7 Secrets to mastering intrapersonal intelligence in 2024

a woman being aware of her emotional state is one way of having intrapersonal intelligence

How well do you know yourself? Are you in tune with your feelings and desires?

Your answers reflect your level of intrapersonal intelligence—a type of emotional intelligence that shapes your self-perception and inner dialogue.1

Knowing ourselves allows us to accept our strengths and weaknesses, inspiring personal growth and fueling determination during challenges.

Everyone possesses intrapersonal intelligence, but most could benefit from further development. Keep reading to deepen your understanding of this vital skill and learn how to cultivate it effectively.

Table of contents
What does intrapersonal intelligence mean?
What is the difference between interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence?
Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences
Why is intrapersonal intelligence important?
Why you need intrapersonal intelligence in the workplace (and in life)
How intrapersonal intelligence affects your career
What is an example of intrapersonal intelligence?
How to improve your intrapersonal intelligence

What does intrapersonal intelligence mean?

Intrapersonal intelligence is the ability to understand and recognize one's own emotions, thoughts, and motivations. It involves self-awareness, self-reflection, and the capacity to use this knowledge to guide behavior and decision-making. Individuals with high intrapersonal intelligence possess a strong sense of identity, purpose, and self-direction, enabling them to manage their inner experiences and navigate personal growth effectively.

What is the difference between interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence?

Interpersonal intelligence involves understanding and interacting effectively with others, while intrapersonal intelligence focuses on self-awareness and understanding one's thoughts (our internal dialogue), feelings, and motivations. Interpersonal intelligence is outward-facing, dealing with social relationships, whereas intrapersonal intelligence is inward-facing, concerning self-reflection and personal growth. Both are essential components of overall emotional intelligence.

Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences

Howard Gardner, a Harvard developmental psychologist, proposed his theory of eight forms of intelligence in 1983 (or intelligence theory).2

Intrapersonal intelligence, one of the eight intelligence types, is a relatively new concept in the modern scientific community. It's generally not explored or utilized in our education systems and business environments. For the most part, organizations and individuals still cling to outdated assessment systems like the Myers-Briggs.

After further research, in 2009, Gardner expanded his theory to include a ninth intelligence known as existential intelligence.3

Why is intrapersonal intelligence important?

Intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligence were two of Howard Gardner's types of intelligence. Both pertain to personal relationships - one with the self and one with other people. When used in tandem, they can lead to excellent self-awareness. These people are seen as wise and reflective, capable of effective communication, among other social and leadership attributes

Intrapersonal intelligence goes a step further than emotional intelligence. It's understanding what is happening in your mind and being aware of your emotions.4 You're able to think and communicate clearly. Because of this, you'll excel in solving problems and interacting with others.

Historical figures and well-known thought leaders like Steve Jobs, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Socrates are examples of intrapersonal thinkers.

For some people, intrapersonal intelligence comes more naturally

As with all talents, we have high levels of some and a lesser degree of others. Intrapersonal intelligence is no exception. Some people innately have well-developed qualities of introspection, self-analysis, and a well-defined vision of who they are and what they want. These skills are often identified in early childhood.

People naturally gifted with intrapersonal intelligence are proficient at self-analysis and figuring out their feelings, motivations, and goals. They are characteristically introspective and regularly evaluate themselves to find understanding. Often intuitive and introverted, they seek to learn independently through self-reflection.

Many of them keep a diary, journal, or personal blog because it helps them track their progress and learn more about themselves. They also tend to be very intuitive and can help other people understand themselves by predicting their reactions. Because they know themselves, they can also predict their responses, meaning that they can circumvent negative situations by opting for a different course of action.

Typical characteristics include:

  • Always looking for ways to improve themselves
  • Learning from mistakes and avoiding repeating them
  • Expressing themselves through creativity
  • Knowing what they want and how to get it
  • Applying what they learn to their own life
  • High levels of self-awareness
  • Wanting to understand the "self"
  • Needing time alone for reflection
  • More inclined to entrepreneurship
  • A degree of introversion
  • Awareness of their strengths
  • Working well on their own
  • Highly independent
  • Self-motivated
  • Very intuitive
  • Philosophical

Intrapersonal intelligence career choices

People who are innately high in intrapersonal intelligence often choose careers in:

  • Arts
  • Agriculture
  • Conservation
  • Counselling
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Literature
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology
  • Sciences
  • Theology

These are just some examples, but they focus on academics, creativity, and the humanities. If you've chosen a career outside of those listed above, intrapersonal intelligence still applies to you, and you can acquire it. Although it's referred to as a form of intelligence, it's more like a life skill. No matter what job you do, your business and personal life will improve radically if you develop your intrapersonal intelligence.

Why you need intrapersonal intelligence in the workplace (and in life)

Connecting with others, whether it's colleagues, friends, or family, is a part of creating a meaningful life.

People who have developed their intrapersonal intelligence are good with intrapersonal communication. They're aware of their thoughts and understand that what they think directly impacts their attitude toward life and how they feel about themselves.

With that comes the understanding of what you need to do to change your circumstances or achieve specific goals. In other words, you're in sync with yourself and capable of evolving as your life and circumstances change.

If your self-talk takes on a negative tone, you can change your thoughts to more supportive ones by being aware of it. So instead of telling yourself, 'Of course, I made another mistake; I never get it right,' you might say, 'I made a mistake, and I learned from it.'

When you know yourself, you don't buy into external influences. You can accept criticism for what it is: a valuable opportunity to improve or toxic comments that must be ignored. The criticism doesn't affect you personally. That's because, in self-understanding, you can better understand others. You can recognize when someone is offering helpful personal feedback and when they're malicious.

This type of intelligence can involve self-kindness. Therefore, we should look at others without judgment and respond without fear, anger, or defensiveness. All in all that makes us better colleagues, team members, leaders, partners, and friends.

How intrapersonal intelligence affects your career

Intrapersonal intelligence begins on a personal level before it impacts our career goals. Your relationship with yourself is a life-long process. You can recognize the same in others as you become more in tune with your wants, needs, likes, and dislikes.

You'll connect more easily with team members, which will make you a more understanding and compassionate leader. Your interpersonal communication will improve. Instead of feeling threatened by your work environment, which leads to defensiveness or autocratic leadership, you'll bring vital kindness into business decisions.

Knowing your own and your team's capabilities also allows for more realistic strategic thinking and calculated decision-making, which delivers quality results. People with well-developed intrapersonal intelligence are more inclined to see the big picture, something that's a vital asset for business success.

What is an example of intrapersonal intelligence?

Example 1: Stuck in the wrong career? Here's how it impacts your life.

You're pretty bright; took a careers test and went on to study in the recommended field. Now, here you are, dragging yourself to work every day, dreading the drudgery of your responsibilities while keeping a smile on your face. At night, you toss and turn, wondering how you'll achieve your career goals if you hate what you're doing. You're ashamed to think that you've descended into someone who suffers Monday morning blues. That wasn't your intention.

You won't toss and turn if you are high on intrapersonal intelligence. You'll take a realistic, introspective journey through how you've ended up feeling this way. This is a calm, solo, and frank excursion through the passages of your mind, identifying where the issues and problems lie. You'll come up with solutions and realistic goals regarding what you need to do to change your situation and achieve the goals you were so enthusiastic about. It might mean a complete change in career or discussing a departmental move with your manager.

Example 2: Want a healthier personal life? Here's how your choices impact you.

Everyone is following the latest trends. You want to fit in, so you follow. You buy a mountain bike, join a gym, and down endless raw fruit and veggie juice combos. But you hate it, and the mountain bike starts to gather dust, the gym subscription is a waste of money, and your juicer stands idle. You feel guilty and like a failure.

You don't follow the crowd (or the guru) when you know yourself. You know you're not a failure; you just don't like those things. You ask yourself more profound questions to figure out a healthy lifestyle that works for you, like eating whole foods, taking walks, and spending time meditating daily to manifest your desires. Because you want to achieve your goal, you're disciplined and make time to do what you must do every day.

How to improve your intrapersonal intelligence

Our seven secrets to mastering intrapersonal intelligence

Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences proposes that people are not born with all the intelligence they will ever have.5 This means we can all improve our cognitive skills and experience increased self-awareness at any time in our lives.

1. Cultivate self-awareness

The foundation of intrapersonal intelligence lies in self-awareness. Take time to reflect on your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Practice mindfulness with our mindfulness exercises, and pay attention to your inner world. By becoming more attuned to your internal thought processes, you'll gain a deeper understanding of yourself and your unique qualities.

✍️ Pro Tip: Unlock the power of self-awareness. Start a journal to record your experiences and insights. Learn how to start journaling with our beginner's guide.

2. Embrace self-reflection

Regularly engage in self-reflection to gain clarity and insight. Ask yourself probing questions about your values, goals, and motivations. Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses (which we prefer to call blind spots), and consider how they impact your life. By examining your experiences objectively, you can learn valuable lessons and make informed decisions for personal growth.

🔍 Pro tip: Answer our research-backed questions on what motivates you to start your self-reflection journey, discover what drives you, and become your best self.

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3. Develop emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a key aspect of intrapersonal intelligence. To develop your emotional intelligence, start by learning to recognize and effectively manage your emotions. Engage in self-regulation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or journaling to process your feelings and gain clarity. Cultivate self-empathy and empathy for others, seeking to understand the emotional factors that shape your behavior. By strengthening your emotional intelligence, you'll enhance your intrapersonal intelligence and improve your ability to navigate your inner world and interpersonal relationships.

🚀 Pro tip: Skyrocket your emotional intelligence (EQ) with our Increase EQ online coaching program. Master the art of 'reading people' and impactful communication.

4. Set goals and create a vision

Clarity of purpose is essential for mastering intrapersonal intelligence. Define your short-term and long-term goals, and create a compelling vision for your life. Break down your goals into actionable steps and develop a plan to achieve them. Regularly review and adjust your goals as you grow and evolve. Having a clear sense of direction will help you stay motivated and focused.

🌟 Pro tip: Discover the power of setting goals and creating a compelling vision with our ultimate guide to life planning.

5. Practice self-care

Nurturing your physical, mental, and emotional well-being is crucial for developing intrapersonal intelligence. Prioritize self-care activities that rejuvenate and energize you. Engage in regular exercise, maintain a balanced diet, and get enough sleep. Make time for hobbies and interests that bring you joy and fulfillment. You'll be better equipped to navigate life's challenges by taking care of yourself.

💖 Pro tip: Invest in yourself and your well-being! Start our high-impact nine-week Vital Well-Being online program and learn to increase your energy, vitality, and general well-being.

6. Cultivate a growth mindset

Adopt a growth mindset and embrace lifelong learning. View challenges as opportunities for growth and development. Embrace failure as a valuable learning experience and use it to refine your strategies. Continuously seek out new knowledge and skills that align with your goals and interests. By maintaining a curious and open mindset, you'll expand your self-awareness and personal growth.

🧘‍♀️ Pro tip: Master the art of stepping back to unlock your potential! Start our Reflection & Patience online coaching program, your pathway to a growth mindset.

7. Seek feedback and support

While intrapersonal intelligence is an inward journey, seeking external feedback and support can provide valuable insights. Engage in honest conversations with trusted friends, family members, or mentors. Ask for their perspectives on your strengths, weaknesses (or blind spots!), and areas for improvement. Be open to constructive criticism and use it to refine your self-understanding. Additionally, consider working with a therapist or coach who can provide guidance and support in your personal development journey.

🎯 Pro tip: Achieve your goals with the help of a trusted AI coach! Get real-time feedback and support to navigate tricky situations and build a life you love. Our personalized AI coaching is backed by more than 20 years of research and supports more than 1,000 goals.

By incorporating these seven secrets into your daily life, you'll enhance your intrapersonal intelligence and unlock your full potential. Remember, mastering intrapersonal intelligence is a lifelong and continuous process that requires patience, self-compassion, and a commitment to personal growth. Embrace the journey and celebrate your progress along the way. As you deepen your self-awareness and understanding, you'll gain the clarity, confidence, and resilience to navigate life's challenges and create a fulfilling and authentic existence.

Develop your intrapersonal intelligence

Master intrapersonal intelligence and unlock your true potential. Gain valuable insights into your motivations. Develop your intrapersonal skills with our free coaching, designed to help you lead a more fulfilling personal and professional life.

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  1. https://www.uthsc.edu/tlc/intelligence-theory.php
  2. https://www.simplypsychology.org/multiple-intelligences.html
  3. https://www.nordangliaeducation.com/pbis-prague/news/2020/12/09/the-nine-types-of-intelligence
  4. https://www.psychmechanics.com/why-intrapersonal-intelligence-matters/
  5. https://www.simplypsychology.org/multiple-intelligences.html#:~:text=Howard%20Gardner's%20theory%20of%20multiple%20intelligences%20proposes%20that%20people%20are,only%20focuses%20on%20cognitive%20abilities.

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