How wiser can a person get

How wise are you

How wise are you

We all want good judgment and the strength to cope with crises. How do we do that? Through practice. Because personal wisdom - or, in other words, the art of the good life - grows through practice

If you ask: "What is wisdom?", The answer is usually more extensive. People are characterized as wise who have fixed values ​​that they would never betray, even for a short-term benefit. They know that there is not just one single truth and they can look at problems from many angles, including unusual ones. Your decisions are therefore usually wise and far-sighted. They do not allow themselves to be beaten by strokes of fate, but often even emerge strengthened from the difficult times.

You can see: wisdom is not a single quality, but a colorful bouquet of positive abilities. The life span researcher and wisdom expert Paul Baltes has nevertheless managed to formulate a concise definition: “Wisdom is expert knowledge with regard to the fundamental facts of human life.” Or, more practically formulated: “Wisdom is the knowledge of ways and means Means of leading a good life and understanding connections. "

And what does it look like in everyday life? If you think about it a little, you will notice: Almost everyone knows people who are wise. Often we don't call her “wise”, but simply “wise”: the friend who radiates joy every day despite suffering from cancer. The parents with the difficult child who find just the right amount of love and severity. The sister who listens carefully and asks clever questions so that after talking to her, every problem seems solvable. The friend who lost his job and took advantage of the crisis to find a different career path - and who is now much happier in his new job.

We admire these people and would like to be a bit like them. But instead of asking ourselves: “How can I achieve that too?”, We quickly wipe away the little feeling of envy and ascribe a particularly happy disposition or even naivety to these wise people. As if they were only so happy because they did not recognize the seriousness of the situation. We quickly go back to our own agenda. Speed ​​and flexibility are required instead of wise skills such as patience and perseverance.

If it doesn't work out in the job, we talk to a coach. If the children cause trouble, we ask an educator for advice. If we have a health problem, then it should be one thing above all: go! We invest our vacation pay in consulting hours and advisory literature in order to solve our problems as quickly and optimally as possible. We just don't have time. Slow wisdom has simply been overtaken by the fast pace of life in the globalized world. Even if we believe that this is the only way to get our life under control - we are not doing well with it. On the contrary. We long for down-to-earth wisdom. For a life that is less erratic and less agitated. For orientation that is independent of economic crises or “in & out” lists. And ultimately for wisdom.

The proportion of adolescents suffering from depression has been rising steeply for years. The feeling of insecurity and the fear of unemployment are considered to be important triggers for mental overload. A large part of the “30 plus” generation does not seem to have found a satisfactory orientation in life, as the psychologist Stephan Grünewald found out in 20,000 in-depth interviews: We hesitate for years whether we want children. The divorce rate is high and youth is idolized as a symbol of flexibility and speed. Grünewald: "The willingness to endure and suffer through fateful consequences and the associated crisis and development processes is dwindling." We downright refuse to take control of our lives, to make decisions and to bear the consequences.

However, those who deal with difficult situations with all their might, prefer to change partners than resolve conflicts, avoid having children because they shy away from responsibility, always keep all options open, will also miss the chance to grow with these life tasks. The consequence, according to Grünewald: "You just remain an aging beginner, a greenhorn in your job, relationship or lifestyle, because you have not learned to understand the adventurous twists and turns of life and to persevere."

Can wisdom help? More and more studies suggest that wise skills can really serve us well in today's hectic world. For example, the Zurich psychologist Alexandra M. Freund was able to show in a study that younger adults who are faced with the problem of balancing work and family benefit greatly from wise skills: the respondents who made a clear decision internally, whether work or family more importantly, were more satisfied with their lives than those who tried to do justice to both areas of life equally.

The wise ability to consciously recognize the good in life also obviously makes one satisfied. The American psychologist Martin Seligman asked study participants to write a thank you letter to a person who had played an important role in their life and whom they had never thanked for it. The participants felt very satisfied after the thanks. And even months later, her attitude towards life was above average. Something similar is experienced by people who briefly write down every evening what good things they have experienced during the day. You notice: the world means well with me. Even on the darkest days, something positive happens.

The same applies to wisdom as applies to many things: Nothing comes from anything. Only up to the age of 25 does our wisdom grow on its own. As children and young people, we learn a lot of new things every day about people and their behavior, about our desires and abilities, about the laws of life and the consequences of our actions. For this reason alone, our decisions become wiser, our judgments more balanced. After that, however, our wisdom only grows if we actively strive to keep a curious, interested view of the world and ourselves. For many people this is too exhausting. Many 60-year-olds are therefore no wiser than 25-year-olds, according to studies by wisdom researchers. What to do?

"Wise people have a strong motivation to want to learn something about life", explains Professor Ursula Staudinger, expert for lifelong learning at Jacobs University Bremen, the most important prerequisite for insight into life and wisdom. In practice this means: We are able to learn from experiences. We admit that our lives don't always go perfectly. And if things go wrong, we don't just blame the others, but can also question ourselves, see our part in what is happening - without feeling small and miserable. Experiencing major crises is far less important than daily mindfulness. Because: Every life offers enough challenges to grow with.

TEST: Do you always react wisely?

We have sketched some tricky life situations for you and worked out together with the psychologist Toni Pizzecco how you can cope better with these cases. Plus: exercises to train your wisdom

My boss shouldn't have done that to me
You have worked hard for your position in your job - and now your boss is taking away the most interesting task from you: Your colleague in the other team will look after your foreign customers in the future. Simply because the departments are being restructured. You weren't even asked. Your spontaneous reaction: throw it all away! But of course that is not possible. You drive home completely frustrated and swear to yourself never to tear your arms and legs off for the company again. For the next few weeks you drag yourself to your job unmotivated and with a stomach ache.

How to act wisely:
You feel deeply offended. And rightly so. But you have the choice: Do you want to remain deep in your soul or do you want to reappear? We tend to cling to frustrating experiences. Wise people can sort through life's failures after a while - and often even see the good things about it. And even if a disappointment has no positive aspect, wise people still draw strength from the fact that they have survived and mastered this crisis.

An exercise:
Find a nice place where you are undisturbed. Take a piece of paper and a pen and think for a few minutes about a moment of failure in your life. What didn't work out the way you wanted it to? Write down a few key words about the situation. Then turn your thoughts to today: What happened after this failure? What new opportunities, encounters, perspectives arose after or even as a result of the failed project? Let the writing work on you.

My daughter refuses school and totally blocks
Her 14-year-old daughter no longer wants to go to school. She doesn't do homework, only writes fives, argues with the teachers, and will have to repeat the school year if she continues. No discussion, no promise, no punishment to help.

How to act wisely:
When children go against social norms, parents work up a sweat. And it is precisely this fear that you should face first, because it stands in the way of any constructive conversation. Your daughter is guaranteed not to go to school just so her parents don't have sleepless nights. After all, it should be about them! What helps? Wise people put themselves in the shoes of their counterparts and also look at the problem from the perspective of young people. Do you remember? You too must have had phases in which you no longer wanted to go to school. And yet something has become of you. In this way, you are giving the situation back some normalcy. Now you can ask your daughter what is really going on. At this level you can find a common solution. Perhaps you will compromise with her or arrange a time to think about it so that she can go back to school for a rehearsal. Often in the life of adolescents everything looks different again in four weeks. Or maybe not. Maybe your child is really dropping out of school. But even on this path, wise parents do not accompany their children with panic, but with respect. Because they know: people just go very different ways.

An exercise:
See the world through the eyes of others. With the eyes of your boss, your partner, your child, your friend. That can happen in a humorous way. For example, take a walk around town as a “daughter”. Look at the shop windows that would interest you, consciously see the other adults through the eyes of the youngsters. The art of empathizing with others and their points of view expands the view immensely.

My friend's husband kisses a stranger
You see your friend's husband making out with a strange woman. Your first impulse is to pick up the cell phone and call your friend. They don't reach you - and have a guilty conscience all afternoon.

How to act wisely:
You can of course see the worst. A kiss - aha, the man is cheating! For years, for sure. However, if you are less interested in clichés than in real life, you may also have the following thoughts: I see a kiss. Not more. I don't know who the woman is and what the relationship between my friend's husband and her is. And: What use is it to my girlfriend if I call her and report what I've seen. Does it make you happy? What do I want to achieve by getting involved? If you look at the situation from many angles instead of switching to autopilot, you will probably not pick up the phone in the end. Perhaps the story will even be cleared up at the next party, when your friend says after the third glass of champagne: “Imagine that Sebastian had an affair with an ex-girlfriend. But it's over now. ”Perhaps first you decide to speak to your friend's husband directly. Or the situation does not clear up either. So life is. And so it can be right for everyone involved. Wise people know that there is no one and only truth.

An exercise:
It is a great temptation to feel responsible for others' lives. But often our interference is not even asked for. So keep asking yourself: Is this task really addressed to me at the moment? Is it my business My problem? If not, it is best to do it like a parcel: If you are not the addressee, do not open it, but pass it on to the correct addressee. Or back to the post office.

The girlfriend in crisis
The friend calls and says: “The man is gone. With a younger one. And the money. ”She asks:“ What should I do? Kill me Kill him? Do nothing? ”They persuade her that the man is really completely stupid if he doesn't notice what he's got in her. That she is a great woman. After an hour of talking, your friend will stop crying. But you don't feel really good.

How to act wisely:
Giving other people good advice in life crises is difficult. And often not the wise way. Because there are no magic recipes for life's crises. But there is a knowledge that everyone goes through crises - and that you feel better when a friend really listens to you, when you want to talk, cry and rage. In addition to listening, a very simple piece of advice often helps: give yourself time! Don't force yourself to make a decision now and immediately. You have already mastered many crises. You will deal with this too. Wise people know that crises are a part of life.

An exercise:
Imagine sitting on a cloud looking at your life. Then you could see all the crises, big and small, that you have already been through. And you would see: all crises pass. The current low will also pass, and sunny times will follow again.