Being smart isn’t only reflected in the things you do.
It’s just as much about what you don’t do — those trappings and mistakes that we can so easily fall into.
This article will look at 10 things intelligent people always avoid doing.
1) They don’t do whatever they are told without question
Oh, the irony.
This article is titled things intelligent people never do, and so you shouldn’t either.
But actually one of the things intelligent people don’t do is whatever they are told.
They don’t take things at face value.
That means rather than blindly follow instructions— they question.
They make up their own minds and decide what they think is best.
They trust their judgment. They are free thinkers who use their intellect to figure out their opinions, beliefs, and ideas.
You’re unlikely to find intelligent people with mob mentality who simply follow the crowd.
It’s not that they have a rebellious nature or problem with authority.
It’s just that sometimes doing what they are told doesn’t seem the smart (or the right) thing to do.
They have the intellect to recognize when something isn’t a good idea. And they aren’t afraid to go their own way.
2) They don’t let their emotions completely rule their head
Don’t get me wrong, emotions are powerful.
They give life a real richness. They are also signals that can offer us guidance.
But they are not facts.
Our emotions are incredibly changeable.
They are like a weather front, here today and gone tomorrow.
Despite being advised to “follow our hearts” the reality is that emotions can be incredibly fickle.
Intelligent people know how to feel their emotions but recognize them for what they are. Rather than get swept away, they aim to question what they feel.
They recognize when they need to use their head. This allows them to think rationally and stay grounded in emotionally challenging situations.
Emotionally intelligent people are aware of, can control, and express their feelings.
Being able to understand feelings helps them navigate life and relationships far better.
3) They don’t feel threatened by different opinions
In fact, they enjoy diverse ideas and thoughts.
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I think most of us have probably had a discussion that’s got pretty heated.
You think one thing, and someone else has a totally different opinion.
Sure, it can be frustrating.
We might not understand where someone else is coming from. We might truly believe they have got it wrong.
It’s a fact of life that we’re bound to feel and think differently from one another. But intelligent people will never take it personally.
I think of times in my life when I’ve lost my cool discussing an issue or topic with someone who thinks differently.
What I noticed is this:
I’ve lost my cool because I’ve somehow gotten personally offended.
I’ve felt threatened. Almost like someone disagreeing with me is an attack on me.
I identified too closely with my own thoughts and ideas, and so felt it was a personal affront when someone else disagreed.
And I think that is pretty common.
But intelligent people are able to step back.
They can put space in between their own beliefs and ideas rather than over-identify with them.
In short, they don’t get so wrapped up in their own opinions, so they can appreciate other people’s.
4) They never stop learning and growing
Intelligent people never fall into the trap of thinking they know it all.
That’s why learning is a lifelong pursuit for them.
There never comes a time when they give up their quest for knowledge.
They try to stay curious and open to life. This helps them grow.
Their intelligence wasn’t something that came fully formed at birth. It is a living, evolving, and developing thing.
And like any living thing, it needs feeding.
Intelligent people take responsibility for their own learning. They recognize that a growth mindset is crucial.
Rather than believing who they are now is all they will ever be, they realize who they will become is down to them.
If there is something they want to do, see, understand, or explore they believe they can teach themselves.
5) They aren’t quick to judge
I don’t like to think of myself as judgmental. But the truth is I often catch myself in judgment several times a day.
It usually happens without me even noticing. And it can be impossible to control. Because judgment can happen as instantly as a quick fleeting thought.
You see someone in the street dressed differently from you and catch yourself wondering what on earth they are wearing.
You listen to your friend talk about a guy she likes and wonder what the heck she sees in him.
I think to a certain extent, part of perceiving anything is going to involve some amount of judgment.
But intelligent people strive to leave their judgment at the door. They aim to keep an open mind.
I mentioned earlier that intelligent people don’t over-identify with their opinions. Well, judgment is just another opinion that we quickly form about others.
It’s not always possible to avoid it. But we can notice it.
Instead of being quick to assume our judgments are correct, we can question ourselves.
We can recognize that in different circumstances, we might just as easily be the person we are judging.
Intelligent people try to metaphorically walk in others’ shoes before judging them.
6) They don’t live their life for others
Intelligent people know it’s not selfish to make their own happiness a priority. That you can only really live life for yourself.
They recognize it’s a sign of self-worth and self-respect.
Of course, that doesn’t mean they don’t care about how other people feel. It just means that they won’t be controlled by it.
For many of us, we find ourselves following an expected path. It’s one laid out by family, by peers, or even by society as a whole.
We feel as though we need to live up to the expectations of others.
It can see us chasing dreams that were never our own, pursuing careers that we find unfulfilling, and settling down into a lifestyle we never really wanted.
And it’s more common than we perhaps think.
Palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware recorded the dying regrets of her patients. She found the most common one was this:
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
Intelligent people don’t wait until they reach their deathbed to realize that life needs to be lived on their own terms.
That means, being able to let go of desperately seeking approval.
7) They don’t chase approval
Intelligent people realize that real validation comes from within. So you won’t find them chasing external validation.
We all want to be liked. It’s certainly not that intelligent people don’t care what anyone else thinks of them.
But they don’t pin their happiness on things that lie outside of them.
They know that desperately seeking external validation is fool’s gold.
If you pin all of your self-esteem on what you have, what you achieve, or what other people say about you — you’ll always be at the mercy of life.
You need everything to always go your way in order to feel good about yourself.
And sadly, I’m sure we can all agree, life tends not to go our way all the time.
That’s why the most intelligent people don’t care about status. They don’t care what you think about the car they drive or the job you do.
They aren’t looking for the approval of anyone but themselves.
8) They don’t look to blame other people
When you seek to blame others, you give your power away.
Look at it this way:
If it’s someone else’s fault, then it’s their responsibility. If it’s their responsibility, then you cannot change things. Instead, you are at the mercy of someone else.
Instead, when we take self-responsibility we empower ourselves. We can look for solutions.
We can roll up our sleeves and get down to the work that needs to be done rather than pointing fingers.
You’ll never find an intelligent person shifting blame. They are able to take a long hard look at their own role in things.
They recognize that every misunderstanding and mistake can only be put right when each person steps up and takes accountability for themselves.
Rather than fall into victimhood, they accept when they’ve got it wrong.
Of course, being able to take responsibility is helped by the next thing on our list…
9) They don’t dwell on mistakes
There’s not a person on this planet who hasn’t messed up.
There will be times when we could kick ourselves for something we said or did— or something we failed to say or do.
But intelligent people know that dwelling on past errors is a recipe for disaster.
Not only does it make you feel pretty miserable, but it also keeps you stuck.
Rather than learn from what happened you can become paralyzed by fear.
When you dwell on your mistakes, you are reluctant to try again.
The reality is that success requires resilience, and being prepared to fail — sometimes over and over again.
Intelligent people realize that failure and slip-ups are part of the journey of life.
10) They don’t let their ego get the better of them
Sometimes I think our egos get a bad rap.
Let me explain:
We often vilify our ego, but it’s not entirely a bad thing.
The ego is there to protect us from the world. It’s the armor we wear.
Rather than something terrible, I like to think our egos are simply misguided.
The ego can be quick to react. It gets defensive.
It seeks to inflate our sense of self-worth in all the wrong ways — like bragging, self-righteousness, or manipulation.
We may not be able to get rid of our egos entirely, but intelligent people don’t let their ego run the show.
They see through the ego and realize —despite all its smoke and mirrors— it is more like a scared child.
This helps them keep their ego in check.