Written by: Susanna Wu-Pong Calvert, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
I used to be proud of the fact that I only used 17% of my intelligence.
I’m not as dumb as I sound, at least by Western standards. In fact, most would think I’m a pretty smart gal: I have multiple graduate degrees and was a professor and a teacher-of-professors for almost three decades.
But being smart and wise are two different things.
Like many, I believed that mental activity and intelligence was a virtue where more-was-better. Here was my (illogical) reasoning: the more I thought, the more I knew, the smarter I was, and therefore the more valuable and deserving I was.
I was proud of the fact that my verbal, analytical, fact-based, and logical mind (“left brain”) was always active and on, and I believed every (judgmental, negative) thought that went through my head. However, mindfulness research demonstrates the unhealthiness of too much of a good thing, not only for one’s physical health but also for the quality of life and cognition.
It’s not just our right brain, our center for emotion, creativity, abstract thinking, and visualization, that gets short shrift. Recent research shows that we have additional brain centers in our heart and gut that supplement the ones in our cranium. The gut enjoys extensive innervation and other means of communication that supports intuition. Not only is information and feedback about our digestive system provided by the gut, but also perception, behavior (Scientific American), immune response, and even our mental health (Cleveland Clinic).
Similarly, the heart-brain refers to the concentration of neurons in our heart that regulates blood circulation and supports our wisdom and intelligence. The heart-brain enhances cognition, creativity, and the intuition of our other neural centers in the head and gut (see heartmath.com). The innervation is supplemented by biochemical (hormones), biophysical (pulse waves) and energetic (electromagnetic) methods of communication.
In other words, we have at least three brain centers, where many of us only use half of one of them, or 17% if you assume they’re evenly divided.
That explains so much.
I stumbled upon the importance of intelligence outside the left brain when watching Jill Bolte Taylor’s Ted.com talk entitled MyStroke of Insight. I had an Aha! moment: “What if I used my “right brain” too? Would I be twice as smart? Would I be happier?”
I then embarked on a mission to engage my right brain hemisphere to see what happened.
It changed my life in immeasurable ways. Immediately, I started to have more fun, felt more creative, and it opened aspects of me that I didn’t know I had. Over the long run, I’ve been able to access a much greater sense of peace, purpose, and sense of connectedness and contentment that I could previously only dream of.
We can also consider our intelligence from a behavioral perspective. For example, psychologists have defined human intelligence beyond the IQ (intelligence quotient). For example, Howard Gardner identified seven additional measures of intelligence beyond the mathematical/logical, including kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, musical, natural, spatial, and linguistic. Others have since named additional measures, including emotional (EQ, emotional intelligence), existential, creative, and collaborative.
Given the vast array of ways we can be brilliant through our body and behaviors, why wouldn’t we wish to develop and benefit from them all? Embracing a more holistic approach to learning, growth, and creativity has provided me an incredible number of opportunities for fun, beauty, pleasure, meaning, and authenticity. In contrast, overusing one form of intelligence, such as IQ, can cause stress and anxiety while unnecessarily hobbling us from our innate capacities and abilities.
The world needs all our hidden talents right now. Engage all of yours, there is much play to be done.
Susanna Wu-Pong Calvert, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Dr. Susanna Wu-Pong Calvert, MAPP, PhD is a leader, coach, speaker, entrepreneur, educator, and writer who inspires and enables others to make our beautiful future a reality. She is the Founder and Convener for Mission and Vision at The Foundation for Family and Community Healing, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that helps all to develop the skills needed to create healthy, rewarding, and resilient relationships with ourselves, each other, Earth, and the loving force that unites us. She is a blogger for Psychology Today and hosts Finding Our Fit, a radio show on WRWK93.9 FM. Her mission is to help individuals, organizations, and communities to become their highest selves and fulfill their deepest, most authentic purpose – our spark within that creates ripples throughout. Learn more about her at SusannaCalvert.com. Photo credit: Rebecca D'Angelo