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Future Mistake #10: Misunderstanding Your Intelligence

When I was growing up, like most kids, I considered my level of intelligence in comparison to my siblings. Which, in my case, was a bummer because my older sister was super duper smart. On top of that, I had significant developmental delays that impacted my ability to speak and engage in ordinary tasks, as well as academic success. The idea of me being intelligent was, well, apparently not an issue because we had testing at school that informed me exactly where I stood compared to my peers and my genius sister. 

Looking back then and looking through a parent’s eyes now, it’s actually pretty messed up. We all know that the state testing our kids must do is disproportionately skewed toward one specific kind of intelligence. In fact, the tests that determine our level of intelligence neglect to consider other valuable, relevant types of intelligence. 

Fortunately, the landmark research of developmental psychologist Howard Gardner gives us a broader framework for what intelligence actually is. He drew upon research from various fields, including psychology, anthropology, biology, and the arts, to develop a broader perspective on intelligence, which allowed him to consider intelligence in a more holistic manner beyond the narrow confines of traditional intelligence testing.

He helped uncover eight unique aspects of intelligence (eventually, he added another one), observing that different people have different kinds of cognitive strengths and weaknesses, which traditional IQ tests failed to capture. Here they are, with an overview description and relevant academic and career paths for each:

  • Linguistic Intelligence
      • Description: Individuals with high linguistic intelligence have a natural affinity for words and languages. They find it easy to express themselves verbally and in writing, enjoy reading and writing and are skilled at learning new languages. They excel in storytelling, explaining, teaching, and persuading using language.
      • Academic Pursuits: Literature, languages, journalism, creative writing.
      • Career Paths: Writer, journalist, teacher, lawyer, translator.
  • Logical-Mathematical Intelligence
      • Description: Those with strong logical-mathematical intelligence are naturally good at reasoning, recognizing patterns, and logically analyzing problems. They are comfortable with numbers, abstract visual information, and conducting scientific experiments. They enjoy puzzles, experiments, and strategic games.
      • Academic Pursuits: Mathematics, logic, computer science, physics, chemistry.
      • Career Paths: Scientist, mathematician, computer programmer, engineer, accountant.
  • Musical Intelligence
      • Description: Individuals with high musical intelligence naturally produce and appreciate rhythm and pitch. They are often skilled at playing musical instruments and composing music and are sensitive to the sounds in their environment. They find it easy to remember songs and melodies.
      • Academic Pursuits: Music theory, music performance, music composition.
      • Career Paths: Musician, composer, music teacher, sound engineer, music therapist.
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence
      • Description: People with high bodily-kinesthetic intelligence have excellent physical coordination and dexterity. They learn best through doing and moving. They are naturally good at sports, dance, and other physical activities, and they tend to use body language effectively.
      • Academic Pursuits: Physical education, dance, acting, sports science.
      • Career Paths: Athlete, dancer, physical therapist, personal trainer, actor.
  • Spatial Intelligence 
      • Description: Those with strong spatial intelligence have a natural ability to think in three dimensions. They are good at visualizing and mentally manipulating objects and enjoy puzzles, drawing, and creating 3D models. They have a keen eye for aesthetics and design.
      • Academic Pursuits: Graphic design, architecture, photography, art.
      • Career Paths: Architect, graphic designer, pilot, sculptor, urban planner.
  • Interpersonal Intelligence
      • Description: Individuals with high interpersonal intelligence are naturally empathetic and excel in understanding and interacting with others. They are skilled at reading social cues and emotions and are effective communicators. They often excel in group settings and are good at resolving conflicts and negotiating.
      • Academic Pursuits: Psychology, sociology, counseling, sales, political science.
      • Career Paths: Therapist, counselor, salesperson, teacher, human resources manager.
  • Intrapersonal Intelligence
      • Description: People with strong intrapersonal intelligence have a deep understanding of themselves. They are self-aware and able to analyze their own feelings, motivations, and goals. They are often reflective and enjoy self-exploration and introspective activities.
      • Academic Pursuits: Philosophy, psychology, theology, self-reflection practices.
      • Career Paths: Psychologist, spiritual leader, life coach, writer.
  • Naturalist Intelligence
      • Description: Those with high naturalist intelligence are sensitive to and appreciate nature. They are skilled at recognizing and categorizing plants, animals, and other parts of the natural world. They enjoy outdoor activities and are interested in subjects like biology and environmentalism.
      • Academic Pursuits: Biology, environmental science, geography, agriculture.
      • Career Paths: Biologist, environmentalist, farmer, landscaper.
  • Existential Intelligence (proposed later by Gardner)
    • Description: Individuals with strong existential intelligence are naturally inclined to ponder deep questions about human existence. They are curious about issues like the meaning of life, ethics, and the human condition. They enjoy discussing and exploring philosophical and existential topics.
    • Academic Pursuits: Philosophy, theology, existential psychology.
    • Career Paths: Philosopher, theologian, life coach, and writer on existential topics.

A Final Word
Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences theory is crucial for parents and teachers, offering a framework to recognize and nurture each kid’s unique talents. It promotes personalized learning, boosts self-esteem, and guides career and academic paths, fostering holistic development, creativity, and a deeper understanding of individual purpose and identity in each kid.

While there is no one-stop shop for the Multiple Intelligences assessment, I found a pretty good one on this site that seems to do a good job with the testing and delivering results. Like any personality or talent assessment, the benefit comes in the debrief, not the results. Suppose you choose to use this with your kids or students. In that case, I highly recommend taking the time to talk through the results, specifically inviting them to reflect on their own thoughts and feelings, as well as taking the time to affirm what you see in them and the value their unique makeup of intelligence brings to the world.


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