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Beyond the basic instincts of survival that all species have, what makes humans have high-functioning performances above other living things? Wisdom is one of the special virtues that humans possess. It has long been discussed in perspectives, such as philosophy, education, religion, and psychology.
For positive psychology, VIA defines wisdom and knowledge as “the cognitive strength that entail the acquisition and use of knowledge” (VIA Institution on Character, 2015). Wisdom covers all 5 strengths dealing with cognitive functions such as creativity, curiosity, judgment, love of learning, and perspective.
This article contains:
Creativity: Originality, Ingenuity
“Two young people would make a creative contribution, one who was intellectually brilliant but not very motivated and another who was less brilliant but more motivated, the better bet would be on the latter person.” (Nakamura & Csikszentmihalyi, 2003)
Many studies have been conducted on the strengths in wisdom like creativity and if it could really improve the well-being of human lives (Corely, 2010). What do you think of when we talk about creativity?
Some might think of the world famous artists, designers, and thinkers, but don’t believe that they themselves are capable of creativity. Creativity is not limited only in the field of artistic achievement.
Creativity can be seen as the ability of adaptation. According to a study by Flood and Phillips (2007), adaptation is “the process and outcome whereby individuals use conscious awareness and choice to create human and environmental integration”.
Therefore, people who are easily adaptable to new environments are considered to have the creativity strength as well. Perhaps, this is one of the fundamental strengths that all humans are born with since if you look closely, humans are quite good at adaptation.
By practicing creative activities, which require the ability to be open to new ideas, one could have both psychological and physiological benefits (Forgeard & Elstein, 2014). Based on the study by Flood and Phillips (2007), it can enhance self-esteem, problem-solving skills, and coping skills. It also improves the connection of neurons, stimulates endorphins, and increases immune systems.
Curiosity: Interest, Novelty-seeking, Openness to experience
Perhaps this is the strength that we all have at a young age. The child never gets bored of asking “Why?” “Why?” and “Why?” It is the adults instead that are too tired to answer and we don’t even know that we are weakening this beneficial strength!
According to the VIA, curiosity is defined as, ‘Taking an interest in ongoing experience for its own sake; finding subjects and topics fascinating; exploring and discovering” (VIA Institution on Character, 2015).
One study shows that curiosity is one of the components of optimal function and links challenge and novelty with the opportunity to grow. For example, searching for the meaning of things could guide a sense of direction and purpose of life.
Furthermore, in social contexts, people with high curiosity are “more responsive, infuse more novel twists of excitement to interactions, and are more likely to seek, capitalize, and build on interaction partner disclosures” (Kashdan, Rose & Fincham, 2004).
Judgment: Critical thinking
Who else loves to judge? Even though we hate doing it, many times we have to remind ourselves not to judge people. When we “judge” people, the way we judge is very critical. In general, judgment tends to be a negative interpretation, which is why we need to understand how can we use judgment as a strength correctly.
Basically, judgment is, “thinking things through and examining them from all sides; not jumping to conclusions; being able to change one’s mind in light of evidence; weighing all evidence fairly” (VIA Institution on Character, 2015).
We all have our favored beliefs and it requires the ability to think through and find all the evidence without bias. You could ask yourself to think of various ways about particular situations, not be limited to only one perspective, then weight it fairly.
Love of learning
“When people have love of learning as a strength, they are cognitively engaged.” (Peterson & Seligman, 2004)
VIA defines love of learning as, “Mastering new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge, whether on one’s own or formally; obviously related to the strength of curiosity but goes beyond it to describe the tendency to add systematically to what one knows” (VIA Institution on Character, 2015).
Love of learning doesn’t have to be limited to only in a school or classroom. The world is the biggest classroom ever. You can enhance this strength by going out and engaging in new skills and experiences. It is the key to improving ourselves and it helps us tackle challenges and setbacks.
People with high strengths in love of learning can maintain a sense of efficacy and motivation while learning longer than those who don’t (Peterson & Seligman, 2004).
Peterson and Seligman (2004) viewed this strength as being different from intelligence and is the higher form of knowledge. It is used for the sake of oneself and others well-being. People with this strength see things through a wider lens.
In addition, perspective is all about the experiences. Perspective or wisdom could be developed through life tasks, adjustment, coming to terms with life choices, life changes, and stressful life experiences.
Wisdom provides a great advantage to human beings. Development requires the process of thinking as the beacon to guide which way we should go. But most importantly on knowledge and wisdom, Aristotle once said that,
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
Corley, C. (2010). Creative expression and resilience among Holocaust survivors. Journal Of Human Behavior In The Social Environment, 20(4), 542-552. doi:10.1080/10911350903275325
Flood, M., and Phillips, K. D. (2007). Creativity in older adults: A plethora of possibilities. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 28(4), 389–411.
Forgeard, M. J., & Elstein, J. G. (2014). Advancing the clinical science of creativity. Frontiers in psychology, 5.
Kashdan, T. B., Rose, P., & Fincham, F. D. (2004). Curiosity and exploration: Facilitating positive subjective experiences and personal growth opportunities. Journal of personality assessment, 82(3), 291-305.
Nakamura, J., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2003). The motivational sources of creativity as viewed from the paradigm of positive psychology.
In L. G. Aspinwall, U. M. Staudinger, L. G. (2003), A psychology of human strengths: Fundamental questions and future directions for a positive psychology (pp. 257-269). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association. doi:10.1037/10566-018
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Oxford University Press.
VIA Institution on Character. (2015). The VIA Classification of Character Strengths & Virtues. Retrieved from http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths/VIA-Classification.