Today, I read an article in this month’s issue of Psychology Today about cynicism and intelligence.
Across cultures, ages, and genders, people tend to believe that the more cynical or suspicious a person is, the more intelligent they are.
It’s a theme repeated throughout popular culture – the highly intelligent are often portrayed as highly cynical. (Jack Nicholson's character in As Good As it Gets, Robert Downy Jr as Tony Stark, Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes.)
But it's pure fiction.
In fact, study after study has proven that cynicism is linked to lower scores on intelligence tests, lower levels of education, and lower income.
While sufficient data explaining why does not yet exist, every hypothesis mentioned in the article predicted that a person’s level of intelligence is the catalyst creating a cynical attitude or not… i.e. smart people have it easier, so they become less cynical, or less intelligent people get taken advantage of, so they become more cynical.
It seems to me that the opposite is more likely the case, that it is actually the cynicism itself that impacts success in test taking, education, and income.
Perhaps mindset plays a key role here.
Cynicism, I think, is an indication of a fixed vs growth mindset. An “it is what it is” rather than a “what can I make of this” mentality.
Research has proven that the more fixed your mindset, the less likely you are to explore, or even notice, an opportunity outside of your own predictions.
And less opportunity equals, well… less opportunity.
Finding Opportunity in a Growth Mindset
Get MINDFUL. In order to change something, you need to be tuned in to it. In order to tune in to something, you need to be present with it. Take mini-breaks throughout the day to pause for a few deep breaths and bring yourself into the present moment.
NOTICE where your mindset tends to be fixed. Fixed thinking comes through loud and clear when you’re paying attention to it. When you notice always/never thoughts creeping in, that is a definite sign that a shift needs to happen. Here are a few examples of fixed thinking:
● I’m not smart enough
● He always does that
● She’ll never change
● This will never work
● People are lazy, so of course it failed
SHIFT to a growth mindset by exploring options beyond the always/never fixed thinking:
● I’m not smart enough BECOMES I’m always learning.
● He always does that BECOMES What are his strengths that we can play on here?
● She’ll never change BECOMES What’s getting in her way?
● This will never work BECOMES What are all the possibilities?
● People are lazy, so of course it failed BECOMES Let’s brainstorm new strategies.
Be GENTLE with yourself and others. There is no right or wrong, only what does and does not serve us. The more often we operate with the mindset of service, the more efficient, productive, successful, and happy we become.