Your body is a high-performance race car, and your brain is the driver.
The two, at their peak, become one, and can only achieve at the highest levels when working together.
I’ve never driven a Formula One car (though I might try that someday), but I’ve driven half a dozen pickup trucks and SUVs, three model years of Chevy Nova, a Saturn, two model years of Corvette, an H2, a Lexus, a Mustang, a semi, a Suzuki Drz 400e and an Oldsmobile minivan. The closer you get to the road and the faster you go, the more important it is that you keep your senses focused on what is happening with the interface between the vehicle and the road. You need to understand the connection intimately.
Driving is a very modern activity that people have only been doing for a little over a century. It uses many parts of the brain as well as several different types of intelligence.
Several types? Yes. There isn’t just one. Intelligence isn’t just a number you get from taking an IQ test or your GPA.
Howard Gardener, a developmental psychologist, described 7 types of intelligence in 1983. Over the years, he’s added a couple more (Naturalistic and Existential).
What are they and how do I “train” them?
Each intelligence is based on one unique way that we experience the world. While a traditional intelligence test only tries to measure a couple of these (usually some combination of Linguistic-Verbal, Logical-Mathematical and sometimes Visual-Spatial), what Gardener wants us to realize is that being smart is a much broader trait than we’ve imagined it to be.
You might be a genius in a few other categories of intelligence even if you find it a struggle to score in the 50th percentile of a written test.
This also means that there are more ways to increase your overall intelligence than we thought.
Visual-Spatial: How well we relate to and interact with the three-dimensional world around us. I make a point to practice some still life drawing or work with 3D design software on a regular basis, and visit new places whenever I can in order to experience the world at a greater scale. Practising photography or painting has also given me a fond appreciation for the play of light and shadow. I’m not a great artist by any means, but I’ve found that the more closely I try to observe the world, the more it helps me focus in general. It almost serves as a kind of meditation.
Bodily-Kinesthetic: How well we manipulate objects and our own bodies. For this, I spend as much time as I can be physically active, and be sure to do so across multiple different activities that use a wide range of motor skills. I have children and energetic dogs which make it rather easy to join in on activities daily. I also try to work out several times a week and vary this between running, swimming and strength training. I’ve never been much of an athlete, but if you are then you might even know more challenging ways to improve this kind of intelligence. Rock climbing or gymnastics, anyone?
Musical-Rhythmic: How well we recognize, reproduce and create pitch, rhythms, timbre, and tone. I listen to the music of many categories and hum (or drum) along. It’s very important to listen to both recorded and live music, as both experiences engage your mind and body in different ways. I’ve never seriously tried to compose music of my own, however, and I would expect that to be quite rewarding as well.
Linguistic-Verbal: How well we think with and use words to describe complex thought and expression. I consider myself a writer and I do so about different subjects and have other people read and comment on my articles. I also write fiction and engage with other writers to help improve my skills. And whenever I have some opportunity to speak to new acquaintances or in front of groups of people, I do my best to be active and responsive in the conversation.
Also falling under this category would be learning other languages aside from your native tongue. I try to stay conversant in Spanish, which I studied during high school and college, while also utilizing excellent tools like Duolingo to learn some useful words and phrases in other languages that I might have an opportunity to use at some point.
Intrapersonal: How well we understand and describe our own thoughts and behaviors. For this particular type of intelligence, I keep a semi-regular journal and analyze my goals and feelings. I also try to read first-person literature, memoirs, and fiction (like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Alchemist).
Existential: How well we are able to ponder and express thoughts about philosophical questions. I love to spark up conversations about complex matters and big question topics with friendly debaters who are up for a challenge. And I particularly enjoy studying topics like philosophy, religion, physics, astronomy, and anthropology to keep up with new developments and understandings in those fields.
Logical-Mathematical: How well we can quantify, understand logical operations, devise appropriate formulas and calculate answers to such problems. I’ve found that apps like Peak, Lumosity and Elevate are great for boosting this type of intelligence, as well as games like Sudoku. I also learn a lot of concepts for free on Khan Academy and then challenge myself every day by trying to solve various everyday physics problems (like how fast you need to travel to get from point A to point B by a certain time). I’ve also made a point of learning the basics of a new programming language every few months — I’m currently doing some GoLang tutorials.
Interpersonal: How well we interact and empathize with other people. Whenever I’m with other people, whether they are friends and family, new acquaintances, or work colleagues, I make a concerted effort to be an active listener, show that I care, promote a calm and rational conversation, and try to fully understand other points of view.
Naturalistic: How well we recognize differences, similarities, and usefulness among natural objects, including animals, plants and geographic features. As animals, we have millions of years of inherited traits that make us well suited to living in the natural world, but most of us don’t use these instincts on a regular basis. To increase my own naturalistic intelligence, then, I spend time outdoors and among nature, focusing on using my senses to observe and investigate the world around me. Again, having my children and dogs is an added encouragement to get outside often. And when the weather is too rough, I can curl up on the couch with one of the many wonderful Peterson Field Guide or Falcon Nature Guide books.
It’s all too easy to fall into a rut in which you might only be using a few types of intelligence. Years of doing so is bound to dull those bits of intelligence that are being ignored, so it takes some conscious planning to make sure you are always allowing time to exercise all nine of Gardener’s pillars. Once you do make this a part of your life, though, you will find that every type of intelligence reinforces the others:
Bodily-Kinesthetic and Musical-Rhythmic, together, will help you be a better dancer.
Intrapersonal and Interpersonal, combined, will make you a better manager or leader.
A great lawyer needs to be well-practiced in Logical-Mathematical, Linguistic-Verbal, and Interpersonal skills.
A paleontologist must rely on Naturalistic and Visual-Spatial intelligence in their excavations and needs the Logical-Mathematical and Linguistic-Verbal skills to analyze and communicate findings.
If there is one lesson to be learned from this, it’s that we shouldn’t ignore any of our nine bits of intelligence, and we shouldn’t favor only a few at the expense of others.
Thank you for reading and sharing.