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“If someone else thinks you are smart, it is okay. It is their opinion. If you think you are smart, it means you are stupid.” 

These words by the Indian Mystic, Sadhguru captures the essence of true wisdom — an awareness and acceptance of your own limitations that manifests in a calm and compassionate domineer. 

True wisdom isn’t found in big words. It’s found in character, in how you look at life, and in how you treat yourself and others. 

For a long time, my quest to be wise only made me appear like a fragile, insecure person. I couldn’t listen to anyone. Everything I learned was to build a case against anyone who dared to test my intelligence. I thought I was smart. But I was just being stupid. 

The signs of true wisdom are more internal. If you know them, you can take appropriate steps towards becoming wiser. 

1. Humility

“Wisdom isn’t a body of information. It’s the moral quality of knowing what you don’t know and figuring out a way to handle your ignorance, uncertainty, and limitation.” — David Brooks, The Road to Character

Not everyone who knows a lot is wise. 

I’ve always loved to read great books. But for a long time, I was using my knowledge wrongly. Whenever I finish a book, like The 48 Laws of Power, I’ll begin to look down on everyone who did anything contrary to what I’ve learned.

For instance, if a guy was trying to impress our boss at work, “This guy doesn’t understand how the world works,” I’ll egotistically think to myself. 

True wisdom doesn’t boast. For wise people, the more they learn, the humbler they become. They don’t learn to look down on others. Instead, they become humbler because, for each new thing they discover, they wonder how much they still don’t know. 

You could see this manifested in the life of the Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates (as detailed in The Apology of Socrates by Plato). When the Oracle at Delphi pronounced him the wisest man alive, he didn’t think of himself worthy of such a title. 

He went around Athens, engaging with politicians, poets, and fellow philosophers to disprove the oracle, all of whom, to the surprise of Socrates, spoke with pride concerning even matters they knew nothing about.

What David Brooks simply pointed out in his wonderful book about character, in essence, is that true wisdom is ruled by humility. 

Interesting: 6 Vital Lessons People Learn Too Late In Life

2. Openness

“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” Naguib Mahfouz, Egyptian writer

When you are giving answers, you are simply going over what you already know, taking from your wealth of knowledge. In other words, we can tell how much you know from your answers. It takes information to be clever. 

Wisdom, on the other hand, is ruled by openness. Because wise people don’t quickly conclude anything, they are naturally curious. Humbled by the smallness of their knowledge, they attend to life with wonder and awe. No wonder Albert Einstein once said:

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries to comprehend this mystery every day.”

Here’s the thing: the more conclusions you draw about life, the lesser attention you pay to it. And as a result, the fewer questions you’ll have. True wisdom is understanding that you could never fully comprehend anything in its entirety. 

Wrong beliefs and doctrines have been passed down from generation to generation because people never ask questions. Interracial and religious conflicts have lingered because of people who never ask questions. They just concluded, “We are the good guys, they are the bad guys.” 

Look at life with an open spirit. With wonder. Always live space for questions and uncertainties. That’s true wisdom. 

3. Rational Choices

“The fools in life want things fast and easy: money, success, attention. Boredom is their great enemy and fear. Whatever they manage to get slips through their hands as fast as it comes in.”— Robert Greene, 50th Law

Upon graduating from Zurich Polytechnic in 1900, the twenty-one-year-old Albert Einstein had a narrow chance of getting a decent job. He had graduated at the bottom of his class, almost nullifying his chance to obtain a teaching position. 

But despite his inability to get a job, Albert rejected a job offer to work as an engineer in his father’s dynamo business in Milan, the reason being that he would leave with no free time for his interests. 

He also shut down his friend’s offer to land him a well-paid job in an insurance company — it will dull his mind and creativity. 

But when a friend mentioned a job opening at a Swiss patent office in Bern about a year later, Albert leaped at the opportunity. Though the pay was small, it was everything he wanted. His job was to analyze the validity of patents, many of which involved aspects of science that interested him. This choice is why we still talk of Albert Einstein today.

Fools, as Robert Greene put it, want things fast. 

It takes wisdom to be patient, to see beyond what glitters in front of you. Though not easy, wise people don’t make decisions based on what’s obvious or expected. 

They do what will bring the highest benefit in the long run. You can also see this quality in great entrepreneurs like Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos, etc. The long term rational thinking is what sets them apart. 

Read: 8 Strong Signs Someone Has Quiet Confidence

4. Self-Mastery

“The growth of wisdom may be gauged exactly by the decline of ill-temper.” Frederick Nietzsche

If you observe spiritual leaders like The Dalai Lama or Sadhguru, the first and most prominent thing you’ll notice is how calm, peaceful, and joyful they are. 

This isn’t because they don’t come across annoying situations. In fact, these spiritual leaders meet countless numbers of people with different kinds of personalities daily. They keep a natural state of calmness because they don’t put themselves at the mercy of anyone. In the words of Sadhguru

“How people are is their choice. How I am is my choice. No matter what they do, no one can make me angry, happy, or unhappy. These privileges I have kept to myself. ”

Wisdom is being able to view life in a detached, humble, and calm manner so that you can respond (with clarity), not react, to whatever you are faced with. In a detached state, wise people view life with empathy. 

Ill-tempered people, on the other hand, usually lack this humility and detachment. They take everything people say to them personally. It’s their ego against the world. 

Whenever they don’t get the kind of treatment they think they deserve, all hell breaks loose. They oscillate between ecstasy and aggression based on the treatment of people. 

True wisdom is manifest in your level of self-mastery. The wiser you are, the lesser your temper will fluctuate based on opinions and validations from others. True wisdom brings humility and understanding. 

5. Time Alone

“In stillness lives wisdom. In quiet, you’ll find peace. In solitude, you’ll remember yourself. ” — Robin Sharma, Canadian writer

Every great mind we’ve looked at in this article, from philosophers to scientists to spiritual leaders, all have one thing in common — they love to spend time alone. 

Whether it’s playing the violin and solving math equations, sitting in a cross-legged position, or writing texts that will last for centuries, time alone is a fundamental part of the life of every great mind. There, they can confront and examine their minds and ideas with a fine-toothed comb. 

Every wise person can spend time alone because they’ve attained a level of self-mastery. 

Shallow-minded people, on the other hand, will quickly get something to distract themselves from their thoughts and ideas. Boredom is their greatest enemy. Arthur Schopenhauer puts it this way in The Wisdom of Life:

“An intellectual man in complete solitude has excellent entertainment in his own thoughts and fancies. While no amount of diversity or social pleasure, theaters, excursions, and amusements, can ward off boredom from a dullard.” 

Of course, loving to spend time outside doesn’t make a person unwise. We all have our natural predilections. 

However, being able to deliberately carve out time to be alone and enjoy your own company without quickly looking for a distraction, shows a level of self-mastery, and wisdom.  

In conclusion

True wisdom will make you a positive force for yourself and those around you. It doesn’t boast and condemn. It’s characterized by: 

  • Humility
  • Openness
  • Rational choices
  • Self-mastery
  • Stillness.

Read: 6 Signs You’re Secretly Charming 

Attraction Diary Team

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