What does it mean to be smart, and do you consider yourself to be a smart person?
Most people would say no, but only because their definition of intelligence is too narrow. For far too long, people have misunderstood intelligence to be all about high IQ scores or impressive academic performance, when really, there’s so much more to it than people realize!
An integral subsection of psychology and psychological assessment, the study of intelligence is rooted in a rich history dating all the way back to the 1800s. Modern day theories of intelligence all have different ways of conceptualizing what it means to be smart. Take Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligence, for example, which posits that there are as many as 7 different kinds of intelligences — such as spatial, interpersonal, intrapersonal, bodily-kinesthetic, naturalistic, and even spiritual —whereas Sternberg’s triarchic theory summarizes it into 3, which are practical, analytical, and creative.
In summary, intelligence can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Some cultures value emotional and social intelligence over practical intellect, while others are the opposite. Either way, you might be smarter than you give yourself credit for. Want to know how to tell for yourself? Here are 7 things smart people never pay attention to (and what they do instead):
1. Limiting Beliefs
Psychology is chock-full of scientific studies that show us how our way of thinking impacts our life, and indeed, they all support the idea that we can only go as far as our minds let us (Cohen & Sherman, 2014). And while most people may not be aware of it, so many of us hold ourselves back from achieving happiness and success with our own limiting beliefs. We limit ourselves in what we can attain when we give in to our unhealthy fear of failure, fear of being alone, fear of rejection, fear of trying our best, and fear of finding out what it is we’re really capable of. But smart people have learned to let go of these limiting beliefs and found true fulfillment because of it.
2. What If Scenarios
Another thing smart people don’t like to waste their time on is the idea of “what could have been” because they know there’s no point. They don’t get hung up on the past and dwell on their mistakes because, as Maya Angelou once said, “You do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, you do better.” This is what makes them bounce back from failure so much quicker than other people do; they’re not afraid to look back on their mistakes because they don’t let themselves wallow in self-pity and self-blame over it.
3. Their Own Ego
Whether we like to admit it or not, a lot of us are also guilty not just of letting our past mistakes affect us in the present, but also our past successes. Sometimes we let our achievements and triumphs inflate our ego and get to our heads, making us overestimate our own abilities. But smart people don’t make the mistake of letting themselves get lazy or arrogant; they keep themselves humble and grounded, and constantly look for new opportunities to grow as people. They want to learn, try, and do as much as they can because they have an insatiable desire to become the best possible version of themselves.
4. Materialistic Desires
Materialism, studies have found, can be detrimental to our overall happiness and life satisfaction, and harm our social relationships by breeding envy and competition (Manolis & Roberts, 2012. And while we might all be aware of this already, letting go of our materialistic desires is a lot easier said than done. What sets smart people apart, however, is that they consciously choose to focus instead on intrinsic goals more than extrinsic ones. So while materialistic people are more cut-throat and selfish, those of us who are smarter don’t bother ourselves with all that nonsense because we’d rather satisfy our need for belongingness, autonomy, self-actualization and emotional fulfillment.
5. Hedonistic Tendencies
Have you ever noticed that smarter people tend to be more responsible and get in less trouble? That’s not to say of course that a smart person is a stick in the mud who doesn’t know how to have fun. But rather, they don’t give in to their hedonistic tendencies and take unnecessary risks. They prefer an organized lifestyle to a thrill-seeking one and avoid rushing into things because they understand that every action has unintended consequences. They are also mindful of how their words and actions affect others and try not to let their emotions get the best of them.
Another important sign of intelligence you might not realize is a disinterest in rumors and gossip. As Socrates once said, “Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and weak minds discuss people.” So smart people don’t waste their time gossiping with others because they just don’t find that kind of talk stimulating or interesting. They also know better than to judge a person solely by their reputation and are more open-minded than most in that regard — which brings us to our next and final point!
7. Other People’s Opinions About Them
Similar to how smart people don’t care for gossip or rumors, they also don’t like to pay attention to what other people have to say about them or their ideas. They don’t let their fear of judgment or rejection keep them from fulfilling their ambitions and pursuing their passions because they know that “those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” They’re not afraid to be themselves even if it makes them unlikeable to some, and they won’t let other people’s negativity discourage them from realizing their ideas and doing what they really want.
So, do you relate to any of the things we’ve mentioned here? Do you think you’re a smart person because you don’t pay attention to any of these things? If you liked this article and want to read more about this topic, here’s what we recommend: 6 Signs You’re Exceptionally Smart (Even If You Don’t Feel Like It), 6 Things ONLY Smart People Do Every Day, and 8 Things Only Smart People Pay Attention To.
- Cohen, G. L., & Sherman, D. K. (2014). The psychology of change: Self-affirmation and social psychological intervention. Annual review of psychology, 65, 333-371.
- Manolis, C., & Roberts, J. A. (2012). Subjective well-being among adolescent consumers: the effects of materialism, compulsive buying, and time affluence. Applied Research in Quality of Life, 7(2), 117-135.