When we think of intelligence, we usually associate it with people who are book smart or those who have high IQ’s. But seeing intelligence as one-dimensional does not give us a full picture of our capabilities. It turns out there are nine types, and each one of us is particularly strong in one or two areas. Knowing what type of intelligence you have allows you develop your strengths and gain mastery. (Estimated reading time: 6 minutes)
“Do not ignore your gift. Your gift is the thing you do the absolute BEST with the LEAST amount of effort..”— Steve Harvey
Report card day was probably the most stressful day as a student. You may have had butterflies in your tummy as you anxiously awaited your results. Teachers and parents made you feel like your whole future depended on your grades.
That one document carried a lot of weight because it determined your potential for success. Based on your performance, you were placed into either the ‘smart’ or ‘not-so-smart’ category. Unless you had conscious caretakers around you who told you that your worth didn’t depend on it, the outcome had an impact on your confidence.
The problem with school grading systems is that it only measures for certain types of intelligence. It inadvertently tips the scales in favor of those who excel in mainstream subjects like math, science, and languages. However, by putting only certain types of brilliance on a pedestal, school authorities alienate those who are gifted in other ways.
While school gives us the basic education to prepare us for a professional life, it fails to provide an accurate measure of what we’re truly capable of achieving. There are plenty of examples of accomplished people who were considered poor students but went on to become trailblazers once they uncovered their hidden talents. Einstein is one such example.
Albert Einstein’s teachers referred to him as a poor student who had a learning disability. Some have claimed that one of the reasons he struggled in school was because he was dyslexic, making it a challenge for him to communicate in the formal confines of German schooling.
Fortunately, Einstein didn’t let the judgement of his teachers go to his head. He eventually found his stride, at which point, academic institutions such as the University of Netherlands and Princeton invited him to teach.
The good news is that our society is beginning to recognize the flaws in our limited outlook on intelligence, and education systems are changing accordingly. As we learn more about the brain and its boundless capacity, we’re seeing that conventional methods of evaluating intelligence, like IQ and standardized tests, simply can’t give the full picture of our capabilities.
One of the first people to pick up on our narrow view on intelligence was development psychologist Howard Gardner. He didn’t see intelligence as one-dimensional or a single generalized ability that belonged to a lucky few. What other scientists referred to as ‘soft skills’, were in fact ‘modalities’ of intelligence based on Gardner’s theory. In his book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, he suggests that there are nine types of intelligence:
Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences suggests that someone who is ‘people-smart’ or a brilliant musician is just as smart as someone who is a math whiz. This perspective on different intelligences levels the playing field and makes room for all kinds of talent to flourish.
If you’re curious to know your intelligence type, you can take this online assessment to find out.
Although everyone has a small part of all the nine intelligences in them, each one of us will be particularly strong in one or two specific areas, and it’s essential to be aware of them as soon as possible so that you can develop your strengths more thoroughly and eventually gain mastery.
It’s critical that you unearth those inclinations that are a true reflection of your potential. If you’re made to follow a particular career path in which you’re mediocre or below average, not only will you waste your natural gifts, but you’ll lose confidence in your abilities. For instance, if you know that you’re an excellent dancer but your well-intentioned parents convinced you to get a ‘real job’, you’ll feel perpetually dissatisfied because you can’t shine in your field.
You can resist falling into this trap by understanding your unique type of intelligence and leveraging on it. Here are four ways that you can build on, and express your genius:
1. Acknowledge your unique type of intelligence: Once you discover your type of intelligence take the time to absorb and own it. Journal your thoughts, and discover how this aspect of yourself makes you feel about your identity and your future. If you were one of those kids who was made to feel dumb by teachers and other grown-ups because you weren’t intelligent based on their criteria, acknowledge the pain from those experiences and take steps to heal it. Replace those holes in your self-esteem with empowering thoughts, and recognize your worth.
2. Look for outlets where you can apply your intelligence: Seek opportunities where you can utilize your intelligence. You can find ways to use it in your current profession or in a hobby or vocation outside your work. What’s important is that you allow your talent to be seen in the world – it will give you a boost of energy and make you feel like you’re in power. For instance, if you’re an accountant by profession, but you know you also have high musical intelligence, you can join a choir and take singing lessons. If you’re a recruiting manager and you have high visual and spatial intelligence, you can spend time on the weekends painting.
3. Improve and build on your natural intelligence: The road to mastery requires that we regularly work on our craft. Anyone who has excelled in any field has had to educate themselves and receive guidance from trainers, mentors, and others with more experience. Similarly, you can build on your knowledge and boost your performance by signing up for classes, reading, and getting an apprenticeship with someone who is well versed in your field. No matter how good you become, stay humble, and don’t stagnate out of complacency. Your brain is brimming with potential which can only be utilized if you’re willing to stretch yourself and move beyond your comfort zone.
4. Recognize the intelligence of others: Recognizing other people’s intelligence is just as important as acknowledging the intelligence in yourself. This is especially important if you’re in a leadership position such as a parent, teacher, or manager. Walt Disney was well-known for his uncanny ability to identify people’s gifts and hire them for projects that matched their skills. He was able to hire the best talent for his projects while also boosting the morale of his staff. Even if you’re not in a leadership position, you can pick out professionals to fill in the gaps in your knowledge. Not good with numbers? Hire an accountant to do the number-crunching. Strategically outsourcing your weakness will free up time for you to work on your strengths.
While our intelligence might bring us financial success, accolades, and fame, these rewards shouldn’t be the main motivation for harnessing our brilliance. Instead, we should be driven to use it to change the lives of other for the better. The trail we leave behind will bear our unique signature in the eternal sands of time.
All my best on your journey,
Reflection Question: What are your two strongest types of intelligence and how do you currently use them?
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