Where Are You Smart?

“Some people can fix machines, some fix people, and some can play music.” 

Why are some people good at reading people, and other’s at reading the woods and terrain? According to a Howard Gardner, ‘intelligence’ or IQ, is not just one factor, a number that defines how smart you are. He has proposed a theory of multiple intelligences. Although it’s controversial, I like this approach. We all have different strengths and they are extremely important in how we learn and spend our life. Gardner claims there are eight distinct modalities or forms of intelligence*. The eight modalities are pictured below: 

Howard Gardner – He believes people have 8 different modalities of intelligence

So if you have long noticed that you live for your Friday night gig at the local bar playing the piano, or you long for your trips up North to the cabin and days out in the Boundary Waters, you may just have a Musical or Naturalistic form of intelligence. Consider the things you have done well in your life, the things that you were attracted to and enjoyed doing. These may well be your two or three ‘intelligences’. Consider how you can expand the use them in your life. 

Frames of Mind: the Theory of Multiple Intelligences”, Howard Gardner, 1986. 
Why is it important to know where you are smart? How about great life satisfaction and purpose. Too many people slave away at a job they don’t like, never have liked, and don’t do a very good job at it to boot. Knowing your strengths, the modalities that you excel at, enables you to naturally seek out and find meaningful work that comes naturally to you. Not everyone can put together a bookcase, explain snow tracks to a granddaughter, and not everyone can write a sonnet. Celebrate what you can do and do it with joy.

How’s Your Life Going So Far?

Every now and then, it’s good to pause, reflect on your life to date.”  Prof. Lynn 

According to Erik Erikson*, there are eight psychosocial stages of development. There is an increasing body of research that suggests the process of reviewing your life experiences is helpful in many ways. Your consciousness is raised. You can resolve past conflicts. Reflecting can add meaning to your life, and it can help lessen depression and anxiety. All good reasons to examine your life so far. I’m going to focus on the last three stages. They are the ones most of you are in. First you have to know how old you are, that determines your stage (see chart below). Then answer the questions for where you are currently.

If you are 21-39  a Millennial – Answer these questions:
Did you get married? How is your marriage doing?  

Any kids? What’s your relationship with your children over the years?

Who else are you close to? Do you have intimate friends you can share feelings with?   

If you are 40-59 a Generation X – Answer these questions:

Describe your career. What have you been doing in your 30s, 40s, and 50s?  

Have you had to deal with loss? How are you doing now? What have you learned?

Are you making a difference or just plugging along? 

If you are a 60+  a Boomer – Answer these questions:

What would you still like to accomplish with your life? 

What makes you happy now?

Overall, what kind of a life do you think you have had? 

* Erik Erikson, Identity and the Life Cycle, 1959.

Why is it important to reminisce? To review your life now and then? Living well in the present is helped by not carrying around baggage from your past, and this process of reflecting on the core issues for your age can help you integrate your feelings and as a result, you’ll be healthier and happier. For millennials the issue is, have you developed the capacity to be intimate or are you isolated? For the gen Xers, the issue is are you growing and producing, being productive, or are you stagnating, wasting away in a meaningless job? And for the boomers, are you authentic, sharing your wisdom, or are you despairing for having wasted your life? This is a great time to review your life. It’s never too late to make changes.


“Which road should I take?”  In reply, the cat says: “Where are you going?”  To that, Alice says: “I don’t know.” “Then it doesn’t matter which road you take.”  The Cheshire Cat

Don’t be like Alice. Live your life on purpose. And to do that, you need a plan. As we enter a new year and a new decade, I thought it would be good to share my annual life planning form. The six categories are my own personal preference. You might choose others. The important thing is to think about what really matters to you and write down your goals for 2020. See the template I use below. I keep it to one page. Simple and effective. 

My Life Plan for 2020           What matters?                    Date:

Purpose/Calling              Work Goals                            Personal Goals
What’s important?            What do you want to do?        Any fun, educational goals?
Values/Why                     Relationship Goals                Financial Goals
Your top 3 or 4                  Friends and groups                 Income – reducing debt

Why is it important to have an annual life plan? We need to have a purpose, to have meaning in our lives. And writing down your plan for the year is one way to help you. And, by having it in writing, you can reflect on it periodically during the year. For those who are living a chaotic life, this is a great way to get some organization and control into your life. Happy New Year!

Know Thyself — And Nothing In Excess

Inscribed on the temple of Apollo at Delphi”, Greek saying

Long before the Google and Twitter feeds, the Greeks had inscriptions on their Temples giving their citizens sage advice.  I have long appreciated the two-part message of the Apollo Temple, to “know thyself” and “nothing in excess”. They seem like simple, admonishments, however, I think of them as good rules to follow. Know thyself. Many people get into trouble with other people because they do not understand themselves. They have huge blind spots. They consider themselves God’s gift to management, and they leave a trail of bodies behind them, oblivious to the impact they have on others. Just getting a recalcitrant to realize that they have a problem is 80% of the deal. Then they are ready and motivated to do something about it. 

Nothing in excess. Gluttony can take many forms, and moderation is a good antidote to this sin. You can exercise too much, be too perfect, drink too much, or be overly controlled. Most good traits and virtues can be overdone. Stress is a good example. If you are bored, you are not getting enough variety, challenge, and stress in your life. If you are panicked, and dealing with chronic stress that is unrelenting, you are hurting yourself. Your body and mind will pay the price for this unresolved stress response.  You want to have just the right amount of stress to be in the “zone” humming along, spending your days comfortably engaged. 

The stress level diagram below shows the relationship between performance and stress levels. 

The Stress Response Curve – we all need a little stress in our life   

Why is it important to be self-aware and moderate in our habits? Being self-aware means you are more responsible and accountable. You don’t go around blaming others for your problems, and you don’t see yourself as a ‘victim’. Self-awareness is the key to other awareness and stronger connections with others. And moderation is a good virtue to follow. How many steaks do you need in a day? How much do you need to be happy? 

A Way to Think About Time

Learn from the past, live in the present, and create a compelling future.”  NLP saying

We all have a timeline.  Where we were born, grew up, went to school, and then work.  And we have a story about our life.  Think about your timeline and the significant events you had on it.  The problem lies in the fact that for many of us we get stuck or spend way too much time either thinking about the past or worrying about some event in the future.  And some unfortunates do both. 
If you want to be sad, spend time dwelling on past events and grievances, bad things that happened to you.  If you enjoy a little anxiety, worry about future events, all the things that could go wrong and how it will affect you.  If you want to be healthy and happier, more resilient, develop this belief about time …” learn from the past, live in the present, and create a compelling future for yourself”.   
The best thing you can do about the past is learn from it.  After Action Reports are a great tool for processing events in the past.  The three report questions, “What happened?”  What did you learn from it? And, “What will you do differently?”  Creative people make many mistakes, and they learn from each one.  Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed, just found 10,000 ways it won’t work.”  The best thing you can do about the past challenges is to learn from them. 
And, as for the future, create a compelling one for yourself.  Much better than worrying about things that haven’t happened.  There is a reason why Zebra’s don’t have ulcers.  There is even a great book by that title, I recommend it. 

So, it’s best to live in the present.  How do you do it?  A favorite remedy of mine, during the day, I do a number of one-minute meditations.  I take three normal breadths, then three deep breaths, and then three normal breaths.  Do that twice and in a minute, you can change your state.  I have lowered my blood pressure and increased blood oxygen level by doing this simple relaxation technique.  Focusing on your breathing is a good way to be present, aware. 

Living in the present is a healthy way to go through life.

Why is it important to go through life in the present?  There are many reasons why it’s healthy and better for you to live in the present.  When you think about it, that’s where we are, moment by moment.  Being aware of that, savoring each moment and not worrying about things that happened to you long ago or worrying about things that might happen in the future, you free your mind and body to experience each moment.  As Mary Oliver asks us in “The Summer Day”, ‘Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”’