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Attention, Our Effective Intelligence

Everyone has their own particular brain capacity.  From an early age, we are good at some things rather than others, and attracted to particular fields.  Do you like detail work or big pictures?  Are you good with numbers or with words?  You probably had a favorite subject in school; and if you are lucky, when a first job did not suit you, you found one that did—one that well suited your native capacities.  Psychologists measure our brain capacities with numbers, our IQ or intelligence quotient, which puts a big emphasis on logical reasoning abilities.  But our full capacities are a whole congress of talents for figuring things out, from mathematical puzzles and chess moves to basketball plays and social interaction.  In the whole theater of life, some steps are smarter than others.

Education is the widely recognized setting for upping our intelligence game, with more knowledge and more skills; classrooms are important for learning all kinds of things from better writing to the subtleties of mitosis or financial accounting.  Education is a great social step for sharpening our native intellectual capacities.  But there is another personal step that anyone can take without spending a dime on tuition.  Pay attention.  Yes, paying attention is like pressing the power button on our brains.  Imagine a powerful computer that’s turned off; now imagine a powerful brain with great capacities but no attention: powered off.  Attention is effective intelligence.  No matter your native endowments, add the sharp focus of attention to any project large or small, with interests fired up and mind drilling down on every implication and detail, and you’ve got intelligence to the max.  Find what captures your attention, and you’ll find yourself capturing more of the world.

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2 thoughts on “Attention, Our Effective Intelligence

  1. “I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.” -Eartha Kitt

    This quote about learning came to mind as I read this piece. There are rewarding learning opportunities all around us, and our experiences in life can be enriched by stories, lessons, and new ideas and opportunities; we would know of their presence if we paid attention.

    Thank you for this reflective piece and call to mindfulness, Dr. Croce!

  2. Good ideas, Mathias, from the wonderful quotation to the posture of openness through attention. We learn what we attend to—and to a great extent, we are what we attend to. Keep tuning in to the world all around us!

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