We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us. ~ Marcel Proust
Wisdom is one of those qualities difficult to define—because it encompasses so much—but which people generally recognise when they encounter it. And it is encountered most obviously in the realm of decision-making. Psychologists tend to agree that wisdom involves an integration of knowledge, experience, and deep understanding that incorporates tolerance for the uncertainties of life as well as its ups and downs. There’s an awareness of how things play out over time, and it confers a sense of balance. It can be acquired only through experience, but by itself, experience does not automatically confer wisdom. Only now are researchers beginning to look into the social, emotional, and cognitive processes that transmute experience into wisdom.
Wise people generally share an optimism that life’s problems can be solved and experience a certain amount of calm in facing difficult decisions. Intelligence—if only anyone could figure out exactly what it is—may be necessary for wisdom, but it definitely isn’t sufficient; an ability to see the big picture, a sense of proportion and considerable introspection also contribute to its development.