Updated: Aug 17
On one side, we have a growing number of people looking for a purpose in their lives and on the other side, we have colossal global challenges that need innovations and new talents. Oddly, it is still far from being a perfect match. Faced with mutating complex issues, we need to become more sensible and innovative in the way we approach our shared problems. It will require us to tap into something we have overlooked for too long: our inborn multiple intelligences. So we can become more confident and creative to bring pioneering solutions while unleashing our true human potential.
Human beings are born with multiple intelligences
The human multiple intelligences
Howard Gardner is an American psychologist and author of a famous work around human multiple talents or “intelligences”. In his books, he has highlighted 9 different types of intelligences, namely the linguistic, logical/mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, existential, and naturalist. Yet, that list is not exhaustive because other researchers and professionals have suggested more intelligences such as the aesthetic, artistic, emotional, spiritual, psychic, intuitive, leadership, cultural and many other ones. Depending on where we live in the world, some intelligences may be more valued than others, and different ones may eventually emerge. Gardner’s work is not a discovery but a reminder of a universal fact: human potential is not limited to logical-mathematical aptitudes, and IQ tests are irrelevant in grasping the wholeness and amplitude of human intelligence.
In our personal experiences, we probably spontaneously called some people genius for their artistic, intuitive or social skills, regardless if they were brilliant academically or not. And we probably all witnessed some people with plenty of credentials but clueless about the simplest things in life. An expert in mathematics with low emotional or social intelligence is no more or less intelligent than someone with strong emotional and social intelligences but not very good at mathematics. They only have different intelligences, both with infinite possibilities to develop and equally valuable and necessary for the progress of humankind.
Overlooking human multiple intelligences led us to our global failure
To date, traditional educational institutions keep leaving many talented people behind by developing our rational, logical and critical minds while overlooking other essential human intelligences. Many of us end up believing we are not smart enough or of no utility to society if not good in some subjects. That fuels the belittling of other types of creativity, cuts wings of initiative and creates armies of people disconnected from their true talents, potential and even purpose. And the implications go much further. Since the cognitive/logical-mathematical is the most valued, trained and prevalent intelligence, we all end up with the same reasoning and solutions, but also deadlocks for problems that require alternative perspectives and approaches, including for our global issues. Additionally, we opt for investing massively in and building technologies that only enhance a limited aspect of our human potential since artificial intelligence mimics our logical-mathematical reasoning. Yet, that contributes to deepening that schism between our cognitive and extra cognitive abilities.
It is time for a rethink
If each human intelligence were as valued and trained as the logical-mathematical one, we would have more opportunities to make a unique contribution and increase our chances of finding breakthrough innovations to help the planet. The individuals desperately looking for a purpose are probably those who got their creativity, initiative, and entrepreneurial spirit curbed because they were told that there was no space, market, or hiring for their unusual talents and unique vision for the world. But day after day, they feel increasingly frustrated to see growing global challenges and endless opportunities to help. They can sense that mounting urge to contribute to the planet, knowing deep inside that they do have the power to make a change.
Let us think about an activity we love doing in our spare time and are good at. Then, let us think about a global problem we would like to solve. Do we struggle to connect how our passions and talents can help this social need? Is that because we do not believe in the importance of our skills or believe that others may not judge them relevant? The first option may only require us to work out our self-esteem, self-confidence and a positive mindset. And for the second one, in our quest to help others, we can count on the support of collective intelligence.
Human talents are naturally in sync with the world’s needs
Our talents are connected to the needs of the community
In some cultures, we believe talents are gifts from God to serve the community. However, if we do not use them wisely to be of service to others, they will be taken away. We even talk about God-given talents. So whatever our prominent intelligences, besides doing something that brings us confidence and self-esteem and ignites creativity and happiness, our purpose for using them should also benefit the community. More specifically, we should use our best talents beyond the self: to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Far from being about sacrifice or collectivism, on the contrary, it encourages our authenticity, individuality and free will to bring our uniqueness to help others.
We grow our talents for but also with others. For most of our unusual or extra-cognitive abilities, there is no formal training or certification to validate our progress and levels of expertise. But we can not just self-call ourselves "experts" since our talents have to be externally recognized by others. People providing feedback give us a hint about when we connect or lose touch with the world's and people's needs. Negative feedback is not a rejection but a redirection, an invitation to reframe what we supply and ground our talents and creativity to answer a tangible demand.
There is a market for each of our multiple intelligences
Regardless of whether science and traditional educational institutions acknowledge our multiple intelligences or not, our collective intelligence bypasses those human-intelligence-gate-keepers by providing a bottom-up validation. That is probably best illustrated with the example of the gig or freelance economy. Every day, entrepreneurial-minded individuals find new ways to advertise and monetize original talents. The community of customers judges the expertise of those individuals and validates the relevance and capacity of those talents to solve practical problems in the community.
That bottom-up approach has unearthed talents overlooked by classical training organisations, yet critical in society. We increasingly talk about emotional intelligence in business, but this intelligence did not appear yesterday. Companies just caught up and recognised its pivotal role in the cohesion and harmony among employees and for business growth. The bottom-up approach has also allowed the emergence of new economies around human intelligences and now, we even praise the benefits and opportunities of the emotional economy. We also witnessed the public validation of the psychic and intuitive intelligences and the development of a precog economy. They have circumvented traditional scientific scepticism and decided to take their badges of honour by serving people directly.
With the growing entrepreneurial spirit and freedom, other “economies” built around our multiple talents will also emerge and finally liberate the essence of what truly is human intelligence. That is a significant move because we need more people who embrace their inborn expertise to bring new perspectives and solutions to the table. Our collective intelligence will always validate true expertise in human talents. For example, people started to call out green-washing from opportunists who had no naturalistic intelligence but tried to lecture them on ecology. The collective wisdom does know. And with its guidance, our human potential can become emancipated and fully optimized to meet our real global challenges if we want to.
Intrapersonal intelligence as a basis to solve our global challenges
Intrapersonal intelligence to be in touch with our potential
Addressing our global challenges is a shared mission that requires individuals who, as a start, know themselves, meaning have proficiency in intrapersonal intelligence. The reason is that our potential is our most important asset. But our unfamiliarity with our potential has restrained our private initiatives and resourcefulness in dealing with our various problems. Since we do not know ourselves and what we can achieve, we decide to follow the crowd that does not have a better clue instead of trusting our insights, becoming a leader, following our own journey, being entrepreneurial and making a singular impact.
Our self-knowledge is critical because we can only value, nurture and use the potential that we know. Love toward the self is the beginning of the change that we want to create in the world. We must love and care about ourselves enough to be willing to dig up a little bit more about who we are and what we can achieve every day. That requires us to step into our lifelong self-development journey and overcome our main inner roadblocks: low self-esteem, negativity, diminished self-confidence, and lack of oneness.
Intrapersonal intelligence to overcome key inner roadblocks
When we have good self-esteem, we disregard the nay-sayers and believe our inner voice telling us that we are enough and can make an impact as we are. Our self-esteem makes us feel optimistic about ourselves. We can dare believe in our world vision and explore the subjects we feel drawn to, including by unveiling and testing our talents. Using increasingly our skills until reaching expertise boosts our confidence about our potential so much that we feel emboldened to take initiative and use our creativity to higher levels and for bigger challenges. And when we overcome our inner securities, we can become One with others. We do not feel threatened by others’ power. Instead, we welcome being surrounded by empowered people like us in their self-growth journey. We can join forces as equals in our shared challenges and co-create with them our ideal world.
Intrapersonal intelligence as the basis of leadership
We nurture that potential by dedicating time, energy and most precious resources to things we love, including our dearest interests and strongest talents. So we need to be in touch with them. While growing our knowledge and skills in matters that resonate with us, we naturally develop expertise. Since we witness first-hand the awakening of the confident master asleep within us, we can better understand the leader we can become. In recent years, outsiders have disrupted political life by reaching the highest position of power without belonging to the traditional circle of economists, bankers, lawyers, scientists, journalists, or militaries. Instead, we saw athletes, artists, comedians, entrepreneurs, and many more inspire their nations and bring people together. Indeed, we realized that the second group could be as talented as the first one to lead. Leadership is a way to be. It is within everyone's reach, but we are more in touch with it when we are used to nurturing our potential by following our passions and growing our talents. Leadership is not just about people and can start with objects and situations. Then the public speaking duties and other forms of activism will eventually come. Yet, they are not paths to becoming a leader but manifestations of leadership talent each of us already has.
Being in touch with our interests and talents, whatever they are, is not a trivial matter. The implications go much further than having fun. They are also the motors of our leadership intelligence and provide clues for finding our life purpose.
Intrapersonal intelligence as a gateway to our purpose in the world
Our purpose is our North in our personal life. Rather than scattering the power of our potential in things alien to us, we must first use it in a way that benefits us directly and make sense to us. Our purpose is what gets us excited in the morning, resilient in the evening and sustains our lifelong motivation and determination. Our ultimate life goal can be anything but always connect us to the external world and the legacy we will leave to our family, community or humankind. That is how it will benefit the world. People who want to change the world should attend to their own purpose because since it connects to who they are, this is where they will find their natural and infinite source of energy, motivation, meaning, and creativity to be and stay an agent of change during their lifetime.
As more people look for meaning in their life and job, companies increasingly integrate philanthropism, pro bono, and other social and environmental missions into their corporate activities. So employees can get involved in causes and give back to society. However, corporate missions are not a substitute for employees’ personal ideals and resolve only partially the problem of lack of purpose. Individuals must also attend to their personal causes for a lasting, unconditional, and independent sense of meaning. People’s purpose follows them to the end, regardless if they are employed, whoever their employers are, and even during retirement. It is a lifelong personal entrepreneurial journey. We are the master of our purpose and how we want to be remembered in this world.
Our self-knowledge is the path to reconnecting with our purpose, the motor of our spiritual and existential intelligence. Those intelligences are our infinite source of wisdom to become the change-makers we are born to be and meant to awake now.
Are you interested in learning how harnessing our multiple intelligences can change the world? Get a copy of the Augmented I: Augmented Intelligences for personal and global development