How wisdom helps to live a good a life



By Thomas Walenta

Frankfurt, Germany

There is research published in the German language by psychologists from the famous Berlin Charite Hospital about how to treat mental diseases like depression, bipolar disorder or suicidal thoughts (Kai Baumann, Michael Linden: Weisheitskompetenzen & Weisheitstherapie, Pabst Science Publishers 2008). In their work, they named a set of ten competencies related to and goals of standard therapies in psychology, which they jointly identify as wisdom. Wisdom helps you to be mentally healthy and live a good life.

The ten competencies are not new to the development of human maturity or leadership, and in their book they are combined under the label of wisdom. However, a lack of any one of them can lead to mental weakness, illness and suffering, and problems in life or projects.

This research of Baumann/Linden is also helpful for all of us who are not (yet) diagnosed with mental weakness, because we can use therapies that lead to the ten competencies of wisdom as preventive measures to stabilize and improve our mental health and prevent us from falling sick mentally, which means to be better able to handle all situations that life presents to us. The ability to survive or even strive when we experience disruptions to our lives, is sometimes called resilience (survive) or anti-fragility (strive, term coined by Nassim Nicolas Taleb).

To be very clear: if you experience signs of mental instability or illness, thoughts of depression or burnout, you should contact professional help. Sometimes we do not recognize our weaknesses due to our blind spots. At such times, others can see us better, though they might hesitate to share their observations with us due to their fear of our reaction. What helps in these cases, is to talk with a mentor, a trusted person who is not much involved in our daily lives and can objectively help us to become more self-aware.

Wisdom is the common goal we all strive for in life

Wikipedia defines Wisdom as ‘.. ability to contemplate and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight’ and Baltes, a psychology researcher, said wisdom is ‘.. expert knowledge concerning the fundamental pragmatics of life.’ The keywords are pragmatics and common sense. These describe ways to solve problems in reality, not only in theory.

Philosophers like Aristotle thought about wisdom too. He defined phronesis as a quality for moral understanding, leading to good results and well living. Phronesis means to have the ability to make morally good judgments and decisions.

Other types of human thinking discussed by the old Greeks are episteme which includes knowledge and science, and sophia, meaning originally skilled, intelligent and clever. Overall, we could say that episteme is concerned with the WHAT, sophia with the HOW (both agnostic to morals, indifferent to good and bad) and phronesis with the WHY.

Indeed, we all appreciate working with a leader or a project manager with high wisdom. And most of us recognize wisdom when we see it, yet there are misconceptions. Wisdom is often seen as a feature of elder and experienced people. But young people can also display wisdom. Acquired knowledge, often mistakenly seen as synonym to wisdom, is in fact but one of the 10 competencies (knowledge about facts, assimilation).


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How to cite this article: Walenta, T. (2023).  How wisdom helps to live a good a life, commentary, PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue V, May.  Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/pmwj129-May2023-Walenta-how-wisdom-helps-us-live-a-good-life-.pdf

About the Author

Thomas Walenta, PgMP, PMP

Frankfurt, Germany


Thomas Walenta, PMP, PgMP, PMI Fellow, was working as Project and Program Manager for IBM from 1983-2014. Most recently he was responsible for a program encompassing all business of IBM with a global client in the EMEA region, with teams in India, Japan and across Europe. Thomas build his first PMO in1995 and started his first program from 2002. He led the PMI Frankfurt Chapter from 1998 to 2005, increasing membership from 111 to 750 and annual budget to 100K Euro. He teaches PM at the University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt and since 2014, he is a project management consultant.

Thomas had a variety of volunteer positions for PMI, among them being final juror of the PMI Project of the Year award, member of the PMI Board nomination committee, auditor for PMI‘s Registered Education Provider Program, writer/reviewer of PMP Exam questions and significant contributor to PMI‘s first standards about Program Management and Portfolio Management. Thomas has served as a member of PMI’s Ethics Review Committee 2011-2016. He received PMI’s Fellow Award in 2012.

Thomas is also a member of GPM/IPMA since 1996.

He was elected by PMI membership to serve on the PMI Board of Directors, from 2006 to 2011, and for a second term 2017-2019. Being a speaker on global project management events in Tokyo, Moscow, São Paulo, Little Rock and across Europe, Thomas extended his professional network significantly and is regarded as an experienced and skillful advisor and mentor. He has been an honorary global advisor for the PM World Journal since 2019.

Thomas is based near Frankfurt, Germany and can be contacted at thwalenta@online.de or www.linkedin.com/in/thwalenta/