You’re probably smart in ways that have never been recognized. Ignore the test scores you got growing up. They weren’t fake, but the typical view of intelligence is too limited and those tests left a lot out. I think a more accurate approach comes from Howard Gardner, Harvard professor, called the “multiple intelligences theory”. In short, it goes like this:
Intelligence measures how well your brain functions. While being able to do math and having strong literary skills (reading/writing) are certainly important aspects of how our brains work, the brain does far more than that. In fact, he identified seven basic types of brain function:
Math Smart – Analytical/Mathematical Intelligence
What you think it is–math, numbers, patterns, etc.
Words Smart – Verbal/Linguistics Intelligence
Also the usual stuff we’re tested on–vocabulary, use of metaphor, etc.
Music Smart – Musical Intelligence
This is the ability to decipher sounds into patterns, create new patterns, etc. It’s doesn’t necessarily mean you have the ability to play instruments well. That requires both musical intelligence and the next category.
Sports Smart – Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence
It’s a detailed awareness of your body in space and the ability to make all those parts do what you want. Yes, sports require strength & fitness, but what makes someone a great athlete are the split second reactions and complex coordination–those are brain functions, not leg or arm functions. This is one of those areas where we label people as unintelligent when it’s just a different kind of intelligence that our tests are geared towards.
Picture Smart – Visual/Spatial Intelligence
Visual artists often excel in this area, though they also need body skills to create the art. These are also the people who can look at a pile of luggage, look at the trunk of the car, and figure out what pieces need to go where–before moving them. They can rotate shapes in their mind or tell how far/deep something is by looking at it. We all do it some, the better you are the more intelligent you are here.
People Smart – Interpersonal Intelligence
This is the ability to read the thoughts and feelings of others–and know what to say or do to get the reaction you want. Often the class clown–who may not do as well in the traditional categories–excels here but doesn’t get credit for the intellectual feat this is. One of my college roommates is a genius in this area (he’s also very smart in other areas). You couldn’t know someone like him and not realize how smart his brain is in that area.
Self Smart – Intrapersonal Intelligence
This is the ability to know what you’re feeling and thinking, know why, and be able to control and shape your own thoughts and feelings. Often overlooked, this is a key intelligence that, I think, sets a ceiling on your ability to use your other intelligences.
You can be high or low in each of them–there is no correlation between them. We all have our own unique profile.
You start with a basic raw ability, but can increase your capacity in all of these areas. You’re not fixed at a certain level. (More posts later on the recent breakthroughs on how to literally increase your IQ.)
IQ tests only cover 2-3 of the 7 listed here. As a result, many people can spend their lives believing they aren’t intelligent when they just didn’t have a test to measure your type of intelligences. What’s your profile? What have you undervalued about yourself?