Wisdom is perhaps the most important quality that we can gain in our lives. But it can’t be bought, sold or created. Wisdom only comes from those life lessons and experiences that stretch our minds and grow our understanding. Some wisdom-bringing experiences are delightful, and some are painful, but with wisdom as a byproduct, they are all worthwhile.
1. Be well traveled.
There’s nothing like the wisdom gained by traveling outside the United States and seeing how others live around the world. One of the elements of having an “old soul” comes from having a greater understanding of the world around you.
2. Spend time learning about the opposite sex.
The longer you live, the more you come to understand that God created man and woman
with different strengths to fill in for the other’s weakness. Understanding those differences is key to having healthy relationships and knowing when to turn to the other sex and their inherent strength.
3. Meet people from all walks of life.
You can’t gain wisdom if you live in a bubble surrounded by people just like you. Meeting different people teaches us about different cultures, languages, food, etiquette and customs. Each time you open your mind to new people, you have the opportunity to learn from the best that their culture has to offer.
4. Watch quality movies or television.
Some might claim that watching movies or television is waste of time, which is true
if what you watch is Jackass II or The Jersey Shore. But many movies and shows allow us to explore other lands, times and cultures. They can make us laugh, cry and look inside ourselves for lessons shared by the characters on the screen. But try to be very choosy
about what shows and movies you invest your valuable time. My wife will tell you that I fall asleep within the first 15 minutes if a movie has no purpose.
5. Read books
Unlike movies, books allow you to paint your own picture using the power of imagination. While you can’t have a live conversation with Einstein, Lincoln, Alexander the Great, Jesus, or MLK, you can have a virtual dialog with them by reading their words. Books transplant us to other times and places that we would never be able to experience firsthand. What was it like to live in the dust bowl during the Great Depression? Read the Grapes of Wrath. For a glimpse into the civil war, see it through Scarlett’s eyes in Gone with the Wind or Union Soldier Henry Fleming’s story in The Red Badge of Courage.
6. Learn the Lessons of War.
War is awful and sometimes unavoidable. But the most difficult things in life are often great sources of wisdom. War teaches us that freedom is priceless and peace is precious. We realize that we are capable of so much more than we thought when we are fighting for our lives or liberty. Most of us will never be on the front lines, but we can talk to those who have been and ask them to share their experiences. We can read the stories of fallen heroes. And we can gain wisdom from those who have fought, and died, for something greater than themselves.
7. Mourn the loss of a loved one.
Losing someone you love, especially unexpectedly, can be the most difficult experience
of a lifetime. It’s devastating to realize that you will have no more memories to create with the person you lost. The Bible tells us* that sometimes it’s better to mourn than to laugh because mourning brings us together and challenges us to be grateful for all the loved ones that are still here with us.
* Eccl. 7:2-3 “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is
better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.”
8. Have people around you who disagree with you.
We grow from having individuals that challenge our thinking. We don’t grow from only having people around that agree on everything. No one person ever did anything great completely alone — they all had help. The idea that one person can change the world alone is crazy. An idea by an individual CAN stimulate a change that affects the world. But first that idea must go through the cleansing fire of positive feedback and negative criticism.
9. Survive a near-death experience.
While this isn’t something that you can plan, those that have come close to losing
their lives usually come out of it with a much greater appreciation for life. They understand like never before the joy in a hug, the treasure of family and friends, and the value of a sunrise. They have a zeal for life that comes from truly understanding that any minute might be your last.
10. Experience trials and tribulations.
This point is very simple: we don’t evolve if we’re not challenged. Wisdom comes from trials and obstacles that we learn from and get through.