Magazine article Work & Family Life

A Search for the Meaning of Wisdom

Magazine article Work & Family Life

A Search for the Meaning of Wisdom

Article excerpt

Wisdom is both a life-long quest and elusive concept. What is it really and how does it play out in our lives as we get older? Is the saying "older and wiser" a truism?

If you define wisdom, as many psychologists do, as the ability to maintain positive well-being and kindness in the face of life's challenges, it becomes one of the most important traits a person can have to age successfully. And there's been a lot of recent research on this subject.

University of Florida sociologist Monika Ardelt created a 39-question scale measuring three dimensions of wisdom: cognition, reflection and compassion. In her studies, individuals who showed high wisdom had better coping skills and were more active than passive in dealing with hardships. Wisdom was seen as an "ace in the hole that can help even severely impaired people find meaning, contentment and acceptance in later life.

A major impediment to finding that wisdom is "not liking yourself' enough because you're not the person you used to be. "Wise people," says Dr. Ardelt, "are able to accept reality as it is, with equanimity."

Another group of researchers with the Berlin Wisdom Project in Germany pored over ancient and modern literature in their effort to define wisdom. …

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