Wisdom, strength, wealth and honor are positive things we may aspire to have. But not all of us are born with great intelligence. We may not have the stamina to run marathons, and most of us are not born into richness or honor. Nevertheless, we each can acquire these virtues if we just reframe what these qualities truly mean.

Ben Zoma says:

Who is wise? He who learns from every person …

Who is mighty? He who subdues his personal inclination …

Who is rich? He who is happy with his portion …

Who is honored? He who honors others … (Avot 4:1)

Do you want wisdom? There are people who score high levels on their IQ tests, but in practical life’s skills are lacking. Thirst for wisdom, and you will become wise. Realize that you can learn something from every person, and every encounter will increase your intelligence.

The key is humility. Just as silver and gold come from the ground, likewise, we can gain knowledge from anyone, even those who seem lowly. Every person is a creation of G‑d, and if this individual crossed your path, there is something you can learn from him (even if it’s what not to do). The holy Rabbi Zusya of Anipoli learned three things from infants: a) to always be busy; b) to cry out without shame for their needs; and c) to feel content when their basic needs are satisfied.

Do you want to be strong? Many animals possess far greater strength than even the most trained human; donkeys carry heavy loads, and lions are fierce warriors. However, human beings are unique in that we can become masters of our passions and gain self-control over our actions. If you want to be strong, focus on strength of character. He who is slow to anger is better than a warrior, and a master of his passion is greater than a conqueror of a city” (Proverbs 16:32).

Do you want to be rich? Material wealth is transient. The thrill of buying something new is lost with the itch of the next purchase. “One who has one hundred wants two hundred” (Kohelet Rabbah 1:34). There are wealthy people who are paupers, constantly hungering for their next windfall. Only when we have an inner contentment—realizing that what we have is exactly what G‑d wants us to have—can we be truly wealthy.

Do you want respect? Respect others! A person who respects others recognizes that every individual is created in G‑d’s image. Sensitivity to human dignity is in essence showing honor to G‑d. We can only give to others what we possess, but each of us has that essential dignity to honor others.

We don’t choose our life’s circumstances, nor do we choose what talents or abilities we are born with. But we can control how we react to our circumstance. Internalize and integrate these qualities into your personality, and you can acquire them all!