Think You’re a Wise Person?

The cliché “another year older, another year wiser” implies that the only way to attain the secret sauce of life is to live another year… and then another, and then another. Yes, it’s comforting to consider that logging more time here on planet Earth will naturally make you a wise person! According to Merriam-Webster, a wise person is one who possesses “deep understanding, keen discernment, and a capacity for sound judgment.” However, researchers say that the journey to becoming a “wise” person is more complex; it’s actually considered to be a modifiable trait that you can hone every single day. So if you’re wondering, “am I wise?” the answer isn’t clear-cut.

Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine recently used the most up-to-date studies on life wisdom to develop a scale (called the “San Diego Wisdom Scale” or SD-WISE for short) to help you determine your life smarts—and fast. This abbreviated version of SD-WISE uses seven statements (SD-WISE-7) to size up an individual’s wisdom. A previous version of the test, the SD-WISE-28—which was used in national and international studies, as well as in biological research and clinical trials—contained 28 statements.

Wisdom measures are increasingly being used to study factors that impact mental health and optimal aging

Dilip V. Jeste, MD, senior associate dean for the Center of Healthy Aging and Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine

To determine how wise you are based on the SD-WISE-7, simply read seven statements—like “I avoid situations where I know my help will be needed,” and decide how much you agree with them on a scale of one to five. One reflects “strongly disagree” and five “strongly agree”—and negatively worded statements are reverse-scored. 

So go ahead: Read through the statements below and see what resonates and what doesn’t. 

  1. I tend to postpone making major decisions as long as I can.” (Decisiveness)
  2. “I avoid self-reflection.” (Self-reflection)
  3. “I avoid situations where I know my help will be needed.” (Prosocial behaviors)
  4. “I often don’t know what to tell people when they come to me for advice.” (Social advising)
  5. “I remain calm under pressure.” (Emotional regulation)
  6. “I enjoy being exposed to diverse viewpoints.” (Acceptance of divergent perspectives)
  7. “My spiritual belief gives me inner strength.” (Spirituality)

Regardless of your answers to the quiz, clinical social worker, Karen B. Walant, says one of the easiest ways for anyone to become wiser is to simply press pause.

“By gently giving ourselves permission to pause, we are able to slow down and listen to our inner thoughts, to our bodies, and to whom and what we are in contact with,” says Dr. Walant. “Pausing allows us to both receive and absorb the experience we are in. When we pause with the intent of allowing wisdom to arise, we become more able to take actions that best support our physical health and our emotional well-being and that of others.”

In addition, taking a beat before reacting to a given situation will help you cultivate qualities like kindness or compassion, which need to be exercised like a muscle in order to be maintained and grow.

To practice wisdom every day, Dr. Walant also recommends deciding which qualities you want to grow, and then actively working on them. For example, if you strongly agreed to number two of the SD-WISE-7 (“I avoid self-reflection.”), make self-reflection— via journaling, meditating, or another means—an everyday practice for you.

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.’

Viktor Frankl

The permission to pause and be present to both what is occurring within and around us encourages a granularity of experience so that we can become the best version of ourselves.

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