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4 Intelligence Level Red Flags That Actually Prove You’re Smarter Than You Think, Backed by Science

Walk into any room and it’s easy — especially if you’re me — to find plenty of people who seem smarter. Wiser. Savvier. Better able to sift through reams of data and make great decisions.

But that might not actually be the case.

Just as the most valuable employees are often “invisible employees,” what might seem like red flags that indicate a lack of intelligence could actually be signs you’re a lot smarter than you think.

1. You tend to procrastinate.

While we all put things off, few people assume that putting off something important is a sign of intelligence.

Even though that’s often the case. Adam Grant sees procrastination as a key to innovation. According to Grant, “The time Steve Jobs was putting things off and noodling on possibilities was time well spent in letting more divergent ideas come to the table, as opposed to diving right in with the most conventional, the most obvious, the most familiar.”

Science agrees. A 2016 study published in Journal of Research in Personality found that people with high IQs tend to procrastinate more, if only because high intelligence affords the luxury of waiting to begin a task.

So if you put something off just because you don’t feel like working on it, that’s one thing.

But if you put something off because you don’t think you’ve found the best solution, the best path, or the best option, waiting to get started could be the smartest approach to take.

2. You tend to change your mind. A lot.

Love him or hate him (there’s rarely a middle ground where the Space Cowboy is concerned), there’s no denying the fact that Jeff Bezos is right. A lot.

Yet according to Bezos, the number one indicator of high intelligence is a willingness to change your mind. 

According to Bezos, “The smartest people are constantly revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they’d already solved. They’re open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions, and challenges to their own way of thinking.”

Science agrees. Not only do a series of experiments recently published by Harvard Business Review show that changing your mind can make you appear smarter, changing your mind can actually be smarter: Entrepreneurs who adapted and revised and changed their positions during a pitch competition were six times more likely to win that competition. 

The next time you’re questioning your intelligence, think about how often you’ve changed your mind in recent days. If the answer is “a lot,” you’re probably smarter than you think. 

Because as Thinking, Fast and Slow author Daniel Kahneman says, “No one enjoys being wrong, but I do enjoy having been wrong, because it means I am now less wrong than I was before.”

3. You like to spend time alone.

Since birds with similar feathers tend to block together, it only makes sense that smart people would enjoy spending a lot of time with other smart people. 

Oddly enough, though, that’s often not the case. Research published in 2016 in British Journal of Personality found that the more highly intelligent people socialize, the less happy they tend to be.

Why? The researchers speculate one reason could be that the smarter you are, the more focused you might be on achieving longer-term goals. If that’s the case, spending time with friends — no matter how smart they might be — more distracting than helpful.

So if you like to spend time alone to focus on a project, to improve a skill, to refine your business plan… or simply grind away at all the steps you need to take to reach your goals, don’t assume that makes you a loner. Or in some way lacking in intelligence.

Instead, you might just be smarter than the rest of us.

4. You tend to be a night owl.

Early birds get all the press. Apple CEO Tim Cook starts his morning routine — not just his morning, his morning routine — at 3:45. Former Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi wakes up at 4 a.m., calling sleep “a gift from God that she was never given.” General Motors CEO Mary Barra — author of the world’s best (and shortest) employee dress code — gets to the office by 6 a.m. 

Yet research published in Personality and Individual Differences determined that that so-called night owls — people who feel more alert and productive well into the the late hours  — are more likely to have higher intelligence.

But wait, there’s more: Research published in British Medical Journal found that night owls also tend to have better jobs and earn larger incomes than early risers.

Even so, that doesn’t mean staying up later and waking up later will automatically make you smarter. (Just like getting up earlier won’t automatically make you more productive.)

Making a conscious decision — not a reflexive or copycat choice but a thoughtful, reasoned, and logical decision — about the time to get up that will help you accomplish the most, and that will make you most successful?

That’s a clear sign of intelligence.

And of your ability to make the right decision for you.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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