Team & Leadership Excellence

Intelligence: Is it a Window in to our Purpose?

My previous blog titled ‘why try to be a banana when you are a peach’ attempted to discuss the idea that we are unique and for me living purposefully is trying to discover if I am a Peach or a banana or something else and trying to live as one. I also feel that having a glimpse of what might be purpose would help make choices on how to live and we can get confirmation if those are congruent with purpose through bodily signals. I believe it is a life long search, and that living our life inquiring what our purpose might be, could help us find happiness… what ever that might mean to each of us.

In this blog post I would like to discuss if an exploration in to multiple intelligences could help us in the pursuit of finding purpose in our life. Howard Gardner introduces the concept of multiple intelligences and suggests that each one of us may have some predominant intelligence in us. The list of intelligences he suggests are; bodily physical, verbal/linguistic, mathematical/logical, visual/spatial, musical, inter-personal and intra-personal. The following description might be helpful in starting to think about our predominant intelligence.

  • If we are really passionate about and good in sports, dancing, mechanical work, gardening and other activities that involve the use of your body, our predominant intelligence could be ‘bodily/physical’.
  • If we are really passionate about and good in language, literature, writing, poetry, story telling and other activities that involve language, our predominant intelligence could be ‘verbal/linguistic’.
  • If we are really passionate about and good in numbers, mathematics, statistic, processes and other activities that involve numbers and systems, our predominant intelligence could be ‘mathematical/logical’.
  • If we are really passionate about and good in painting, designing, drawing plans, landscaping, architecture, interior design and other activities that involve space and visuals, our predominant intelligence could be ‘visual/spatial’.
  • If we are really passionate about and good in playing musical instrument, composing songs, singing, and other activities that involve music, our predominant intelligence could be ‘musical’.
  • If we are really passionate about and good in building relationship, networking, conversations, group activities and other activities that involves others, our predominant intelligence could be inter-personal.
  • If we are really passionate about and good in meditation, journaling, reflecting, mindfulness and other activities that involve connecting with our inner-self, your predominant intelligence could be intra-personal.

While the above framework could be useful in identifying our predominant intelligence, it is useful to customise it to suit various situations. For example some of the intelligences may have to be re-defined. In my case I believe I have some skills in spatial work such as designing training programmes that includes spacing out activities, designing the appropriate room layout etc., however I cannot say the same thing about drawing skills. Therefore perhaps there is scope to make ‘spatial’ and ‘visual’ two different intelligences. While different versions of this model suggests intelligences such as ‘naturalistic’ and ‘existential’, there could be other intelligences that are not addressed in this list, such as ‘creative’. While creativity is included in many of the intelligence, could it be a separate intelligence as in the case of ‘logical’. On the other hand, since logical thinking is evident in many of the intelligences, what is the relevance of listing it as a separate intelligence? According to my experience I feel that our predominant intelligence can change as we evolve and learn. For example I was more mathematical and logical when I was in school, then I felt was more inter-personal in my early work career, thereafter after getting into leadership development I felt I was more linguistic and spatial and now I feel I am moving more towards intra-personal.

Therefore, if what we love to do, what we are good at and what we value provides a window to start discovering our purpose, and as our intelligence also has an element of what we love to do and what we are good at, as explored earlier in this blog, then there could be a link between our predominant intelligence and our purpose. However as the notion of intelligence seem to evolve and as it is situational, the purpose too could be evolving and situational.

Despite these limitations, this concept could provide a framework for us to inquire in to what our predominant intelligence might be and what our purpose might be, in addition to it pointing out to meaningful vocations and areas in us that require development. Overall I believe, the use of this concept, while holding it lightly and customising it, could help us to improve the quality of life.

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