Your Intelligence Isn't Set in Stone! A New View of What It Means to Be Smart

article image that represents the concept of human tenacity, which is a key component of human development. The image is not described in detail, but it is likely to be related to the topic of the article, such as an inspiring picture of a person or a symbolic image that represents resilience, self-discipline, or tenacity. by Dr. Sam Goldstein

Whether designed by a higher Creator or the product of millions of years of evolution, our genes have but one primary goal. They seek to continue their existence. To do so successfully requires them to transition from an older body into a younger body through the process of procreation. Our genes are resilient and indomitable. Each of us carries genes as well as bits and pieces of genes from our ancestors and their ancestors, passing back through thousands of species and millions of years. My recent book co-authored with Dr. Robert Brooks, Tenacity in Children: Nurturing the Seven Instincts for Lifetime Success, represents a culmination of our almost 30-year collaboration and incorporates our earlier concepts of resilience and self-discipline to include tenacity as the third component of what we call the "essential triad of human development."

In reviewing many studies and writings, we propose that tenacity is composed of seven instincts, which as the word instinct implies, are present from birth. We believe that while there are other instincts, the seven we have identified have proven to be of the greatest significance in our development. They have evolved over thousands and thousands of years, ensuring the success and survival of our species. Most professionals and the lay public have moved beyond the assumption that children come into this world as tabula rasa or blank slates waiting to be infused with knowledge. Most are aware that children are different from birth in significant ways, including their inborn temperament. Our children are hard wired to learn if we are sufficiently knowledgeable to understand how their wiring interacts with the world around them and create environments in which they can grow and thrive.

It’s also important to distinguish the different expressions of instincts in some species compared with our own. In animals, instincts are manifested as fixed patterns of behavior that lead to a very specific outcome such as a bird building a nest for the first time or a salmon returning upriver to its birthplace. Dr. Brooks and I contend that in our species instincts represent an intuitive, more flexible way of thinking and/or acting that increase the chances of survival and success.

In our book we define and describe the seven instincts offering case examples, descriptions and most importantly, strategies to enhance and strengthen these instincts in ourselves and our children. We propose that for these genetically driven but experience dependent instincts to flourish children must encounter real life opportunities. These instinctual genes express themselves when opportunity presents. Simultaneous Intelligence is the one instinct of the seven that I am most excited about. After nearly one hundred years of our educational system defining intelligence as what you know not what you do, we are finally able to understand, define, and develop intelligence in an affirmative way with our children. True intelligence, or Simultaneous Intelligence guides our practical understanding of how elements of a problem fit together into a solution. Simultaneous Intelligence is best defined as the ability to see how all the parts fit together when solving problems. It requires reasoning and thinking. Research from around the world has demonstrated that this instinct is neither culture nor just experience bound.

Academic achievement is often best explained by opportunity. Simultaneous Intelligence on the other hand is not defined by culture or social class. The current conceptualization of intelligence as defined in many public schools incorporates components of reading and math achievement. It is for this reason that intelligence tests as traditionally used in the public schools have been demonstrated as a good predictor of school achievement. These tests have traditionally included measures of vocabulary, information, and comprehension, very clearly dependent upon experience. Thus, children unable to access such knowledge due to poverty or family adversity end up being over-represented as impaired students in special education classes.

I find the concept of Simultaneous Intelligence at first difficult for others, even educators, to understand. To best explain this phenomenon, I begin by offering two examples:

  1. If I provide you with a defined sequence of numbers – 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 – this very predictable sequence requires very limited reasoning or Simultaneous Intelligence. One only needs to know 10 to predict 12. However, if I provide you with this sequence – 1, 3, 6, 10, 15 – knowing 15 or even 10 and 15 is insufficient to accurately identify the next number in this sequence. To do so requires Simultaneous Intelligence. That is, simultaneously appreciating the relationship of every number to every other number to develop an understanding that the gap between each set of numbers keeps increasing by 1. The next number in this sequence is 21!
  2. The second example requires you to guess for what animal I am providing facts about. I explain that if I presented ten facts about an animal but you randomly chose three you may pick an animal that matches the three but does not match all of the remaining seven!

Effective Simultaneous Intelligence requires that you take the time to understand, think about, reason through, and integrate all of available information when faced with solving a problem. To take this concept one step further consider that creativity equates to you adding a piece of information to your set that others don’t possess to arrive at a new or novel solution or idea. Simultaneous Intelligence is about thinking flexibly and keeping an open mind. Scientist Robert DeHaan reasons that effective critical thinking is the key to creative problem solving.

Unfortunately, there is no single strategy to nurture and provide children with opportunities to enhance Simultaneous Intelligence. Yet an increasing number of good studies demonstrate that Simultaneous Intelligence can be modeled and taught. Student’s grades and knowledge-based problem solving are the beneficiaries. They make better choices in all walks of their lives. Our role as parents and educators may sometimes be as simple as asking open-ended questions to guide the thinking process. In other cases, we can allow children to experiment and refine their theories on what causes things to happen.

Please join me and a group of fascinating speakers for TEDx Timpview Drive on March 23rd in Provo, Utah when I discuss the seven Instincts that make us human. ◆

TEDx Timpview with Dr. Sam Goldstein

TEDx "A Stronger You" one-day conference.

TEDx "A Stronger You" is a one-day conference that aims to empower and inspire attendees to become their strongest selves. Our lineup of speakers includes experts in various fields such as psychology, fitness, and personal development, who will share their insights and experiences on how to build resilience, overcome challenges, and create a fulfilling life.