I have learned that life is intelligent and moves to higher and higher orders of complexity and adaptation. And we as humans have the capacity to develop multiple types of intelligence and to adapt to the increasingly complex world we face.
I grew up believing that “intelligence” was one thing – what we call IQ. I worked hard and got good grades at a really tough college. I thought that would prepare me for life. What I realized by my late 20s was that there were other forms of intelligence that mattered a whole lot. Specifically, we also need emotional intelligence (EQ) and spiritual intelligence (SQ) to successfully navigate life.
Emotional intelligence is a set of skills related to understanding our own emotions and those of other people, and then building on that so that we can manage ourselves well in our relationships with other people. If you have seen the TV show The Big Bang Theory and laughed at Sheldon, you know what high IQ without any EQ looks like. Emotional intelligence allows us to successfully relate to others and to work well as a team.
Spiritual intelligence takes EQ to the next level. We move from empathy (an EQ skill) to compassion (an SQ skill). We work to listen to and act from our own higher nature. We learn that when we act from our “smaller nature” or our ego self, we are typically acting based on fear in some form.
Fear turned inward can become anxiety or depression. Fear turned outward becomes anger. Ego is a useful part of us – but it is a major drama queen. It exaggerates every possible threat and thereby it steals our joy and diminishes our effectiveness.
The key to SQ is tuning into another voice – the voice of our higher self. You might call it your soul or your spirit. This voice is calmer. It connects us to an intuitive sense that supplements our others. It is capable of deep compassion – seeing the pain of all beings. It cares about all people and the planet. Yet it is not fuzzy or weak. It can set boundaries firmly and with love – this is called “fierce compassion” in the Eastern traditions.
SQ amplifies EQ and IQ. It takes the “smarts” of IQ and adds the capacity to hold many perspectives on a problem simultaneously. This ability enhances our decision-making power and our ability to successfully navigate a world filled with different points of view.
SQ enhances our ability to live a purpose-filled life aligned with our values, and to find joy in the everyday beauty around us. In my perfect world, we would continue to value IQ but in its proper place. We would teach our children far more than how to develop their IQ-related skills. We would teach them the priceless gifts of emotional and spiritual intelligence.
What greater gift could we give to the future than to enhance these multiple intelligences today?