Although it’s helpful to teach and learn about our eight intelligences in isolation, in practice they don’t work alone. For instance, because word smart involves listening, speaking, reading, and/or writing, it’s very rare that we’re not using it. Those of you who are very picture smart probably always have pictures in your mind. They just naturally appear to help you.

Our smarts aren’t always automatically engaged. If we choose to use them anyway, even when we don’t need to, we’ll have richer experiences. (Students will have deeper understanding and a longer memory for what they’ve studied.) For instance, I just spent some time looking out at the ocean and an old lighthouse at York Beach, Maine, using all eight intelligences:

Word – I thought of descriptive adjectives to describe the wave action, such as churning, spraying, dramatic, and sudden, and I recited part of Psalm 46, one of my favorites:

“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging. …

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
He lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress….” (1-3, 6-7)

Logic – I wondered what the force of the waves against the rocks was and how it would be measured. I wondered how bright the lighthouse’s light was to get through the regular fog to alert ship captains at sea.

Picture – I found myself comparing the moving clouds, celebrating the brief appearance of the sun as it changed the appearance of the entire scene, and staring at the churning waves closest to the rocks. The brightness of these waves caused me to describe them in my mind as “bright white” and “whiter white.”

Music – I compared the waves to music. They appeared slow and quiet out at sea and became much louder as they approached the rocky shore. It was like timpani playing steadily behind the rest of the musicians until the dramatic end of the piece when the timpani become the focal point and the other instruments appear to support the timpanist. I thought of my colleagues in the percussion section of the symphony band or orchestra who would use mallets to awaken the cymbals until the end when they would dramatically clang them together.

Body – I marveled at the skill it would take to control one’s body well enough to surf well. (I enjoyed watching the men and women enjoying this pastime.) I also enjoyed watching families trying to get into perfect positions on the rocks for pictures that would capture the adventure well.

Nature – I noticed the number of lobster traps marked by buoys and wondered how long the fisherman leave them before coming back to check, how many lobsters fit in each one, what animals they’re related to, and what else was swimming beneath the surface. I wondered how the surface of the rocks have changed over the years due to the force of the waves. (Notice how I used my logic smart, questioning, strengths to come alongside my weaker intelligence.)

People – I thought of people I wish were with me to experience the sights with and what fun conversations and experiences we would have had. As I took pictures, I mentally noted  who I thought might especially appreciate each one.

Self – I pictured people with self-smart strengths really enjoying the job of manning lighthouses before they became automated like this one at York Beach. I enjoyed my own self-smart thoughts, especially as I realized I’ve probably always enjoyed the ocean partly because of the music it reminds me of.

When you find yourself thinking about something today, challenge yourself to think with additional smarts and see what new insights delight you.