The Experiential Process of Acquiring Wisdom: How Wise Individuals Report Learning Life Lessons
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Philosophers have considered and debated the topic of wisdom for centuries. Now, as we face an ageing world population, a need for the scientific exploration of the topic has arisen. Over the past 30 years, the challenge to understand and define wisdom has been taken up and studied mainly by the fields of psychology and sociology. A body of wisdom literature has emerged and this thesis addresses an identified gap in that literature concerning the development of wisdom. This thesis examines the process of acquiring wisdom across the human lifespan. Specifically, this qualitative exploratory case study examines the process employed by wise nominees when transforming a personal life experience into a life lesson. The opinions, experiences, and relationship descriptions of their nominators are uniquely included in the study’s findings. Each of the four cases in the study is comprised of a dyad, a nominator and their wise nominee. Data were collected from the study participants through questionnaires and in-depth interviews. A framework, comprised of three components, that begins to describe the wisdom acquisition process emerged from the study’s findings. The first element of the emerging wisdom acquisition framework is a new succinct definition of wisdom. The second element is a model that describes the iterative process of learning from life experiences. This model was hypothesized at the outset of the study and obtained some corroboration from the study’s data. The third element of the emerging framework is the life management practices that wise individuals employ to deal with life experiences. These practices emerged as four central themes from the data. Three of those four life practices revolve around self-reliance whereas the fourth theme addresses the spiritual balance in the participants’ lives. This study is a first attempt to unravel the complex phenomenon of the acquisition of wisdom.