In society and in our educational systems we tend to overrate IQ. To paraphrase the multiple intelligences theory of esteemed psychologist Howard Gardner, we measure how clever you are (intellectually) rather than how you are clever (which could include loads of other talents, such as fixing a car or knowing how to build rapport with people).
Yet there does not seem to be an especially high correlation between high IQ and happiness any more than there is between material wealth and happiness. Or between intelligent politicians and productive, harmonious societies. We venerate clever brains when what the world needs most, to face today’s challenges, is wise hearts.
I have known some very bright (IQ) people with major drink problems, so although they may be ‘high-performing alcoholics’ at work, their personal lives can border on the hellish. At a rational level they know that drinking too much is bad for them, at a deeper emotional level they sometimes find the resources to change their behaviour, but because their spiritual level remains untouched, they don’t quite manage to change for good. To actually stop wanting that drink, to point their desires in a direction that says life really is precious, why on earth would I want to self-destruct?! They’re ‘painting over the rust’ rather than dealing with the corrosion itself and so their willpower can snap at any time.
Likewise there are extremely clever academics who can produce piercing insights into the relationships between characters in famous works of literature, but then go home to miserable marriages and children who do not talk to them. I know from experience that a first-class degree is no guarantee of success or happiness. In fact if I go to University in my next lifetime I would happily trade my First for a 2:1 degree and a higher EQ. In fact make that a 2:2 with some DIY skills thrown in as well, thanks very much. Better still a 3rd with some EQ, DIY and a big dollop of SQ, come to think of it.
Finally, the world is run by very clever people, bankers and politicians who have Oxbridge or Harvard degrees, men and women with very high IQs – including ruthless dictators. The point is that high IQ is not all it’s cracked up to be, if it was then different countries would have found a way to live in peace with each other. It might be a bright idea to stop churning out graduates, unless they are equipped with at least a basic level of emotional intelligence (EQ).
By EQ, I mean the things like being positive and resourceful, choosing healthier reactions to ‘difficult’ situations, setting exciting goals, being determined and enjoying good relationships with friends, family and colleagues. The stuff that my clients often want to develop when they come for coaching.
Though in the longer term I believe it can only be the kind of Spiritual Intelligence (SQ) espoused by the likes of Nichiren Daishonin that will mark the real end of the intellectual dead end.
So, what is SQ and how do we recognise it? Here are some suggestions of how to describe ‘high SQ’. (In Nichiren Buddhism we believe we can achieve this life-state by the daily practice of chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo):
- Joy at just being alive
- Wisdom, courage, compassion, life force
- Feeling your whole life is ‘in the zone’ and that your ‘self’ is an interconnected part of the universal energy
- Titanium-strong determination
- Gratitude. Optimism.
- Deep awareness of life purpose
- Unconditional reverence for oneself and others
- Serenity and excitement
- Strong desire to see others fulfil all their potential.
- Feel a mission to help change the karma (or destiny) of humanity
- A feeling of absolute freedom but absolute fusion as well
I would love you to add to this list by leaving a comment, that would be truly marvellous.
PS. I am grateful to Roy Leighton for teaching me a lot of the stuff in this post
Next week: The why that looks forward, not back…