I just read an article with the above title and found myself disagreeing with the author. So, after giving the subject much thought, here are the qualities that comprise my list:
- Be humble. About fifteen years’ ago, at a lecture in Coronado, I heard author Richard Rohr say, “I ask for one major humiliation a day.” I was stunned: I couldn’t believe that someone would want that. “One major humiliation a day keeps me humble” he said. Rohr’s statement about humility has stayed with me all these years. I can’t say that I ask for one major humiliation every day, but I do ask God/The Universe/Allah to help me stay humble and not think I am entitled or more deserving than anyone else.
- Don’t lie to yourself. We tell ourselves stories to feel better because we don’t want to take responsibility for how we feel. Most people I’ve met during my twenty-plus years as a therapist have some kind of a victim story going on: “Oh, poor me, those awful/mean/stupid people did it to me”. We all do awful/mean/stupid things…it’s part of being human. But can we tell ourselves the truth and say: “I see how I contributed to this situation. I do have responsibility here.” This takes you out of victim mode and puts you into “What can I learn from this?” (High IQ mode).
- Admit when you’re wrong. For about thirty years, I had a knee problem. I went to a Chinese elder in Spring Valley for acupuncture, which helped, but the pain kept coming back. One day, after this wise woman gave me a treatment, she muttered under her breath, “Knee problems, must not be willing to be wrong.” I said, “What?” She said, “People with knee problems are rigid. They need to be right so bad that they lock their knees and their knees never heal.” I asked her what to do. She said, “Be willing to be wrong.” So, I started going through my days, saying “I am willing to be wrong” over-and-over again…and my knee pain went away.
- Know how to calm yourself. If you had perfect parents, you are probably terrific at calming yourself when something bad happens. For the rest of us, it’s something we can learn. I help clients with this all the time. Due to space limitations here, if you’d like to know how this works, contact me and I’ll be happy to give you some self-soothing skills.
- Focus on the questions in life. Not the answers. It has long been my experience that if you ask the “right” questions, the answers always come. Maybe not as fast as you’d like, but they will come. There’s so much we’ll never know, but there are so many great questions to ask and ponder. Teenagers think they know it all. Remember? You thought older people were so stupid and out of touch. Have you noticed that – hopefully – the older you get, the less you know. A song lyric from the movie “Yentl” summarizes this perfectly: “The more I live; the more I learn. The more I learn the more I realize the less I know.”
- Be comfortable with uncertainty. We all want to control everything and we think it’s possible. Then we get pissed off when it doesn’t go according to “our” plan. This is the perfect setup for unhappiness. Uncertainty is the way of life. There is so much that we can’t control: if we make peace with this, our lives will be so much easier.
- Do no harm. Do you ever set out to mess with people? Make them feel bad? In our weakest moments, we all do. But it doesn’t make us happy: it just escalates the misery that prompted us to hurt them in the first place. Notice that. when you purposely want to hurt somebody, it comes back to bite you in the ass. Instead, aspire to “do no harm” and make it easy for other people and animals to like you.
This is my own list of the signs of a high IQ. It might be more accurate to call it, “Seven Signs of Wisdom”. Whatever you call it, give it a try and see if you don’t emerge a smarter and happier person.
—Michael Kimmel is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in helping LGBTQ clients achieve their goals and deal with anxiety, depression, grief, sexually addictive behavior, coming out, relationship challenges and homophobia. Contact him at 619-955-3311 or visit lifebeyondtherapy.com.