by Dr. Randy
In this article I will focus on personal strengths (and weaknesses) particularly in teens. At this age, it’s important for teens to have an awareness of their personal strengths so that they can choose paths that foster their interests, talents, and areas of expertise. This knowledge will lead to success in school, extracurricular activities, jobs, and future careers.
To identify our strengths, and relative areas of weakness, we can look at specific areas of functions known as intelligences. The theory of multiple intelligences holds that we have different areas of personal talent that we can identify.
Some areas of mental functions seem more natural to us as individuals. These are tasks that we perform better than others. Some people are more proficient at language tasks like reading and writing and crafting words. Others have a special talent for mathematical thinking or for music. And some people are gifted in the realm of physicality, sports, and athletic achievement.
The theory of multiple intelligences has identified at least eight realms of innate talent. Identifying these in ourselves allows us to realize our natural gifts and develop our potential with more careful attention. We can form a path of study and future goals that fit our own natures. Everyone has some degree of talent in each of the identified areas, but some will be more predominant than others. And many fields of study will tap more than one type of skill. For example, an engineer will need talent in the realm of visual processing as well as mathematical skill.
Language or verbal/linguistic intelligence is highly valued by our culture, as opposed to a village culture or agrarian culture that might place more value in other traits, like physical prowess. We all have an innate ability to learn language. Some of us are more proficient and love to read, appreciating the flow of words and the sound of written language. A gift for language processing will serve people well in many different careers that require writing reports in business or science and of course in the academic realms of literature, linguistics, or the study of foreign languages.
Mathematical and logical intelligence is a natural ability to think in abstract terms about numbers and math. It also includes the areas of logical sequences and programming. Obviously, this is a huge field of study for many people in our highly technological culture, a field that is still blossoming and requiring more and more minds. The world of careers that require math skills includes engineers, teachers, architects, and computer programmers and designers.
Visual-spatial intelligence involves the ability to visualize tasks and the world in three dimensions. Natural fields for individuals with a talent in this realm include art and sculpture, engineering, architecture, and choreography. But a talent for visual processing also leads to an appreciation of the world around us and some of the most profound expressions of human culture.
These three (language, math, and visual processing) may lead to valued careers that have a clear path, but other factors of intelligence have their own important place and contribution.
Musical intelligence is very specific. It has little crossover with other careers. But musical talent is easily overlooked because of lack of opportunity. It may take a perceptive parent to notice and encourage musical ability in a child. And often teens discover their musical interest later in life than some other areas, and begin a musical career with guitar or membership in a musical group without any previous musical training.
Interpersonal intelligence includes the ability to communicate easily with others. It may take the form of a natural empathy or compassion towards others that leads students to pursue the fields of medicine, nursing, psychology, anthropology, religion, or other helping professions. This natural tendency to be social and interactive with a group of friends or a larger community can be very fulfilling, and the natural desire to be involved with others can translate into rewarding careers.
Intrapersonal intelligence is the ability to be self-aware and introspective, mindful of what our minds are doing, our thoughts, feelings, and aspirations. Anyone will benefit from the ability to kiow themselves. But those with a special interest or skills in this area may gravitate to the fields of philosophy, religion, and therapy as professions.
Kinesthetic or motor intelligence includes abilities in physicality, sports, connection to the body in space. Many people feel most comfortable learning by doing rather than by thinking. Athletes have a strong motor intelligence. Fields where this skill is especially important include athletic coaching, physical therapies, work with horses, mechanics, gardening, farming, and careers in the world of sports.
Naturalistic intelligence is a connection to the natural world. Astronomers, biologists, zoologists, botanists, explorers, nature photographers, hikers, outdoor guides, camp leaders, and park rangers all have a passion for the outdoors and nature, and for understanding our interconnectedness with the natural world. And of course the real
Everyone has all of these traits, talents, and intelligences. Some are much more innately present and some are developed over a lifetime because of interests, environment, encouragement, and training. We all have strengths in particular areas, and these need to be recognized and fostered because we are happier and more fulfilled when doing those things that feel closer to our hearts and passions.