The MuchSmarter Blog

What Does it Mean to be Smart?

Steve Schecter
April 24, 2017
Which of these two women would you consider smart?

Barbara graduated, a year early, at the top of her high school class. She rarely seemed to miss any questions, earning perfect or near perfect scores on all her exams, the SAT, and three SAT subject tests. She attended an Ivy League college.   Upon graduation from college, she began her career in her father’s accounting practice, and later became a successful attorney

Winnie graduated, just barely, at the bottom of her high school class. She earned the minimum passing average of sixty-five. After two years at a local community college, she graduated from a local four-year college. After graduation, she pursued her lifelong passion for gymnastics by founding and operating gymnastics centers for children, and became a successful businesswoman.

Did you answer “Barbara” because of her intellectual achievement? Or did you answer “Winnie” because of her self-made success? Or both?

Of course, most of us would acknowledge that there are different kinds of smarts, just as there are different kinds of success and happiness. 

But being smart means much more than any of the things that we normally associate with intelligence. It means more than having a good memory, more than being able to learn quickly, more than reading or writing well, and more than being adept at math or science.

Being smart ultimately means knowing how to use your mind!

There are two great purposes for knowing how to make full use of your mind: 

1. You can learn whatever you want: You approach the task of learning new skills with confidence. You approach difficult learning challenges without fear.   You calmly move through setbacks, knowing that you will in time discover approaches that will work.   You recognize the similarities in learning different kinds of skills – reading, math, tennis, golf, performing arts, career and business – and you use your mastery in one area to fuel your mastery in another. 

2. You can create the life you want. When you know how to use your mind, you are able to choose your focus, maintain your focus, choose thoughts that empower you, and managing your emotions effectively.   These skills free your mind to solve problems, meet challenges, and experience the world in a way that makes you successful, happy, and fulfilled.

The reason, then, that I ask the question "What does it mean to be smart?" is to encourage you to adopt a truly expansive definition of the word smart

I am encouraging you to see the largest purpose for your mind.

When you understand what it truly means to be smart, you know the true purpose of your mind. And when you know the true purpose of your mind, you know what you want your learning and education to be all about.

You experience your entire world through the filter of your mind. Being smart ultimately means knowing how to use your mind to create the life experience that you want!

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