Wisdom is the result of having had time to make lots of mistakes, and learn from them. That’s why older people often are so wise. They’ve had time to learn a lot from their own mistakes.
Author Louise Penny has a similar idea. Her character Chief Inspector Armand Gamache speaks of it, sharing four statements we can make that lead to wisdom:
- I was wrong.
- I’m sorry.
- I don’t know.
- I need help.
He’s a powerful (if fictional) leader, and his comments about wisdom carry a powerful message. Embedded in them is the inevitability of mistakes, and the importance of self-awareness, humility, relationships and reflection.
Self-awareness is about tuning in to your own feelings and emotions, identifying where they come from and using them to further your ability to self-regulate and empathize. Self-awareness allows us to recognize when we need help, and humility and willingness to be vulnerable allows us to ask for it. Humility also speaks to remembering how important it is to listen to others’ perspective, thoughts and ideas. It also is about acknowledging the limits of what you know. Sometimes it’s about holding back what you know for minute, to give the other person the chance to think and discover what they know. Reflection involves wondering, openness, and the willingness to learn and grow.