—I just said that or thought that yesterday and now I heard the same idea on the radio. Tune into these kinds of connections; they may be trying to tell you something. (But you have to pay attention to figure out the message.)

4. Stay on the journey.

The route to wisdom is self-knowledge. And self-knowledge comes from never-ending curiosity and exploration. Read books, talk to people about ideas, join a self-development/ philosophical/ spiritual/ etc. discussion group, journal, use your creativity.

Expand who you are in order to know who you are in this moment and who you strive to be.

I am on a journey toward self-knowledge and clarity. I realize I will be on this journey for the rest of my life. To me, this is a big part of what makes life interesting. Along the way, I am picking up bits of knowledge from every source possible and adding them to my own personal fountain of wisdom.

Becoming wise can be both difficult and easy. Often the path to wisdom—the experiences we have been through to help us learn—is long and difficult.

And it takes courage to face our own fears and faults. But once we muster up the courage to be really honest with ourselves, wisdom flows.

Photo by Shanon Wise

28 thoughts on “Older and Wiser? Four Steps to Finding Wisdom at Any Age”

  1. We live in a culture that celebrates physical youth. Yet studies show that people tend to get happier as they age, Your post shows that the wisdom that we accumulate as we age is what can make us happier,

    The steps that you lay out work, CJ. A person that lives these steps can accelerate their happiness. Wisdom is not a by-product of age. Happiness is the ability to accept the gifts that we are given in a state of gratitude. That gratitude comes from seeing the larger picture and acting in a way that is most likely to produce the best results for yourself and the people that you love,

    Thank you for writing this beautiful post, CJ.

    1. Dave, you put it so well! I love the idea that we should accept the gifts we were given with gratitude. I agree that if we are able to accept our gifts life can be so much more joyous. Thanks for your comment! CJ

  2. I resonate with the wisdom in your blog CJ. Timely words for anyone of any age. I agree with Dave that wisdom is not a by-product of age. Wisdom would be following the steps you wrote about and realizing two things: 1) recognizing the lessons learned along the way you stated and 2) instead of saying staying on the journey I would say embrace the journey – for it is all about the experiences you have and how you respond to them.

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom and keep enjoying the journey.

    1. “Embrace the journey” — I love it! I am definitely doing that. Like I said in the post, the journey to self-knowledge keeps life interesting. My wish is that everyone would figure out the power of embracing their journeys. Thanks for your comment!

  3. I really enjoyed this! That’s exactly how I feel and what I’m trying to do! I turned 40 in December and still feel like, when will I feel like an “adult” that knows what they’re doing!! Sometimes I feel like the more I learn the less I realize I know! But I do love learning, (hate when it’s the hard way), and my new thing is to look at all situations with keeping in mind the words ” curious not critical”! Like wearing a new pair of glasses when looking at everything, everyone, and myself! Thankyou for sharing! Lesson learned!!😃

    1. Hi Char! “Curious not critical,” that’s a great way to approach learning and life. I am an eternal optimist as well as being perpetually curious about the world and myself. Curiosity keeps me going, learning, experiencing. Best of luck on your wisdom journey. It sounds to me like you’ve already gained quite a bit of important wisdom! Thanks for your comment. CJ

  4. That was the most beautiful article I’ve ever read. It was so serene, I cannot explain. Just reading it makes me feel wiser, I wonder what applying those principles would do to me. :) Thanks a lot. :)

  5. CJ, thanks for your helpful post. I too have reached that point of “maturity” known as the late forties. I reckon experience only really counts if you’re not stuck. 20 years or of the same thought processes, experiences, and ideas doesn’t make for wisdom. So learning and challenging ourselves to do different things will give us a platform to know ourselves and others better, and become a little wiser. It’s not age or time but the quality of our living that makes the difference.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Peter! I like how you put “the quality of our living makes the difference.” I completely agree. Here’s to being at the age of “maturity”! :) CJ

  6. CJ~I love what you said about the journey making life interesting. I can definitely relate! What this idea brings up for me, is an awareness of the life force energy in the journey itself. When we dive in, harness our curiosity and wonder, that energy is further fueled and synchronicities, miracles and surprises happen.

    1. Hi Jackie, I love your positive attitude about all of the possibilities that are open to us once we start looking for them! Yes, approaching the world with wonder can offer a whole new set of eyes. Thanks much for your comment. CJ

  7. What a wonderful article! As a young adult transitioning from childhood to adulthood, I find that there is often pressure to figure out what you are doing in life, and to have a perfect balance of “work and play” as you progress into your mid-20s. I think that practicing compassion towards yourself and living consciously are great things to remember during any time, but especially in periods of transition. I loved what you said about giving yourself a break when you screw up, and being aware of things that are happening around you. Instead of doing “what you are supposed to,” pay attention to what is right for you and not just for everyone else. I think this article is great and makes me feel more at ease with not having everything figured out immediately! I think this advice would really contribute to feeling more content with where you are in life, wherever that may be, and learning from it!! Great post!!

    1. Thank you, Alex! I’m so glad to hear that you liked the post, and it’s great to hear a younger point of view. I agree that there’s a lot of pressure–often from family–to create a certain kind of life for yourself. It sounds like you are on your way to creating your own path. Keep going!

  8. Reading your post and all the insightful comments and your responses to them from the perspective of my mid-60s, I have to thank all of you for such incredible collective wisdom. I don’t think there is point in our lives when we have become wise — I think there’s a lifelong process of “becoming wise,” of accruing wisdom and reassessing what we thought was wise in light of new knowledge about ourselves and others. Listening is a beginning — paying attention to the world around us and taking lessons where we find them. Chet Raymo, one of my favorite wise old men (see his Science Musings blog) would say that paying attention is a form of prayer, and if that’s so, then our constant prayer is for wisdom. And don’t keep your wisdom to yourself — impart it to those around you, children, friends, strangers. As I get older, I lose my reluctance, if I ever had any, to speak to strangers, to engage people I meet in the grocery line or on the bus in conversation, to admit to having eavesdropped and start a chat with someone. But wisdom’s useless unless it’s shared, and finding ways to do that can be a lot of fun. The payback is learning in return.

    1. Great words of “wisdom,” Jayly! I love the idea of sharing your wisdom and learning in return by talking to others. I must say I gain a lot of wisdom from sharing ideas with my friends and family. And I find the give and take in a great conversation very energizing and lots of fun. Thanks much for your comment! CJ

  9. I totally agree it is all about the journey. The thing is to me on this journey you also have to be kind to your self. This journey can also be easy and difficult it how you deal with it as it comes. To be honest I enjoy mine even though it is difficult at times. I have learned there is a lesson in everything.

    1. Thanks for you comment, Dale. I agree that it’s how we look at our journeys that’s important. I recently found this great quote by the artist Henri Matisse: “There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” I just love this sentiment about remaining positive, and I think we can do that by having the attitude that we are continuously learning from everything that happens in our lives.

  10. Hi CJ,

    I believe wisdom is in us all, no matter what age we are, we can see much more when we shut our eyes and listen to the wisdom shared from our higher self. Life is full of lessons, there is no failure, just lessons and until we recognise those lesson we keep getting them shown to us. Acceptance is a big part of life, when we learn to accept we find the happiness within and wisdom shines through.

    Great post CJ.

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post, Robert. And thank you for your insightful comment. I love what you said about there are no failures. Again, it’s all in how we perceive our situation and how we choose to react to it: Do we learn and move forward from there? Or do we ignore the lesson right in front of us and remain stuck in our old ways of thinking? And of course self-acceptance is huge. CJ

  11. Thanks for such beautiful words.Everything is so perfect!Life is always there to teach us a lesson and with your guidance,I am sure everyone will find the wisdom within themselves :)

  12. Hi Cj, that was really great, it’s true that we should go through a journey toward self-knowledge and clarity, that way, we learn from our own experiences, which adds up to our own wisdom. Life’s experiences is our best teacher, following the list you gave enhances our search for wisdom, which in turn gives us more confidence and assures us of a happy satisfied life. Thanks for a wonderful post.

  13. Hi Lynne, I’m so glad you like the post! I like your emphasis on learning from life experiences and gaining confidence. From my experience, as we go through life and get to know ourselves better our confidence grows. Thanks for your comment! CJ

  14. Lovely post. Particularly loved what you said about recognizing and accepting constant learning. This is true in your journey to finding wisdom. Age does not matter as long as your mind is open to learning from others, learning from experiences and learning through the difficulties in life.

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