What leads to success, wealth, and happiness?
Many of us think the answer is being smart. We believe that smartness contributes to academic excellence, high salary, fast career advancement, and a happier life in general.
However, more and more people realize that there are major downsides of being smart, as evidenced by this thread with 100+ answers on Quora: “When does intelligence become a curse?”
From bearing high expectations, being oblivious to their blind spots to appearing arrogant to their peers and become isolated, smart people seem to have a different set of problems to deal with from the rest of us.
From my observations and reading the threads mentioned above, I summarized a few key disadvantages of being smart. They are merely a point of view, which aren’t meant to offend anyone.
And then I put forward a few suggestions on what you can focus on instead of being smart. If your goal is to live a happy, fulfilling and meaningful life, don’t miss this part.
Let’s dive in.
Part I. 7 Downsides of Being Smart
#1. You Don’t See Your Own Biases—the Blind Spot
Smart people quickly point out the biases and blunders of others. But when it comes to spotting their own judgment and prejudice, it is ten times more difficult, if not impossible.
One reason is that smart people are adept at reasoning and logic. Being smart allows you to make impeccable arguments to support your beliefs. They are usually hard for others to refute even if they are biased or premature.
On the other hand, you attract what you believe in your life. Therefore, if you have preconceived biases or judgment, then getting more information about a particular topic will only strengthen your beliefs and make you oblivious to others’ opinions.
#2. You Might Dismiss Hard Work
Being smart doesn’t guarantee success if you skip the hard work and fail to develop the perseverance to pursue your goals.
Smart people can fall into the trap of believing they’re special. Because of their talents, it takes less time for them to get good at things at the initial stage when everyone else is still scratching their head about how to start.
However, if you become satisfied and stop there, you will never reach the summit of the field you’re choosing, which requires a combination of hard work, grit, self-discipline, and perseverance.
Research also revealed that there is a negative correlation between conscientiousness and intelligence. The former is the ability to stick to one’s goal and do work thoroughly.
#3. You Overanalyze and Overthink
Logical reasoning and analyzing are necessary for making sound decisions but overdoing them serves little practical purpose.
You may feel the need to devise multiple solutions when you encounter a problem. You then labor yourself to gather information and evaluate each one’s pros and cons. Upon finishing this process, you may find more things to consider and analyze.
Before you can decide and take actions, you already lose interest because the work involved is too great.
#4. You Might Avoid Asking for Help
Great minds don’t need help, right? Both the smart ones and others believe that if you are smart, you can handle everything on your own.
Such mentality can discourage you from seeking help because it renders you dependent or “not so cool” to your peers.
However, working in the silo impedes communication, which is a major cause of inefficiency. You might also run the risk of taking more responsibilities than you can handle and suffer from stress, anxiety, and fatigue.
#5. You Might Appear Arrogant and Judgmental
You might have sound arguments, but it doesn’t mean that others are “wrong.” Because smart people know more, they tend to assert judgments and invalidate others’ opinions when those opinions contradict their views.
No one likes to be criticized or corrected, especially on a social occasion. If you habitually point out others’ “flaws” and “mistakes,” you may find people distancing themselves from you one by one.
#6. Your Fear Failure
Smart people bear high expectation from their parents, school teachers, peers, colleagues, etc. Failure isn’t an option if you’re smart.
These expectations can be paralyzing. They discourage you from taking actions because the steaks are too high. Faced with the insurmountable pressure, you might choose to remain in the comfort zone and forgo many opportunities that can help advance in your journey.
Another downside is to cheat to win.
Researchers have found evidence that when kids are praised for “being smart” for their first performance, they tend to cheat in the subsequent tests to keep up the good scores.
#7. You Ignore Your Intuition
Intelligence is about logic, ration, reasoning, analysis—all happen in the headspace.
Indulging in the mind might leave you oblivious to your intuition. Your intuition is the communication from your Higher Self, which retains a higher level of consciousness and receives more information than your physical mind, no matter how smart you are.
Not listening to your intuition is forgoing an important, if not essential, source of information that can help you to make better decisions.
On the other hand, you might disregard your feelings if you incessantly focus on your head.
Feelings, unbeknownst to most people, are the compass that points you to happiness. They tell you whether you are in alignment with your desires—you feel good when you are and feel bad when you aren’t.
Therefore, if you prioritize intelligence over feelings, you run the risk of sidetracking from the fastest trail to joy.
Part II. 4 Qualities that Outshine Intelligence
If not intelligence, what do we go after then?
In my opinion, living a fulfilling life is about dedication to your purpose and building meaningful connections with others.
Here are four areas to consider.
#1. Cultivate the Growth Mindset
Success doesn’t just come from knowing more. It is the result of years of deliberate practice and dedicated efforts.
The Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck has termed two types of attitudes when it comes to learning and the developing new skills: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.
People with the fixed mindset attribute success to talents and intelligence and spend time documenting their innate qualities rather than developing them.
Those with the growth mindset believe hard work leads to success and dedicate their time to practicing and perfecting their skills.
Therefore, instead of striving to be smart, embrace the growth mindset. Whether you were born a genius or not, you can get what you want. The future is never set in stone even though you think you’ve fallen off.
Set intentions, take actions and persist. Baby steps will take you to your destination if you make consistent efforts.
#2. Build Unconditional Self-Worth
If you rely your worth on being smart, every time your intelligence is challenged, your ego takes a hit and you go through an existential crisis.
Know that you are valuable just by being you. Your infinite worth is with you since the day you were born and remains so for the rest of your life. Every one of us is an indispensable part of this Universe, and the best you can do to facilitator its growth is to be your authentic self.
So stop worrying that you aren’t smart enough.
Instead, cultivate your sense of worth and be courageous to show your uniqueness to the world.
#3. Put Down Your Judgment
There is no right or wrong, and everything is a matter of perspective. Two people with different experiences will look at the same thing and draw drastically different conclusions.
Let go of the need to be right and see other people’s views as different perspectives brought out by their unique experiences. All can be valid, sensible opinions.
Listen with an open mind doesn’t mean that you have to absorb everything. Use your discernment and take what resonates with you and leave behind those that don’t.
#4. Nurture Kindness and Compassion
In our competitive, dog-eat-dog world, kindness and compassion are two of the least valued qualities. Yet, they are the indispensable ingredients to living a happy and fulfilling life.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos once recounted a story where he tried to show off his prowess with numbers but ended up leaving his grandmother in tears.
“Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice,” said self-made billionaire. Kindness to others is an invaluable quality in building connections and creating a harmonious, collaborative environment that forges the most desirable outcome.
Being kind and compassionate not only benefits others, but it also gives you a sense of purpose, which motivates you to work hard and build integrity. People who regularly engage in voluntary work are reported to experience more joy success in both their professional and personal life.
Being smart has merits, but it alone seldom leads to desirable outcomes. Build your character and cultivate the four qualities along with intelligence, and you stand a bigger chance to live the life that you want.
Has being smart ever stood in your way, and how you dealt with it? Please share in the comment box below!