Stay On Top With These 6 Mental Faculties

By Julian Burke in Creativity on February 2nd, 2010 / One Comment

No one will argue the fact that having full mental faculties is one hallmark of a successful person. Working on heightening and improving mental faculties greatly improves the chances of success in life, career, or any other endeavor one may pursue. When working on improving the mental faculties, the first obstacle is in defining what, exactly, these mental faculties are and how they work.

As with any complex structure (the mind being about as complex as it gets), it is best tackled by breaking it down into smaller components. Human mental faculty can be categorized into six major components: imagination, intuition, perception, memory, will, and reason. Defining and exploring these six components will lead to understanding how they improve our chances of achieving success.

Of the six components of mental faculty, imagination is the most complicated but also of vital importance. Imagination is defined as the human ability to construct images, sensations, or concepts at a time when not being perceived by physical senses – sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch. It is literally creating a feeling or thought without a stimulus, using only the mind itself. Elements of past experience with the senses or of preexisting concepts are used and arranged to create the imaginative construct.

Imagination has thought to have been a necessary component in the evolution and survival of the human species as it helps people to solve complex problems simply by thinking about them and envisioning the possible outcomes of specific actions. It is for this same reason that imagination is important for success. Unique and efficient methods for achieving a goal initially arise from imagination and later are verified through experimentation.

Intuition is the most highly debated of the six components of mental faculty. Its very existence is questioned by scientists and philosophers alike. The strict definition of intuition is a priori knowledge or a belief generated in immediacy. Most people understand intuition to be a “feeling” about a person, place, thing, or situation that arises to the front of the mind in a moment without consciously thinking about it. It is seen as a judgment that arises out of thin air or a mystical, extra-sensory perception.

Scientists believe intuition is actually an internal process that often relies on past experience but it occurs subconsciously and so quickly that it seems to appear out of “thin air.” Colloquially, intuition is often referred to as a “gut” feeling because it doesn’t seem to come from the mind. These feelings can often be useful because they are instantaneous and can be implemented in situation where time is of utmost importance. Successful people often credit their intuition for helping them along the way.


Perception is easily defined but has far-reaching implications. As the process by which people gain an understanding of the information we attain through the physical senses, perception affects the entire worldview and how we react socially to others. Differences in societies from around the world come about largely through having different perceptions or the unspoken agreement of which perceptions are correct or “good.” As it deals with success, perception has two uses.

The first is from the basic definition of understanding the stimuli brought to our senses. On this level, perception means to be aware. Always be aware of what you are feeling, tasting, seeing, hearing, and smelling. Only by being completely aware of our surroundings and interactions can we be informed enough to make the best possible decisions. Always be aware of each step, each word someone says, and each nuance of body language.

The second use of perception is in understanding that another may perceive something differently than you. By understanding this, we can learn how to deal with people without the misunderstandings that come from having differing perceptions.

Memory is a two part process. Most people think of memory as retaining information. However, stored information is not of much use without the additional ability of being able to recall that information. So memory both files it away and pulls it back out when required by the situation. There are three different types of memory in humans. Sensory memory allows us to recall perceptions. We see something and then we can form the image again in our imagination when it is taken away.

Sensory memory is an important part of imagination. Without this memory, imagination would be so abstract as to be impractical. Short-term memory allows us to remember information without practice for a period of a few seconds to one minute. Traditionally, it is held that short-term memory can hold from 5 to 9 items, while others report that it is much lower at 4 or 5 items maximum.

Not much can be done to improve short-term memory. What is of use is being able to move short-term memory to long-term memory. Exercises have been developed to help improve memory and thus information that is always available. Success largely comes about from the availability of information and nothing is better than information available instantly from memory.

Will is a shortened form of willpower, defined by Friedrich Nietzsche as “any internally motivated action.” Nietzsche further expressed will as a creative spark. Will is what makes us do anything. Wanting something is never enough to achieve or obtain it. Action is almost always necessary, and for action to take place, will is required to commit the action.

People with high willpower do not give up easily and succumb to failure. This is a major component of the successful person. It is a rare occasion when someone achieves success on the first try. Success is usually the result of several failures. Many people fail simply because they stop trying and the determining factor comes to having the ability to get back up after being knocked down. Those with low will are also more suggestible by others. It takes will to retain conviction and to not be turned away simply because someone suggests that your success is not possible.

Reason is the important mental faculty used to draw conclusions from ideas, situations, or premises. Reason is largely alike with rationality or rationalization. Reason is often confused with logic; however, logic is a means of reasoning and not reason itself. Reason can be illogical and based on a set of false assumptions or untested results. It is generally accepted today that the rules of logic are the best-suited means to sound reason. Logic dictates that reason follow a set of empirical rules based on previous experience and our knowledge of scientific truths.

Reason itself is a means to seek truth and comes about through either deduction or induction. Imagination is largely affected by reason and vice versa. Reason is also often in opposition to emotions. Following emotional responses invariably leads away from success unless the specific success trying to be attained is directly connected to compassion. Emotion does play a part in the lives of the successful but very few will say that decisions leading to the success were made based on emotion.

By learning about and working on these six components of mental faculty, the odds of success greatly increase. Imagination, intuition, perception, memory, will, and reason all work off each other strengthening them will ultimately strengthen mental faculty as a whole, which is a hallmark of successful people the world over.

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One Response to “Stay On Top With These 6 Mental Faculties”

  1. Kent Says:

    Great post Julian. I like how you open with the importance of imagination. I think creativity is essential to the rebound of the US economy and I am glad that you mention it. Your thoughts remind me of my last post: The Currency: Imagination: Why artists will rule the future ( Here’s the way I see it: If we must make an assumption about life, let’s assume that what has been done and what is being done are not the only way things can be done. In truth, it is only imagination that can remove the limits of conventional thought. Keep up the good work.

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