Here are some of the components of wisdom:
- Emotional resiliency
- Kindness towards self and others
- Generativity (giving back to others)
- Ability to learn from experience
- Understanding that priorities and values, including your own, are not absolute
What we usually focus on when we think about satisfaction in later life is things like maintaining physical and mental health, volunteering, and having posititve relationships with others. But what about when life narrows: when the body breaks down, when our social roles diminish, when we suffer deep losses?
Erik and Joan Erikson, who developed an influential theory on the stages of the human life span, added a ninth stage of development in their 80’s, one in which wisdom plays a crucial role. “Even the simple activities of daily living may present difficulty and conflict,” they wrote. “To face down despair with faith and appropriate humility is perhaps the wisest course.” The key, they believed, was to set goals that match one’s current capacities.
“Wise people are able to accept reality as it is, with equanimity,” says Monika Ardelt of the University of Florida. Her research shows that when people in nursing homes or with a terminal illness score high on her wisdom scale, they also report a greater sense of of well-being. “If things are really, bad, it’s good to be wise,” she says.
–The Science of Older and Wiser, NY Times 3-13-2014