One of the most desirable traits in any human being is intelligence. A dictionary defines intelligence as, “Ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.” I would simplify and say that intelligence is the ability to use brain more effectively. Why is intelligence desirable? Because it empowers humans to achieve incredible feats, assists them in survival, earning money, initiating “intelligent” conversations/ talks, helping them cracking competitive exams, becoming a doctor, scientist, engineer, etc.  At least, these are the advantages of intelligence quite easily visible to the general audience. But there is way more to intelligence than that.

Normally, people associate intelligence as the ability to solve puzzles, maths problems, etc. In fact, IQ tests measure your intelligence in a similar way. However, ask yourself this question. “Is your brain made just for solving maths problems, puzzles?” The answer obviously is, No. Your brain does a lot more than that. Efficiently doing brain tasks is the definition of intelligence. So, excelling in various brain tasks are basically different forms of intelligence. Examples of these forms: science, abstract thinking (mathematics), music, cooking, humour, chess, public speaking, reading, writing, even motor functions such as sports, dancing, acting, direction, etc. So, basically everything. Yes, intelligence has various forms. People excel in different forms according to their interests, training, and various other factors. Our society encourages some forms of intelligence over others. That can be justified to some extent, but such encouragements shouldn’t come at the cost of discouragement of other forms. For example, parents should allow their children to pursue dancing if he/she has an interest in the field. Why? Because that’s the innate nature of human beings. We are a curious breed of species. Our curiosity, failures led to these different forms of intelligence.
There are different forms of intelligence. We should explore and maintain our curiosity. That’s a pretty basic human behavioural fact. But still ignored, and suppressed by society, family, government, religions, opposite sex, etc. Again, a well-known phenomenon.

Here comes the part where I talk about the title. Through my whole life, I have known, observed, watched a huge number of people (everybody has). This is my personal opinion, but the form of intelligence that impresses me the most is “awareness of the self and surroundings”. You must be thinking, really? I mean there are mathematics geniuses, scientists like Hawkings, Einstein, entrepreneur billionaires like Bill Gates, Dhiru Bhai Ambani, political geniuses like Narendra Modi, Barack Obama, Vladamir Putin, sports geniuses like Ronaldo, Messi, Scholes, Federer, Tendulkar, musical geniuses like Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar, A R Rehman, and much more. The reason why I am bringing these names is simply that at some point in their life, “awareness of the self and surroundings” has assisted them greatly in achieving incredible feats in their lives. Intelligence forms don’t function discretely and in separation. Being output of the same brain, things are quite inter-related. Awareness is the function which maximises your brain output. Awareness lets you know, you’re actually good in some forms, awareness lets you know, you’re doing a mistake, awareness lets you know, you need to buckle up for upcoming tests. It is your awareness that will make you realise the wrongs you have done. The warnings in your head like smoking and drinking is bad, is your awareness. Now you may argue that action is very important too. Yes, the action is important. Quitting smoking and drinking is important. But an effective action is mostly a result of awareness and sometimes instincts (which truthfully gets better with better awareness).

I am just hell bent on relating everything to awareness. Well, without it, you’re just a network of cells doing what they are programmed to do (a robot!). Everyone has an awareness to some degree. What truly makes me call a person intelligent is when I see that person surviving easily in different conditions, switching things effortless to suit himself, maximising his/her brain output in various forms, and most importantly, making aware, precise decisions most of the times.

Awareness of surroundings is another important aspect. We all have come across people who know what they have to do. They know their passion, they know how to achieve their goals. They may even have action oriented, get it done minded personalities. But still, they fail repeatedly. The most frequent reasons are circumstances and surroundings. They lack in the department of “Awareness of the surroundings”.
What do I mean by “Awareness of the surroundings”?
You make judgement about people, surroundings all the time. The judgement is being made by your brain, which is heavily biased. Biased for your own selfish goals, needs. Biased by your behaviours, character. So, “awareness of surroundings” is simply an ability to make unbiased observations and judgements of surroundings and people. These judgements when closer to the real picture, shall enable you to make better decisions. For example, some kind of jokes and one-liners work in some cultures and countries. But those same one-liners or jokes can be offensive in other cultures and countries. You have to be aware of your surroundings too, for your actions affect and are affected by the surroundings and people.

In short, awareness of self and surroundings empowers you to utilise your brain potentials, learn and make quicker and accurate decisions. That is, in my opinion at the core of most of the geniuses and happy, successful people I could think of.

The person in the featured image is Leonardo Da Vinci. He was botanist, musician, artist, engineer, polymath and what not. He was a true genius. His awareness of his intelligence and potentials made him explore fields of different genres and excelling in almost all of them. What painter and artist would think of dissecting human bodies stolen from graves? He would, and in the process making the most accurate images of the human anatomy of that time.
Image credits: Corbis