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.)
A test like this is important because there's a growing body of research linking wisdom to well-being, so being able to measure your own level provides a ready opportunity for personal growth. "Wisdom measures are increasingly being used to study factors that impact mental health and optimal aging," study author 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, said in a press release.
To make sure the shortened version of SD-WISE-28 was just as trustworthy as the original, the researchers surveyed 2,093 participants between ages 20 to 82 through online crowdsourcing site Amazon Mechanical Turk. And the survey ultimately confirmed that the SD-WISE-7 was a "comparable and reliable" to SD-WISE-28 for evaluating someone's wisdom.
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. Each statement is indicative of a different quality, for example, prosocial behaviors, that are associated with wisdom.
So go ahead: Read through the statements below and see what resonates and what doesn't. Then, clinical social worker, Karen B. Walant, LCSW, MSW, PhD, offers her best advice for becoming more wise.
Am I wise? Reflect on these 7 questions to find out
- "I tend to postpone making major decisions as long as I can." (Decisiveness)
- "I avoid self-reflection." (Self-reflection)
- "I avoid situations where I know my help will be needed." (Prosocial behaviors)
- "I often don't know what to tell people when they come to me for advice." (Social advising)
- "I remain calm under pressure." (Emotional regulation)
- "I enjoy being exposed to diverse viewpoints." (Acceptance of divergent perspectives)
- "My spiritual belief gives me inner strength." (Spirituality)
How to become wiser every single day
Regardless of your answers to the quiz, Dr. 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."
"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." —Karen B. Walant, PhD
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. "When we respond to life from the wholesome qualities we want to strengthen, we thoughtfully improve our overall health and well-being and that of those around us," says Dr. Walant.
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. "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," says Dr. Walant. "Perhaps repeating [Austrian neurologist and Holocaust survivor] Viktor Frankl’s wisdom can help. '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.'"
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