a backlit buddha statue depicting wisdom and a state of enlightenment

Most People Wise Beyond Their Years Share These 5 Qualities

Wisdom is not an ineffable trait. It is made up of practices one can develop over the course of their life.

Mark Travers, Ph.D.

By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | December 6, 2023

A recent study published in Personality and Social Psychology Review proposes the "integrative wisdom model," based on years of wisdom research. Researchers found that wise individuals tend to display remarkable qualities that allow them to navigate even the most challenging situations with grace.

Here are five characteristics of a wise individual, according to the study.

1. A Thirst For Exploration

Researchers found that wise individuals seek a deeper understanding of life and possess an innate curiosity that, during challenging times, becomes the impetus for thorough exploration, allowing them to analyze problems from diverse angles while considering contextual nuances. Consequently, they perceive differing viewpoints as sources of enrichment and embrace diverse perspectives without feeling threatened.

Such individuals prioritize continued personal growth through introspection and assimilation of insights from personal and shared life experiences. Wisdom reflects an openness to experiences that expands one's worldview and and allows a person to delve into even the most complex or uncomfortable inner experiences to fuel self-awareness.

2. A Deep Concern For Others

Wise individuals express empathic concern and genuinely care for the well-being of others.

The researchers write, "The willingness and ability to accurately identify the emotions of others and experience sympathy with them gives individuals access to relevant information about the situation and the people involved." 

This allows them to respond effectively in almost any situation.

Wisdom also involves a "common good orientation," which transcends personal interests for larger societal good. Wise individuals consistently seek resolutions to predicaments that ensure equitable outcomes for all parties involved. Their altruism extends beyond supporting their immediate circles, reflecting compassion and ethical concern for humanity at large.

Research shows that when one is able to de-center their own perspective, hold space for others or put themselves in another person's shoes, it leads to wiser reasoning. However, overly identifying with others may hinder one's ability to see the bigger picture in situations that require a nuanced perspective. Optimal wisdom often lies in striking a balance of being neither too distant nor excessively absorbed with the plight of others.

3. The Ability To Regulate Emotions

Wise individuals exhibit remarkable emotional resilience amidst adversity. This does not mean they are perfectly calm at all times, but rather highlights their adeptness in navigating and regulating tumultuous emotions as they arise. They display high levels of emotional intelligence by identifying, comprehending and managing emotions within themselves and others. Even in the most daunting scenarios, they can employ humor and are unlikely to be distracted by anger, fear or apprehension. 

This proficiency becomes especially crucial in uncertain or emotionally challenging situations. Researchers call this the "wisdom state of mind"—an open-minded, caring and composed disposition that enables a wise person to fully leverage their cognitive abilities and meet situational demands.

4. Learning From Life Experiences

Wise individuals introspect deeply on life occurrences, extracting rich insights from personal and observed or vicarious experiences. They apply insights gained about themselves to understand others.

Wise individuals are also cognizant of life's uncertainty and inherent unpredictability. They understand that they have limited control over life events and accept the inevitability of change, fostering an adaptive mindset to changing circumstances. Lastly, they display intellectual humility in knowing that there are also limitations to their personal knowledge and that there is always more to learn. 

5. The Ability To Self-Reflect

Wise individuals possess the willingness and capability to introspect, delving into their emotions, thoughts and actions. This serves as a tool to uncover hidden biases and personal limitations, learn from past mistakes and foster deeper self-awareness. 

The ability to self-reflect encourages a more impartial and less self-serving viewpoint when addressing problems. For instance, in helping a friend with their concerns, wise individuals acknowledge their own biases to ensure that their judgment is not clouded and instead speak to what would most benefit their friend.


Wisdom can be nurtured and enhanced. In cultivating skills such as an exploratory orientation, empathy and emotional regulation, individuals create a mindset conducive to wise behavior. A wise individual keeps the greater good in mind, while acknowledging their limitations, enriching their own lives and contributing positively to the world around them.

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