Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


How to Harvest Your Hidden Intelligence

Three ways to enhance experiential intelligence.

Key points

  • Our popular notions of IQ and EQ are no longer sufficient to predict success in today's perpetually disrupted world.
  • Experiential intelligence offers a complement to IQ and EQ by inviting us to leverage the wisdom we accumulate through our experiences.
  • There are specific strategies we can employ to enhance our experiential intelligence and gain new wisdom to set us up for success in the future.

As autumn returns with its promise of pumpkin spice lattes, corn mazes, and fall festivals, my mind turns to the notion of harvesting. There are many things we harvest this season to sustain us through the year. Reflecting on our psychological resources, there is one garden in our lives we often neglect to fully harvest during the year: our experiences. Our myriad of past experiences, however, provides each of us with a cornucopia of wisdom to be leveraged into future successes if we take the time to harvest it.

Exploring the rich harvesting that is available to us through our experiences is exactly what Soren Kaplan does in his forthcoming book, Experiential Intelligence: Harness the Power of Experience for Personal and Business Breakthroughs. Kaplan defines experiential intelligence (XQ) as “the combination of mindsets, abilities, and know-how gained from your experiences.” More specifically, the three elements are:

  • Mindsets: Attitudes and beliefs about yourself, other people, and the world.
  • Abilities: Competencies that help you integrate your knowledge, skills, and experiences so you can respond to situations in the most effective way possible.
  • Know-How: Knowledge and skills.

For more than a century since German psychologist William Stern coined the term intelligence quotient (IQ), we have explored the notion of general intelligence as a gauge of future success. Nearly 50 years ago, we added emotional intelligence (EQ) as a complementary piece to the success puzzle of life. What we have yet to fully harvest and recognize as an important element for cultivating success is the latent intelligence that comes from our lived experiences. While the notion of multiple forms of intelligence endures within our zeitgeist, we have primarily focused on IQ and EQ as the core pillars for understanding our personal and professional achievements. Yet, perhaps we have been missing an important piece of the puzzle in our neglect to explore the wisdom gained through our array of past experiences. Experiential intelligence offers a complement to IQ and EQ by providing a framework for harvesting the accumulated wisdom and talents we have grown over time through our personal and professional experiences.

In many ways, XQ offers us a new lens through which to unpack our history in a way that sets us up for success in the future. Just as many have written about ways to increase our EQ, and even possibly expand our IQ (for example, see Relational Frame Theory that suggests IQ is a reflection of learned relational skills that can be enhanced over time), so too can we enhance our XQ. Specifically, we can:

  1. Get Curious About Successes. Our XQ can be deepened through unpacking our past wins. Too often we treat our successes as accidents, or not worthy of deeper inquiry, when in fact just the opposite is true. Much had to go right in order for our successes to have occurred, and reflecting upon how we were able to exercise our unique mindsets, abilities, and know-how to create those successes is key to developing our XQ. The next time something goes right at work or home, ask yourself, “What were the mindsets, abilities, and know-how that led me to be successful and how can I leverage them further in the future?” Success can beget success if we harvest our learnings from our experiences.
  2. Reframe Failures. If we begin to see all experiences as an opportunity for expanding our XQ, we begin to recognize that even when things didn't turn out as we hoped, there is rich learning to be gained from reflecting on our experience. Instead of kicking ourselves for not succeeding, we can instead ask ourselves, “What are the mindsets, abilities, and know-how I will need in the future to be successful?” This simple shift can increase our XQ and help turn breakdowns into breakthroughs.
  3. Cultivate New and Diverse Experiences. We can also bolster our XQ through the intentional pursuit of new and diverse experiences. Seeking out and creating diverse experiences offers an opportunity to add new chapters to our life’s book. The more diverse experiential text we have to draw upon, the more opportunities we have to deepen our XQ. Ask yourself, “What new experiences might help me expand my mindsets, abilities, and know-how?”

Farrah Gray once said, “Inside every seed is the potential for an incredible harvest.” Similarly, inside every experience is the potential for an incredible harvest of learning to expand our mindsets, abilities, and know-how. XQ invites us to become perpetual harvesters of our past to create better futures.


Kaplan, S. (2023). Experiential Intelligence: Harness the Power of Experience for Personal and Business Breakthroughs. Matt Holt Books, BenBella Publishers.

More from Lindsey Godwin Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today