December 2008 - The Strength of Wisdom + Chris Peterson Master Class


In This Issue


1.  Chris Peterson to Teach Positive Psychology Master Class

2.  The Strength of Wisdom--Main Essay

3.  The MentorCoach Annual Conference in Sedona 

4.  Two No-Cost Coaching TeleWorkshops With Ben Dean, Ph.D.

5.  Upcoming Classes 


1.  Chris Peterson Master Class on Positive Psychology Interventions Launching


I'm excited to announce that Chris Peterson is teaching a specially designed 8-week class on positive psychology interventions and practical applications  across these domains:

  • One's personal life,
  • The workplace,
  • Families and schools,
  • Psychotherapy and
  • Coaching

This class is based, in part, on an Internet survey of 1464 adults interested in positive psychology and who read Coaching Toward Happiness.  People who filled out the survey listed their most important questions about positive psychology, the interventions they currently used in their work, and the one question they'd most like to ask Chris if they had the chance.  Chris then built the class around their comments.


Chris last taught this back in 2007 and the class evaluations were extraordinary.


If you'd like to take part, please note there is a $100 discount if you register by 12/31/08. 


Here's the information:


Positive Psychology Immersion 2 --The Applications in Action MasterClass

With Chris Peterson, Ph.D.


DAY:  8 Tuesdays

WHEN: Begins February 10, 2009
TIME:  1:00 pm to 1:59 pm Eastern (New York time)
TUITION: $695  (EARLY BIRD TUITION: $595 until December 31, 2008)


For more information and to enroll, click here. 


I'll be taking Chris' class again.  I hope you can join us.







2.  Main Article--On Wisdom


The Strength of Wisdom

By Ben Dean, Ph.D.


Definition: What is Wisdom?


The strength of wisdom refers to the ability to take stock of life in large terms, in ways that make sense to oneself and others


Wisdom is the product of knowledge and experience, but it is more than the accumulation of information. It is the coordination of this information and its deliberate use to improve well-being. In a social context, wisdom allows the individual to listen to others, to evaluate what they say, and then offer them good (sage) advice.


Famous paragons of wisdom include the major religious leaders of history--leaders such as Jesus, Lao-tzu, the Buddha, the Prophet. Famous statesmen and stateswomen throughout history such as Winston Churchill, and Eleanor Roosevelt are also exemplars of the strength of wisdom.




Who Studies Wisdom?


Since the time of Aristotle, wisdom has been contemplated by philosophers, theologians, and most anyone concerned with the Good Life and how to live it. (For a good review of the history of wisdom, see Assmann, 1994.)


In recent psychological history, two major research groups stand out as major contributors to the scientific study of wisdom: Paul Baltes and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin and Robert Sternberg and colleagues at Yale University. There is much overlap between the way the two groups conceptualize wisdom and their research findings are often complementary. Yet it is interesting to note the unique theoretical slant that drives the research of each group.


Baltes and colleagues define wisdom as expertise in the conduct and meaning of life. According to their theory, a wise person is someone who knows what is most important in life and how to get it. He or she knows what constitutes the meaningful life and how to plan for and manage such a life (Baltes & Staudinger, 2000).


Sternberg's most recent definition of wisdom stems from his "balance theory of wisdom." According to this theory, people are wise to the extent that they use their intelligence to seek a common good. They do so by balancing their own interests with those of other people and those of larger entities (e.g., family, community, country). Wise people can adapt to new environments, change their environments, or select new environments to achieve an outcome that includes but goes beyond their personal self-interest (Sternberg, 1998)




Interesting Research Findings About Wisdom


Wisdom is a positive predictor of successful aging. In fact, wisdom is more robustly linked to the well-being of older people than objective life circumstances such as physical health, financial well-being, and physical environment (Ardelt, 1997; Baltes, Smith, & Staudinger, 1992; Bianchi, 1994; Clayton, 1982; Hartman, 2000).


In a fascinating study of women through midlife, Hartman (2000) found that those women who made major changes in the domains of love and work were higher in the development of wisdom by midlife. Interestingly, she found that making life changes in the 30s appeared to have a particularly positive effect on the development of wisdom.


Experiencing stressful life events across time can facilitate the development of wisdom--up to a point. People seem to benefit from stressful life experiences, particularly if they respond well to them. But as the ratio of negative to positive life experiences tips in favor of the negative, wisdom is inhibited (Hartman, 2000).


Wisdom is distinct from intelligence as measured by IQ tests (Sternberg, 2000). Indeed, Sternberg goes so far as to suggest that intelligent, well-educated people are particularly susceptible to four fallacies that inhibit wise choices and actions. You can read more about these fallacies in Sternberg's entertaining book Why Smart People Can Be So Stupid (2003), but I will summarize them here. As you read the list, see if you can generate relevant examples of famous political and business leaders who have been susceptible to these fallacies.

  • The Egocentrism Fallacy: thinking that the world revolves, or at least should revolve, around you. Acting in ways that benefit yourself, regardless of how that behavior affects others.
  • The Omniscience Fallacy: believing that you know all there is to know and therefore do not have to listen to the advice and counsel of others
  • The Omnipotence Fallacy: believing that your intelligence and education somehow make you all-powerful.
  • The Invulnerability Fallacy: believing that you can do whatever you want and that others will never be able to hurt you or expose you.



Developing Wisdom

  • In addition to watching out for the four fallacies listed above, consider the following wisdom-building activities compiled, in part, by psychologist Jonathan Haidt;
  • Read the works of great thinkers and religious leaders (e.g., Gandhi, Buddha, Jesus, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela). Read classic works of literature. Contemplate the wisdom of the ages
  • Think of the wisest person you know. Try to live each day as that person would live.
  • Look up prominent people in history and learn their views on important issues of their day.
  • Volunteer at a nursing home and talk with residents about their lives and the lessons they have learned.
  • Subscribe to two news editorial publications that are on opposite ends of the political spectrum (e.g., The National Review for the conservative perspective and The Nation for the liberal perspective). Read them both and consider both sides of the issues.

Remember that wisdom, like all of the character strengths we will cover in this series, exists on a continuum and can be developed with effort.



References and Recommended Readings


Assman, A. (1994). Wholesome knowledge: Concepts of wisdom in a historical and cross-cultural perspective. In D. L. Featherman, R.M. Lerner, & M. Perlmutter (Eds.), Life-span development and behavior (Vol. 12, pp. 187-224). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.


Baltes, P.B. & Staudinger, U.M. (2000). Wisdom: A metaheuristic (pragmatic) to orchestrate mind and virtue toward excellence. American Psychologist, 55, 122-136.


Bianchi, E. (1994). Elder wisdom: Crafting your elderhood. New York: Crossroad.


Clayton, V.P. (1982). Wisdom and intelligence: The nature and function of knowledge in the later years. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 15, 315-321.


Hartman, P.S. (2000). Women developing wisdom: Antecedents and correlates in a longitudinal sample. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.


Peterson, C. and Seligman, M. E. P. (Eds.). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford University Press.


Sternberg (2003). Why smart people can be so stupid. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.


Sternberg, R. J. (2000). Intelligence and wisdom. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.), Handbook of intelligence (pp. 631-649). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.


Sternberg, R. J. (1999). Schools should nurture wisdom. In B.Z. Presseisen (Ed.), Teaching for intelligence (pp. 55-82). Arlington Heights, IL: Skylight Training and Publishing.

Sternberg, R. J. (1998). A balance theory of wisdom. Review of General Psychology, 2, 347-365.






3.  The 7th Annual MentorCoach Conference in Sedona, Arizona -- January 29-31, 2009


Keynote Speaker: Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D.


I'd love to invite you to our annual conference in Sedona.  It's open to all MentorCoach students and anyone who has ever taken a single MentorCoach class (for example, classes with Sonja Lyubomirsky or Chris Peterson or any of our other master classes).




The conference will be great, and there are few places more beautiful than Sedona.


For more information, click here.     






4.  Two No-Cost Coaching TeleWorkshops With Ben Dean, Ph.D. 



Join Ben for a two-hour no-charge coaching TeleWorkshop.  Each TeleWorkshop will include a drawing where one participant, from each TeleWorkshop, will win a 100% tuition waiver to the MentorCoach Foundations Program!


These two TeleWorkshops will include live coaching sessions and a virtual drawing for a full tuition fellowship to the Foundations training Program. Bring all questions.




WITH: Ben Dean, Ph.D.

WHEN: Monday, January 12, 2009

TIME: 7:00 - 8:59 pm Eastern

Click here to register! 



WITH: Ben Dean, Ph.D.

WHEN: Friday, January 16, 2009

TIME: 12:00 - 1:59 pm Eastern

Click here to register!


5. MentorCoach January Classes: Foundations



MCP 130 Mondays
31 Wednesdays
8:00 pm - 8:59 pm Eastern (New York Time)
International Time (UTC/GMT) add four hours
Starts Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Faculty: Margaret Wilkinson, Ph.D.






MCP 131 Tuesdays
31 Tuesdays
12 noon - 12:59 pm Eastern (New York Time)
International Time (UTC/GMT) add four hours
Starts Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Faculty: Kim Kirmmse Toth, LCSW, ACC





MCP 132 Thursdays
31 Thursdays
8:00 pm - 8:59 pm Eastern (New York Time)
International Time (UTC/GMT) add four hours
Starts Thursday, February 26, 2009
Faculty: Margart Wilkinson, Ph.D.




For more information, click here.

MentorCoach MasterClasses

Positive Psychology Immersion 2--The Applications in Action MasterClass with Chris Peterson, Ph.D.


8 Tuesdays

Begins February 10, 2009
From: 1:00 pm to 1:59 pm Eastern (New York time)
Tuition: $695

(EARLY BIRD TUITION: $595 until December 31, 2008)

Faculty: Chris Peterson, Ph.D.



Small Business Coaching MasterClass

12 Tuesdays
Begins Tuesday, 1/20/09

From 5:00 -- 5:59 pm Eastern (New York Time)

Faculty: Anne Durand, MCC


Executive Coaching MasterClass

24 Tuesdays

Begins Tuesday, 3/17/09

7:00 - 7:59 pm Eastern (New York Time)
Faculty: Anne Durand, MCC









About Ben Dean -- Ben, Editor of Coaching Toward Happiness, is a coach,  psychologist, founder of MentorCoach, and... MORE.
Copyright 2006-2008. Coaching Toward Happiness.  All rights reserved.


Copyright 2006-2008. Coaching Toward Happiness.  All rights reserved.

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