Journal of Adult Development

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 81–93 | Cite as

Experiential Wisdom and Optimal Experience: Interviews with Three Distinguished Lifelong Learners

  • Kevin Rathunde


The present article suggests that lifelong learning is enhanced by the capacity to make experiential course corrections that lead back to states of interest and flow experience. The notion of experiential wisdom is introduced to describe such a capacity for navigation. A person with experiential wisdom recognizes that optimal experiences are more likely to occur when an affectively charged intuitive mode works in synchrony with a deliberative rational mode and is better able to cultivate situations where the interrelation of these two modes is optimized. The first part of the article provides a framework for understanding experiential wisdom and the regulation of optimal experience. The second part illustrates the practice of experiential wisdom by drawing on interviews with three distinguished lifelong learners—poet Mark Strand, social scientist Donald Campbell, and medical researcher Jonas Salk.


Wisdom Flow experience Lifelong learning Intuition Interest 



The author would like to thank Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi for allowing access to the interviews from his study of creativity in later life.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Family and Consumer StudiesUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA

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