Higher intelligence may be one of the most important predictors of success in life.
Just because you’re smart doesn’t mean things will always be easy for you. But it does mean that they will probably be at least a little bit easier than they would for someone who doesn’t have your brainpower.
At the same time, high intelligence is not a golden ticket to wealth and happiness.
In fact, being more intelligent than average can cause as many problems as it solves.
It’s also possible to be unusually intelligent without knowing it.
That’s especially true if you come from a background that didn’t encourage academic achievement or intellectual development.
But there are some telltale signs of someone who has a powerful intellect. And if you notice any of these signs in yourself, it’s probably because you are a very smart person.
1) You are curious
One of the most underrated but powerful signs of an intelligent person is that they are relentlessly curious.
You see, a mind has to be thinking about something. And the more powerful the mind, the more it takes to keep it occupied.
Curiosity is a powerful sign of intelligence, and it’s one that goes beyond our species to other animals, too. As a general rule, the more curious an animal is, the more intelligent it is.
Researcher Diane Hamilton writes that curiosity is fundamental to intelligence and academic performance. And in a kind of feedback loop, curiosity can also work to make you smarter.
Think about it. People who are curious love to learn new things. And as their knowledge base increases, so does their intelligence.
2) You are adaptable
Intelligence may be a major predictor of success in life. But we shouldn’t discount the role of adaptability.
The thing is, change is perhaps the fundamental law of the universe. No matter how smart you may be, life is going to change around you, and it’s your ability to adapt that defines how far you’ll go.
Fortunately, intelligent people have an advantage here, too.
Natalie Fratto, a TED speaker and former vice president at Goldman Sachs, writes about the adaptability quotient, or AQ, and how it is a major predictor of success in the workplace. AQ describes your ability to discover new information, determine what is relevant, and overcome challenges.
These are all traits of highly intelligent people, too.
3) You are easily bored
A powerful mind is a wonderful thing to have, but it can also turn in on itself if not given the proper stimulation.
To refer to my earlier point, that’s why intelligent people are curious. They need something to keep their brain occupied, and new information can give them something to think about and help them avoid boredom.
If you often find yourself bored by watching TV or doing things other people seem to think are fun, it might be because you are highly intelligent. And you need to find your own ways to keep your powerful mind occupied and active.
4) You feel like you don’t know very much
Funnilly enough, it’s often the people who are smartest who feel like they don’t know very much. In fact, that’s part of why you can be very smart without feeling like you are.
At the same time, people with less intelligence are often far more convinced of their own knowledge and intellectual superiority.
This is called the Dunning-Kruger effect, after the psychologists who first studied it in 1999.
Basically, when we first started studying the subject, we learn a lot in a short space of time. This makes us feel like we are grasping the topic.
But as we learn more about the subject, we learn how much more there is to know. Therefore, our confidence in our knowledge often shrinks as our knowledge grows.
The same is true in reverse.
Study just about any subject deeply, and you’ll find that there are mountains of things you don’t know about it.
So often, the most intelligent and knowledgeable people feel like they don’t know very much at all.
5) You keep an open mind
Part of being intelligent and curious means keeping an open mind.
And like I mentioned above, the more you know, the more you realize there is to know. That applies to other people just as much as it does to academic subjects.
Being intelligent means recognizing that other people approach the world from different angles and are likely to have different views.
An intelligent person celebrates that and is always keen to learn about how other people see things, even if they don’t agree.
Being certain that your opinion is the only correct one is a sign of low intelligence, not higher intelligence. Smart people are always ready to change their opinions based on new facts and new information.
6) You love to learn new things
Learning is what helps keep the brain occupied. That’s why smart people often know a lot of facts about many different subjects.
Not only are they curious, but they enjoy learning more about a new topic.
Do you find yourself diving into new topics just for the fun of learning something new?
When you are confronted with a gap in your knowledge, do you shrug and forget about it, or do you feel a burning need to find out what you don’t already know?
Clinical psychologist Holly Schiff points out that intelligent people are perfectly willing to admit what they don’t know, and when something really interests them, they will invest lots of time and energy into learning about it.
This is another way that already smart people increase their knowledge base.
7) You read
There’s a reason why parents and teachers always encourage kids to read, even if the parents are not big readers themselves.
It’s because several studies demonstrate that mastering reading early closely predicts higher intelligence in later life.
And since reading is one of the best ways to acquire new knowledge and information, it’s a habit that intelligent people often maintain throughout their lives.
Do naturally smart people prefer reading more than others? Or does reading make them smarter in the first place?
That’s hard to say. But there’s no denying that there is a strong link between people who read and people who are smarter than average.
8) You are happy being alone
There are lots of reasons some people like being alone. Often, it’s because they are introverts who need time in solitude to recharge their batteries.
Interestingly, although there is no evidence that introverts as a group are smarter than extroverts, there does seem to be a relationship between introversion and high intelligence.
Introverts share many traits with highly gifted people, including:
- A need for quiet
- An interest in intellectual pursuits such as reading
- A focus on reflection on their own thoughts
- An ability to become absorbed in intellectual pursuits
If you like being alone, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re smarter than usual. But it may mean that you are an introvert, and often, introversion and high intelligence go hand-in-hand.
On the other hand, this isn’t always a good thing. As psychologist Theresa D. DiDonato writes, while intelligence is a highly desirable quality in a romantic partner, abnormally high intelligence can actually make it more difficult to attract a mate.
In other words, it’s a good thing intelligent people are often happy being alone, because they may be more likely to be.
9) You have a dark sense of humor
Not all the signs of intelligence are as obvious as being well-read or doing well in school.
For example, sometimes the jokes you tell or the things you find funny can be an indicator of high intelligence, too.
Check out this study, which found that people with higher intelligence were more likely to respond positively to dark humor involving taboo topics such as death, suicide, and pain.
If you’ve ever found yourself laughing at something that others around you thought was too dark a subject for joking, it might be because you are smarter than they are.
10) You suffer from mental illness
I mentioned at the start of this article that having high intelligence does not guarantee an easy ride through life. In fact, there are some problems that are more common among those who have higher-than-average intelligence.
Unfortunately, that’s true of mental illness.
The greater sensitivity that makes intelligent people perceptive, creative, and able to assimilate new information also makes them prone to a host of mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and ADHD.
Strangely enough, it also places them at greater risk of autoimmune diseases, asthma, and allergies.
Do you know how smart you are?
Even very smart people don’t always have a good idea of their own intelligence.
But if you display any of the signs above, it might be worth considering that you are smarter than the average person.