How to Harvest Your Hidden Intelligence

As fall returns with its promise of pumpkin spice lattes, corn mazes, and fall festivals, I turn to the notion of harvest. Defined as “gathering a resource to use effectively in the future,” there are many things we harvest this season to sustain us through the year. When we think about our psychological resources, there’s a garden in our lives that we often don’t fully harvest throughout the year: our experiences. However, our myriad past experiences offer each of us a cornucopia of wisdom that we can use for future success if we take the time to harvest it.

Exploring the rich harvest available to us through our experiences is exactly what Dr. Soren Kaplan does in his forthcoming book. Experience Intelligence: Harness the power of experience for personal and business breakthroughs. Kaplan (2023) defines experiential intelligence (XQ) as “the combination of mindsets, skills and know-how you have gained from your experiences.More specifically, the three elements are:

  • Ways of thinking: Attitudes and beliefs about yourself, other people and the world.
  • Capabilities: Competencies that help you integrate your knowledge, skills and experience so you can respond to situations as effectively as possible.
  • Expertise: knowledge and skills.

For more than a century, since the German psychologist William Stern coined the term intelligence quotient (IQ), we have explored the notion of overall intelligence as a measure of future success. Almost 50 years ago, we added Emotional Intelligence (EQ) as a complementary piece to life’s success puzzle. What we have yet to fully harvest and recognize as an important element in cultivating success is the latent intelligence that derives from our lived experiences. While the notion of multiple forms of intelligence persists in our zeitgeist, we have primarily focused on IQ and EQ as the cornerstones for understanding our personal and professional accomplishments. Yet perhaps we have missed an important piece of the puzzle because we have failed to explore the wisdom we have gained through our series of past experiences. Experiential Intelligence complements IQ and EQ by providing a framework to harvest the accumulated knowledge and talents we have gained over time through our personal and professional experiences.

In many ways, XQ offers us a new lens through which to unpack our history in a way that positions us for success in the future. Just as many have written about ways to increase our EQ and possibly even expand our IQ (see for example relational framework theory which suggests that IQ is a reflection of learned relational skills that can be improved over time), so we can also improve our XQ. Specifically we can:

  1. Make you curious about successes. Our XQ can be deepened by unpacking our past victories. Too often we treat our successes as accidents or unworthy of scrutiny when the exact opposite is true. A lot had to go right for our successes to happen, and thinking about how we were able to use our unique mindset, skills and expertise to achieve those successes is key to developing our XQ. The next time something is going well at work or at home, ask yourself, “What mindsets, skills, and knowledge made me successful, and how can I continue to use them in the future?” Success can breed success when we share our Harvest insights from our experiences.
  2. reframe error. As we begin to see all experiences as opportunities to expand our XQ, we begin to see that even when things haven’t turned out the way we hoped, there is much to learn from reflecting on our experiences. Rather than kicking ourselves for not succeeding, we can instead ask ourselves, “What mindset, skills, and knowledge do I need to be successful going forward?” This simple shift can increase our XQ and help avoid glitches in transform breakthroughs.
  3. Cultivate new experiences. We can also strengthen our XQ through the intentional pursuit of new and diverse experiences. Seeking and creating diverse experiences offers the opportunity to add new chapters to our life book. The more diverse the experiential text we need to draw on, the more opportunities we have to deepen our XQ. Ask yourself, “What new experiences could help me expand my mindset, skills, and know-how?”

Farrah Gray once said: “In every seed lies the potential for an incredible harvest.” Similarly, within every experience lies the potential for an incredible learning harvest to expand our mindset, skills and know-how. XQ invites us to become eternal collectors of our past to create a better future.

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