I’ve been observing people—across different cultures and societies—for most of my adult life.
Yet, as an observer who is constantly learning and exploring, I feel constant pressure to decipher the nuances of human behavior. Pressure comes from the society that often equates certain behaviors with intelligence, or the educational system that insists on defining intelligence based on grades and degrees. It comes from parents who equate their child’s worth with their academic performance. It comes from friends who believe that a person’s intelligence can be measured by their ability to recite complex theories.
In the face of all this pressure, a few questions come to mind:
Why are we so obsessed with defining intelligence based on standard measurements?
Is it normal that we see certain behaviors as indicators of being highly educated?
Shouldn’t we judge a person’s intelligence based on their ability to empathize, adapt, and innovate rather than just their academic achievements?
I think there’s too much societal pressure on people to fit into the conventional definitions of intelligence. The result of this pressure is that many people end up doubting their own intelligence and capabilities based on societal expectations.
By the time we arrive at my closing remarks, I hope to have convinced you that there are certain behaviors that are indicative of a highly educated person, and it’s not just about having a degree or being able to recite complex theories.
The key point is our perception should be based on a person’s behavior rather than societal stereotypes that make us fearful of acknowledging different forms of intelligence.
1) They’re curious and open-minded
Consider this for a moment. A highly educated person doesn’t just accumulate knowledge for the sake of it. Their mind works in a way that’s fundamentally different.
Let me clarify.
Picture a highly educated person you know. They are likely to be the ones who are constantly asking questions, eager to learn more about the world around them. Their curiosity doesn’t stem from a need to show off their intelligence. Rather, they have an innate desire to understand how things work, to delve deeper into topics that intrigue them.
If you’re going to identify a highly educated person, it’s fundamental to recognize this unquenchable thirst for knowledge. They’re operating out of innate curiosity.
It’s crucial to let go of the notion that education is merely about acquiring degrees or mastering complex theories. It’s not. True education is reflected in one’s actions, and they are most powerful when driven by curiosity and an open mind.
If you can stop associating education with traditional parameters and start recognizing the signs in the daily behavior of individuals, you’ll see that highly educated people are those who create conditions for continuous learning in their lives. They don’t need to try so hard.
They manifest their education not by controlling knowledge but by letting it flow freely.
2) They embrace failure
This insight came to me after observing and interacting with several highly educated individuals.
Traditional wisdom often equates failure with inadequacy or incompetence. We’re taught to avoid failure at all costs and pursue success relentlessly. However, in the realm of a highly educated mind, this principle is turned on its head.
Instead, a highly educated person views failure as an integral part of the learning process. As one of my professors once told me:
“Embrace your failures. Don’t avoid them, don’t fear them, don’t repress them; don’t do anything at all to hide from them. You just need to acknowledge them, and the miracle of acknowledging is learning. As you acknowledge, gradually your mind becomes full of insights; but you are not falling into despair, you are becoming more resilient, more aware.”
When you try to “avoid failure” all the time, you give too much power to your fear of making mistakes. You relinquish your instinctive power to learn and grow.
Now, I’ve noticed that highly educated people give less power to their fear of failure. Sometimes they encounter setbacks. Other times they face significant challenges. But they don’t worry about these as setbacks or challenges are seen as stepping stones towards greater knowledge.
3) They value empathy
Reflect on this for a moment. A highly educated person is not just book-smart or academically accomplished. Their approach to life and people is strikingly different.
Let me elaborate.
Imagine a highly educated individual you know. They are likely the ones who can step into another person’s shoes, who can genuinely understand and feel what others are experiencing. This empathy doesn’t originate from a place of pity or obligation but from a profound understanding of human emotions and perspectives.
If you’re going to identify a highly educated person, it’s essential to recognize this deep-rooted empathy. They’re operating out of inherent compassion.
It’s important to let go of the misconception that education is solely about intellectual prowess. It’s not. True education translates into one’s actions, and they are most profound when they stem from empathy and understanding.
If you can stop associating education merely with grades and degrees and start observing the depth of understanding in individuals, you’ll see that highly educated people are those who cultivate a sense of empathy in their lives. They don’t need to try so hard.
They exhibit their education not by monopolizing knowledge but by sharing understanding and fostering connections.
4) They respect differing opinions
Reflecting on this was an eye-opener for me.
The common perception is that highly educated individuals are always right, given their vast knowledge base. But the truth is, their education is what makes them more open to the possibility of being wrong.
Let me break this down.
Consider a highly educated individual you’ve encountered. They’re likely the ones who can listen to an opposing viewpoint without getting defensive or dismissive. This ability doesn’t stem from a lack of conviction in their own beliefs, but from a profound understanding that learning is an ongoing process and differing opinions offer new perspectives.
If you’re going to identify a highly educated person, it’s essential to recognize this respect for differing opinions. They’re operating out of inherent open-mindedness.
It’s crucial to let go of the misconception that education only reinforces one’s own beliefs. It doesn’t. True education reflects in one’s actions, and they are most impactful when they embrace diversity and promote dialogue.
If you can stop seeing education as merely an affirmation of your existing beliefs and start acknowledging the value in diverse opinions, you’ll see that highly educated people are those who foster intellectual growth in their lives. They don’t need to try so hard.
They exhibit their education not by dominating discussions, but by facilitating thoughtful dialogue and encouraging diverse perspectives.
5) They are lifelong learners
This particular trait is something I’ve personally experienced.
Being an avid reader and a fervent learner, I’ve always been intrigued by the correlation between education and learning. My curiosity led me to observe and understand that education isn’t just about degrees and textbooks. It’s about the commitment to never stop learning.
Let me share a personal anecdote.
I remember a conversation I had with my former professor, a brilliant academician with several degrees to his name. His constant desire to learn was something that always intrigued me. One day, I asked him, “Why do you still spend so much time studying new courses and reading extensively?” He replied, “Because I am a student for life. The day I stop learning is the day I stop living.”
If you’re going to identify a highly educated person, it’s fundamental to recognize this relentless pursuit of knowledge. They’re operating out of an inherent love for learning.
It’s significant to let go of the notion that education ends once you have a degree. It doesn’t. True education is reflected in one’s actions, and they are most profound when they embody the spirit of lifelong learning.
If you can stop associating education with formal institutions and start appreciating the importance of continuous self-improvement, you’ll see that highly educated people are those who commit themselves to be students for life. They don’t need to try so hard.
They manifest their education not by flaunting degrees but by immersing themselves in the pursuit of knowledge throughout their lives.
6) They are critical thinkers
Critical thinking is the process of purposeful, self-regulatory judgment, which uses reasoned consideration to evidence, context, conceptualizations, methods, and criteria.
Here’s the key point:
This definition underlines the essence of what being a highly educated person entails. It’s not just about accumulating knowledge but being able to analyze, interpret, and make reasoned judgments based on that knowledge.
For those seeking to identify a highly educated person, spotting a critical thinker can provide a clear indication. It’s a reminder that education is more than just rote learning; it’s about developing the ability to think independently and make reasoned decisions.
Recognizing critical thinking in individuals encourages us to see education as a tool for nurturing informed citizens capable of making reasoned decisions and contributing meaningfully to society.
7) They acknowledge what they don’t know
This might seem surprising to many.
Typically, a highly educated person is seen as a know-it-all, someone who has answers to all questions. But in reality, one of the most distinguishing traits of a highly educated individual is the ability to admit when they don’t know something.
Let me clarify this.
Consider a highly educated person in your circle. They are likely the ones who don’t shy away from saying “I don’t know” when faced with a question or a concept they’re unfamiliar with. This trait doesn’t stem from a sense of inadequacy but from a deep-seated understanding that knowledge is infinite and that no one can know everything.
If you’re going to identify a highly educated person, it’s fundamental to recognize this humility in admitting ignorance. They’re operating out of inherent honesty and integrity.
It’s important to let go of the stereotype that being educated means having all the answers. It doesn’t. True education is reflected in one’s actions, and they are most authentic when they readily acknowledge their limitations.
If you can stop associating education with knowing everything and start appreciating the courage it takes to admit ignorance, you’ll see that highly educated people are those who embody intellectual honesty in their lives. They don’t need to try so hard.
They exhibit their education not by pretending to know it all but by being open about their quest for knowledge and their willingness to learn.
Bottom line: It’s a mindset
The complexity of human behavior often stems from our cognitive processes and mindset.
One such mindset is the growth mindset, a concept developed by psychologist Carol Dweck.
This mindset, prevalent in many highly educated individuals, is characterized by the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed through dedication and hard work.
For individuals displaying the seven behaviors we discussed, the growth mindset might be a key factor driving their actions. This mindset potentially fosters a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction when they engage in continuous learning, embrace failure, respect differing opinions, and acknowledge their limitations.
Whether it’s delving into a new subject, asking insightful questions, or accepting feedback with grace, the underlying mindset might be enhancing their journey towards becoming more educated.
At its core, being highly educated goes beyond formal education. It’s about continuously evolving, growing, and learning. It’s about embracing the unknown and cherishing the journey of discovery. As philosopher Socrates once said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” To all the lifelong learners out there embodying these behaviors – keep questioning, keep learning, and keep growing.