“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”
– Reinhold Niebuhr
This serenity prayer has become a mantra for many people struggling with life challenges. It reveals that wisdom and courage are intertwined, and suggests that these qualities are possible for everyone.
Positive psychologists define wisdom as the ways and means of planning, managing, and understanding a good life. It is also described as an expertise in conduct and the meaning of life. It often comes with age, especially with vast experiences and the ability to think more abstractly. As expected, wisdom is associated with many positive traits such as a sense of self, less materialistic pleasure, and more interest in reflection and personal growth. Wise people appear to be more open to experiences in general, more flexible with adapting to the changes of life, and possess greater amounts of gratitude and appreciation for life. Clearly, wisdom is something worth cultivating.
Likewise, courage is a virtue that is well looked upon. It helps people face their challenges despite their present fear. Courage comes in many different forms such as physical (ex. soldiers putting their lives in danger for the greater good), moral (ex. admitting a difficult truth), vital (ex. a patient battling illness through various treatments), psychological (ex. struggling with a mental illness), and civil (ex. standing up against discrimination). In essence, it is taking action even when you feel it’s outside your comfort zone, standing up for something you believe in, having self-confidence, being brave, having the strength to rise up against the norm, facing challenges even if you are not sure about the outcome, being mentally and physically strong, and exemplifying self-less behaviour. If you look back through history, you can find many examples of courageous people, from Rosa Parks to your local firefighter.
Over the journey of our lives, we can instill a mindset to cultivate greater wisdom and courage for a fulfilling life. It is not easy to develop these qualities, but with mindful practice, it is possible. For instance…
To develop Wisdom:
- Consider learning from successful people you admire. ask questions about their work-life balance so that you can apply them in your own life
- Practice time management by reflecting on your past week and determining how you worked towards your goals, what went well, what you can improve upon, etc.
- Share your knowledge, especially to those younger than you, as you can provide them with wisdom and valuable life perspectives
To develop Courage:
- Face your fears associated with dating and making new friends by introducing yourself to twice as many people today as you did yesterday
- Stand up for the truth when your rights or the rights of others are violated
- Pursue your deepest interests with a passion
Wisdom guides our action, and through that wisdom, we make good choices when challenged by the social and physical world. Courage follows suit when prompted by a pressing challenge. Let’s aim to cultivate both of these virtues in hopes of a positive future.