Do you get wiser with age?

How has the new year been for you so far? Still sticking to the goals you said you would achieve?

Time flies. If we are not being mindful, years will pass by without us noticing.

When we don’t ask ourselves what we truly want, we get old and we live a life full of regrets.

At some point in life, most people become stagnant. Some settle, some lose the desire to achieve goals that seem impossible at first.

What is considered wise?

This is subjective. The Oxford Dictionary defined “wise” as “the ability to make sensible decisions and give good advie because of the experience and knowledge that you have”. To me, being wise means something like:

  • Making good enough decisions that I won’t regret later
  • Knowing what to say in all situations
  • Knowing when to speak up and keep silent
  • Learning quickly from mistakes so lessons don’t repeat themselves
  • Being able to link scattered ideas

Experience is an important element. For sure, as we grow old we naturally will accumulate experiences. That is subject to the environment, parenting or financial situation you grow up with. What if we are not exposed to certain circumstances? The world has changed so much. We now live in a society where we don’t need to worry about survival (yes, even in pandemic). Our biggest complaint in life is mostly about speed – internet, or how quick the delivery guy arrives. We are not used to adversity or uncomfortable situations. This is exactly why we have a lot to learn, and it has nothing to do with age – but our mindset.

The basis of personal development

It doesn’t matter if you are the type of person to write annual review or not. Nonetheless, it’s still a good time to pause and do some reflection. What went well? How could you duplicate success? What didn’t go as planned? How could you improve?

Yes, it sounds cliche. It is sometimes even uncomfortable as you need to actually sit down and interrogate yourself and everything you did.

This pain, is called growth.

You don’t need to do self reflection during new year. You can count your blessings and achievements on your birthday. You can briefly reflect on your day before you sleep. However you want to do it, it is essential to spend some time to reflect and reset. My personal favourite is weekly reflection. I go through a set of questions every week, and a set of different questions – usually more visionally focused – every quarter. Then there is the annual review where I summarise what happened in the past 12 months.

Why the fuss, you may ask?

Self-awareness is the basis of any personal growth. Without cultivating the ability to read and understand yourself, there is no point reading all the self help books in the world.

Once you understand this, you will learn that journalling would be the best way to learn, and unlearn about yourself. Writing your feelings and thought process out is a powerful way to analyse your behaviours and become more logical.

Why some people get older, but not wiser

It is a mindset problem, and it has nothing to do with age.

I have observed people in my life – from acquiantances, colleagues, high school friends to mentors – and I conclude that the lack of self-awareness (and probably lack of vision) is the root cause of people growing older but not wiser.

To put it simply, most people are not being mindful about their lives. If you subscribe to the most typical path society tells you, usually a few years after graduating from university, you would have climbed enough in the corporate ladder and started to settle in life. Get married, have some kids, get a mortgage and life would be pretty good, eh?

They always say, real learning happens AFTER graduation. The world is so big. There will always be places, areas, industries we have yet to explore. Pandemic is not an excuse to stop learning and experiencing life, by the way. Unfortunately, most people travel for the sake of showing off and enjoying luxury. Most people become stagnant in life. They trade 5 days of slavery to 2 days of freedom. If you ask them what their goals are, they will answer something that the society and media feed them with: live a stable life that consists of a stable job, a stable relationship and hopefully stable health. Don’t get me wrong – there is no right or wrong answer. It is actually hard to reach that level of stability in life. What I have observed so far is just that people only hope and wish. They lack concrete, proactive actions. Their new year resolutions are the same every year.

We need to be mindful.

Pearson’s law states that, “When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates.”

No matter how you define a “good life”, there should be a goal, or even a vision – something compelling enough for you to go after relentlessly. You would craft out processes and set routines that take you towards the goal. You would develop a growth mindset. You would understand that you need to be resilient and humble to figure out what you don’t know, and what to improve.

This wonderful journey is called life.

What kind of life are you subscribed to?

What are you working towards now?

Is that what you really want?

No one tells you to get a university degree, get married and own a house before you turn 30. You don’t need to, if there is something else you are searching for.

Whatever you do, is it driving you to be a better version of yourself? Is that version someone you would be really proud of? Does that keep you up at night, thinking about all the possibilities?

Apart from self-awareness, curiosity is a something you should cultivate no matter how old you are.

Think about babies’ curious eyes, wandering around the first time they go to a park, a shopping centre or a playground. They wonder, they explore, they touch… as we grow up, we seem to decide that we know enough about the world. As we build our worldview, we define a set of values, beliefs and “facts”that we stick with.

What if what we were being told was wrong? What if there were more perspectives to it?

We learn by experience. If we all cultivate the curiosity about the world and other people, and the self-awareness of what information we take in, I guarantee we will always be more open-minded, more creative and more capable of handling challenges. We grow.

This is called maintaining a student mindset. Keep discovering about the world and yourself is important. Don’t let life carry you away. We are supposed to design our lives proactively. To live a life we want to live.

Getting wiser has nothing to do with age. It’s all about the mindset you adopt.

And you can always change.