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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?

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Cindy Wigglesworth has a BA and MA from Duke University. She has 20 years of experience in human resources management with ExxonMobil. She founded her business, now called Deep Change, in 2000. Cindy is the author of the best-selling and award winning book SQ21: The Twenty-One Skills of Spiritual Intelligence.  Cindy has created, validated and researched the first skills-based Spiritual Intelligence Assessment instrument for business and personal use - the SQ21. This instrument is both faith-neutral, faith-friendly and science-friendly. It allows business people to talk about Spiritual Intelligence skills and how to develop them without using the language of religion – while still making the connection to beliefs and practices that are of deep personal importance for each person.

Cindy is a powerful professional speaker – speaking with unusual clarity about the need for multiple intelligences in the workplace and in our personal lives. She has spoken at numerous conferences including: Business and Consciousness, Spirit in Business, Spirit at Work and the World Business Academy. Cindy is a published author and has appeared on Oprah, PBS, Fox26 News and various radio programs. She is committed to helping organizations and individuals integrate spirituality and work.

For more information, please visit

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. Interesting comparison of IQ, EQ and SQ. In my experience, if I first deal with EQ, then SQ flows. I found I had a lot of EQ compost to turn over to be able to enrich my SQ garden. In other words, I had to go to the roots of my self-esteem issues, ingrained by my parents when I was an adolescent, first. There was a lot to do on this dark side. Then the meditation, yoga and my deep spiritual essence could emerge. Is it possible to by-pass this emotional work and go directly to the spiritual?

    1. Hi Don,
      Thanks for your question. A lovely and important question for all of us!

      I have found that bypassing our pain to try to get a “free pass” via spiritual work doesn’t work in the long term and can be a trap. BUT for many people there is short term relief from finding moments of nonattachment or experiencing blissful states of unitive awareness. These moments of popping outside of our normal emotional/mental space can provide a glimpse of another viewpoint – one that can help soften the grip our negative self-talk has on us. This is a very good thing. AND I think that we can use spiritual state experiences as a means of avoiding our necessary interior clean up work. In a sense you can take a deep drink of water from the spiritual well as a way of helping you rest, re-orient yourself and sustain yourself for the the next step forward in the hard work of growing up and dealing with our emotional baggage.

      As I have worked through my own pain (and still do with new issues as they arise) I have noticed that I can notice the pain of other people (which I might have not noticed before) and I can see them with more compassion. As I had compassion for others I also had more for myself. Loving self and loving others does indeed appear to be connected. And as I had more compassion and forgiveness for myself and those around me, I could see the whole human race differently. Bit by bit I gain wisdom and compassion. Some days I can hold that perspective of loving embrace of our collective craziness and beauty most of the day…other days it might elude me. So I don’t want to claim perfection in any of this.

      So, long story short, I don’t think we can bypass the inner work and reach wisdom, compassion and inner and outer peace (i.e. a sustainable form of SQ). And that inner work includes emotional self-awareness and shadow work. EQ and SQ are interconnected with EQ being a foundation for SQ and also being nourished by it.

      I hope this helps.

  2. That’s a gooder of a inspiration there Cindy. I like how you put it, Sq, Eq and Iq. I use all of them. Most of it, is from my higher power. That connects me with others. Like you did with this inspiration Cindy. I hope you have an awesome Sunday.
    Lots of Love

  3. Lovely explanation of the value if living ‘from’ our higher selves I read somewhere else today a lovely phrase you may enjoy. ‘We are spiritual beings having a human experience’ Thank you and
    Keep flying high

  4. This is a great passage about intelligence overall. I thought your example about Sheldon held a lot of truth!

    What are ways to develop those types of intelligence?
    Could it be spending time with different kinds of people? Or rather reading different forms of books? Or perhaps feeding our soul with quiet time and prayer?

    I think all of these things matter on a daily basis to achieve highest level of success, but it’s difficult to achieve with the fast pace world.

    1. The most important emotional intelligence skills to build are emotional self-awareness, and empathy. Emotional self-awareness means that you can name your emotion at the time that you are feeling it AND that you understand what triggered it. Typically we trigger our own emotions by the interpretations we have of an exterior stimulus. There is a free emotional self-awareness exercise on my website under resources.
      Getting to know people from different cultures it’s also a great way to develop empathy and to expand our worldview. I talk more about worldviews in my TEDxSonomaCounty talk which can be found here:
      And I agree with you… We need to feed our soul quiet time and prayer!
      Thank you for your comment!

  5. What a nice article! It gives us more to ponder and check ourselves where do we stand. To learn more about EQ and SQ, would give us more clarity to understand this life better. Moreover, our actions would be more perfect. Take care and Good Luck Cindy, Thank you. Ahmed Faraz

  6. Great post, thanks, Cindy! I just wonder where Heart intelligence and Body intelligence stand. They are not mentioned, specifically, and they do matter a hell of a lot, don’t they???Maybe you include them in EQ and SQ? Please clarify. Most grateful for pointing out these invaluable distinctions. Namasté!

    1. Hi Sidonie,
      It depends on what you mean by heart intelligence. In my way of thinking both emotional intelligence and spiritual intelligence are dependent upon “the heart”. The heart-centered skills of emotional intelligence include emotional self awareness and empathy. From these 2 can come all our social skills. Empathy is the foundation for compassion which is a spiritual intelligence quality. I did find spiritual intelligence as “the ability to behave with wisdom and compassion while maintaining inner and outer peace regardless of the situation.”
      When I teach intelligences I talk about before most crucial intelligences. They are PQ (physical intelligence), IQ, EQ and SQ. PQ is body awareness and skillful use. This includes taking excellent care of our physical health, and tuning in knowing of our bodies.
      Thank you for your questions.

      1. I’m using dictation software- I see that it did not quite capture my words. I was trying to say “I DEFINE spiritual intelligence as…”
        Thanks for understanding!

  7. Very insightful thoughts shared by you Cindy. Our world would no longer be insane if each one of us works with IQ,EQ and SQ to be successful in life…I think daily spiritual practice can help us sharpen our EQ and SQ.

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