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older and wiser but

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Getting older doesn’t always mean getting wiser. It doesn’t mean that one bit. I fear that a lot of individuals believe that because they are a year older, that they can trust their intuition more, or that they no longer need the input of others, or that they know exactly what they’re doing. Nuh-uh. Not so. Unfortunately, wisdom doesn’t come as a freebie with age. Look around. You know that it’s true. Think of five people you know who are roughly the same age. You likely couldn’t say that they all contain roughly the same wisdom. Not even close, right?


You may even be the guide, guru, or caretaker of somebody who is older than you, because you’re wiser than her. You may be amazed at how incredibly wise someone much younger than you is. I understand that we’re supposed to respect our elders and all of that, and while that is true, isn’t this also true: as you’ve gotten older, and been able to analyze the behaviors, habits, and beliefs of your parents, or your teachers, haven’t you found that they aren’t perfect? Haven’t you found that they had their own issues—their own stuff—that was clouding their judgment?


You love and respect your parents but even you now know that some of the ways of life they taught you were, well, for lack of a better word…wrong. It’s a good thing you didn’t just follow them blindly, all because they’re older. Wisdom only comes with age if you’ve made the best use of your years. But many individuals keep their blinders on, look down, refuse to change, won’t open their eyes, repeat patterns, and only get older, but never get wiser. “I’m 45—nobody can tell me what to do,” a boss of mine once said. It was clear she thought that age had made her smarter, but her life was always a trash fire, due to her own behaviors. Here is why getting older doesn’t always mean getting wiser.


Some never learn from their mistakes

Some people never learn from their mistakes. They make a mistake, they hate the outcome, and rather than think about what part they played in this disaster, they just…have sex with a stranger/get really drunk/go on a shopping spree/go on a trip and “refresh.” They just try to walk away from the destruction without assessing it.


A long list of mistakes doesn’t=wisdom

You wouldn’t believe how many people think that repeating the same mistake a dozen times makes them wise. They marry someone after only knowing him for three months…get a divorce. Do that exact same thing, three more times, and think that because they’ve been there/done that so often, they’re now wise. But eight wrongs don’t make a right.


And always play the victim

Some people always play the victim, never admitting that they are the common denominator in every situation that has gone poorly. They simply believe they are very unlucky, and those with good lives are lucky. They take no accountability for their actions, and when the world responds poorly to their poor behavior, it is the world’s fault.


Or just jump relationship ship

They jump from one relationship to another. Their solution to the problem of their relationship is always just a new relationship. The partner is the problem—never them. All of their relationships go up in flames but even at a rather ripe age, they still think they just haven’t found the one…but nothing about them needs to change.


Or career ship

They jump career ship constantly. Many people just believe that the reason their careers haven’t worked out is not because they haven’t put in the work and are extremely impatient, but because they haven’t found the right industry. Rather than being far along in one career at age 45, they are just starting out…their tenth career.


Or find a new best friend

You might find someone well past the prime of her life who has no friends she’s known more than a year or two. She’ll tell you she’s just learned enough about humans, and what she needs in a friend, and whittled down her list. However…there is nobody left. And that could be because friends leave her because she repeats unhealthy behaviors.


Self-reflection is scary

Almost no personal progress can be made without self-reflection. Almost no wisdom can be acquired without self-reflection. Self-reflection, however, is terrifying. Not everyone is willing to do it. Some people would rather just put their head down, charge forward like a bull in a China shop, and just keep ruining everything, never asking why.


Not everyone accepts the truth

Even those who do take the time to self-reflect won’t accept the truth. They will learn, in no unclear terms, what they’ve been doing wrong and what they need to change. And they…will look the other way. Pride is a powerful force, and some people are too proud their whole lives to admit they have some flaws.


Making a change isn’t easy

And even when someone does realize she needs to make changes, she may not be able to execute. Here’s the thing: making real change sucks. It means regularly going against your instincts and typically doing the thing that is least fun and most difficult. Some people may give it a go for a little while, but then they give up. And when this happens, it’s easier to go into denial, and retreat to believing there’s nothing wrong with me.


Some find enablers

Enablers are everywhere, and those who don’t really want to change or admit their flaws will find them. They’ll find someone else who likes to spend money recklessly to tell them that that $5,000 a month luxury apartment is a good idea. They’ll find another friend who cheats on her boyfriends to tell her it’s fine to cheat.


Some supplement one wisdom for another

It’s so common for those who feel that they have their careers together to feel that they have their lives together. They have a tremendous amount of career confidence, which gets them far, but which also makes them believe they’re good at everything. Meanwhile, they lose friends, have multiple divorces, and isolate their families, all the while believing it’s not on them because their careers are going well.


Money can keep you blind

Unfortunately, there are a lot of very wealthy but very dumb individuals. They found themselves in some cash and from there, in a position of power. Nobody will tell someone wealthy or powerful that they’re handling their personal lives all wrong. They fear the wrath. And when you’re wealthy and powerful, it’s easy to surround yourself with people who will pretend to like you and tell you you’re doing everything right.


Many rely on age as an excuse

“I’m too old to change,” or “Change will be too difficult now,” or “I am who I am now. Deal with it or don’t.” These are things you hear from old but not wise individuals. People settle into their way of doing things and they believe there is some “wisdom” in accepting themselves as they are—and in way there is, so long as your life isn’t a total disaster.


But we can learn to change

The truth is that we can teach ourselves to be adaptable. We can cultivate the ability to grow and evolve. The earlier we do that—the sooner we become comfortable with admitting that sometimes we are wrong and must improve—the better we get at it. The later we do it, the harder it is, and some people just become stuck in their ways.


Some rely on age as proof of wisdom

Some will say, “I am old, so I am wise.” You’ll try to tell them that maybe they shouldn’t invest all their money in a company about which they know nothing or maybe they shouldn’t marry someone they met three months ago. “I’m 45 years old,” they’ll say. “I know what I’m doing.”

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