by KEITH O’NEILL, Ph.D., C.Ht.
I’ve been called a smart aleck, a smart guy, a smarty pants and even a smart ass. I’ve been told I look smart in a suit, I guess that was a smart choice I made. I ate “Smarties” as a kid, they were one of my favorite candies, and have yelled out “that smarts” when I’ve hurt myself. That was usually the result of a not so smart choice. There are smart cars, smart starts and smart moves…which aren’t so smart, like when someone cuts you off while you’re driving and you blurt out, “smart move!”
A lot of people equate intelligence with being smart, I beg to differ, they’re not at all the same thing. Some people are book smart. They are college educated and possess one or more degrees. They like to read a lot and keep up on world and social issues through magazines, books and the internet. On the other hand, there are some people who are street smart. They received their education from the school of hard knocks. They learned most of their lessons from life experiences, a lot of them negative. They are survivors. Yet another group of smart people aren’t formally educated or street-wise, they just exhibit exceptionally good common sense. They have the innate ability to look at life’s obstacles, remove emotion and make sound, reasonable decisions.
We’ve all known people who are book smart, but lack street smarts, brilliant, but can’t find the bus stop. Or, the street savvy people who seem to know all the ins and outs, but make bad choices anyway, because they have no plain common sense. Is one better than the other? Perhaps, if what you want to do with your life dictates a particular course of study or apprenticeship in order to get there. Ideally, for most of us, the smart thing to do is to find a personal, workable balance of all three.
Some people think it’s uncool to be smart, which begins early with the kids who are too cool for school. Hopefully, you’ll avoid the people that think they are smart, but don’t have any real smarts. Some of the negative traits these people commonly possess are ignorance, jealousy and prejudice, and it is usually very smart to avoid these people.
Truly smart people are generally open minded, calm, flexible and aware. They aren’t afraid to ask questions when they don’t know the answer, they have the confidence to push aside their ego and admit they don’t know something. They understand the value of healthy personal and professional relationships and do their best to nurture those relationships. Choose to surround yourself with good people, develop healthy relationships and make good choices and you will build a strong foundation for a wonderful life.
Ignorance is not bliss. Smart people read books, articles and magazines to find out what’s going on in the world, so they can have informed opinions and interesting viewpoints when they get into discussions. Explore new places and experience new things so that you can begin to understand and appreciate the different issues and challenges that we and other cultures face. Be observant, become aware of everything that’s going on around you. Everywhere you go and in everything you do, really pay attention. You’ll be surprised at what you notice and more surprised at what you’ve been missing.
Here’s an exercise that will demonstrate my point and is a lot of fun. Take a walk around your neighborhood. Make it a point to walk slower than you usually would and to notice one hundred things that you haven’t noticed in the past. Take your kids and make it a game. It’s amazing what we miss seeing. You’ll notice people, places, things in nature and manmade things you’ve never seen before, right in your own neighborhood. One hundred sounds like a lot, but you’ll be surprised how quickly you get there and probably notice quite a bit more. You’ll all have fun and learn a lot at the same time. You and your kids will learn that learning by observing is fun.
Education can be fun! Make the choice to become educated on many different levels. The ability to make intelligent, informed decisions comes from being smart enough to know what you don’t know and unafraid to admit it, especially to yourself. The important thing is to find balance and harmony within yourself and make the commitment to become your best friend. This will help you improve your ability to make smart choices and to find contentment in your life, and there’s a lot to be said for contentment.
Read, explore and observe. Doing so will give you the knowledge, experience and tools to adapt to multiple life situations and will enable you to make smart decisions, develop wonderful, healthy relationships and have a good life. Now, that’s smart!