"Positive emotions are the oxygen for wisdom."

We hear a lot about clinician well-being these days, often in conversations about burnout, employee engagement, and staffing shortages.  You might be wondering why our program considers healthcare workers’ wellbeing in the context of wisdom. 

In our experience and research, we have found that wisdom is inextricably linked to our own wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around us:  our patients, our colleagues, and even our families, friends, and communities. 

Think about someone whom you would consider wise.  Who comes to mind?  Often it’s a parent, grandparent, teacher, mentor, or even a person we have read about and admired from afar. 

What about this person makes you think they are wise? 

What qualities do they have? 

Wisdom is a much-studied construct in recent decades, and although it can often be challenging to articulate exactly what wisdom is, “we know it when we see it.”  In our own experience, and now supported by wisdom researchers, we can generally agree that wise persons have the following qualities: 

  • Wise people can see things from multiple perspectives, rising above their own perspective.  This requires self-awareness and insight. 
  • Wise people can see the deeper meaning of events and situations. 
  • Wise people can apply knowledge and skill to right action.  
  • Wise people can deal with ambiguity and uncertainty. 
  • Wise people know what they don’t know. 
  • Wise people are compassionate. 
  • Wise people focus on the greater good.  
  • Wise people, in their actions, make the world a better place. 1 

Take a moment to sit with these qualities for a moment. How would you feel if you could tolerate uncertainty in a less stressful way?  If you allowed yourself moments to experience self-awareness and insight? If you could practice exploring ways to find meaning and opportunities in even the most stressful situations?  In your job, what would it be like to work with and for people who exemplified the qualities of wise persons?  

 In our experience, embracing lessons from wise persons improves not only our own lives but also the lives of others.  Wisdom practices leverage the lessons of wise persons, rigorous research in wisdom and wellbeing, and the Stress First Aid and Peer Support frameworks to create work environments where everyone can flourish and do their best work together. 

Visit this page often for links to practices that can help us all move through out work, and our lives, with more wisdom.




1Ardelt, M. (2004). Wisdom as expert knowledge system: A critical review of a contemporary operationalization of an ancient concept.  Human Development, 47, 257-285.