Nearly everyone's goal in life is to obtain happiness. But what factors into whether people of any age are happy? One psychologist believes that humans are gifted in more areas than are taught in regular schooling and that using those intelligences is key to finding happiness. But what are those intelligences and how can varied learning experiences lead to a better outlook on life?
Psychologist Howard Gardner published "Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences," in 1983. He later wrote that he was surprised to find no mention of the arts while studying psychology in the 1960s. Gardner seriously played the piano as a kid and partook in other arts as well. He made it his early professional goal to "find a place for the arts in academic psychology." Gardner believes that IQ testing is limited and shows only the traditional version of intelligence. So he identified eight intelligences and the ways they develop:
- Naturalist intelligence - experiencing the natural world
- Musical intelligence - writing or playing music
- Interpersonal intelligence - having a social experience
- Intrapersonal intelligence - self-reflection
- Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence - physically experiencing something
- Logical-mathematical intelligence - using numbers or logic
- Linguistic intelligence - writing or reading words
- Spatial intelligence - working with pictures
Gardner noted that schools and much of society only measure logical-mathematical and linguistic intelligences. While these are important in many roles, there are plenty of other ways to be gifted. It's also not often that a problem or task someone needs to address can be completed using only one intelligence. Think of a student who is a bodily-kinesthetic learner who also excels in spatial intelligence and naturalist intelligence. While the child may not do well trying to solve algebra problems, if you relate the equation to a situation involving something outside, the student may learn. Ask the child to use algebra to figure out the dimensions of a tree house, for example. Show pictures of the angles and pieces of wood. Those details may help her understand. To further assist the child, provide a real-life opportunity to see and build the tree house using logical-mathematical intelligence as well as spatial and naturalist intelligence.
Intelligence and happiness
Let's say you have a friend who works in an office as an administrative assistant. He spends all day scheduling business flights, managing meetings and dealing with his company's day-to-day needs. If he is terribly unhappy, it may be because his personal intelligences aren't being stimulated. In his current position, he is using linguistic and interpersonal intelligence. But perhaps he is also spatially intelligent. A job that requires him to work with images, such as one in graphic design or photography, may be a better fit because it uses all three of these intelligences. A person is often happiest when doing what he or she is good at. Your child may not be doing well in school because math and language aren't his or her thing. You can help show the student that there are other intelligences than those used in class.
Finding your intelligences
Because schools and tests only address logical-mathematical intelligence and linguistic intelligence, some kids do not think they are smart. Scoring poorly on exams and earning not-so-great grades does not reflect Gardener's other six intelligences. Children and adults can benefit from better understanding that there are other ways to be considered "smart." But how can a person discover his or her intelligences? Test them out.
To help your child learn his or her intelligences, provide a topic. Let's say you start with something the kid is interested in, like space. Then, run through all the different ways your child can learn about space through the eight intelligences. Visiting a museum where he or she can run around a maze of the solar system would provide bodily-kinesthetic learning. Talking to a former astronaut would be a linguistic intelligence opportunity as well as a social or interpersonal experience. Listening to music inspired by space offers a musical aspect, and viewing infographics and photos from telescopes is spatial. The learning experiences that your child benefits from the most are the areas in which he or she has intelligence. Then, see if you can help the child look at problems and learning from the particular areas of intelligence that he or she understands. Adults, too, can use this method to find their intelligences. They should then consider seeking employment in fields that make use of as many of their personal intelligences as possible. This will better suit their emotional needs and lead to improved happiness.