We've discovered that heredity is no longer synonymous with genetics. As a mere 4% of your DNA, genes are way overrated.

Epigenetics, one of the hottest trends in scientific research, is trying to figure out what the other 96% is doing. Epigenetics studies how your genetic expression is affected by factors other than changes in the DNA sequence—things like toxic exposure, diet and exercise.

One thing we've discovered is that DNA is conscious. Aware. On some level, thinking. Cells in your liver know where they are and what their job is: to filter waste from your blood. Cells in my fingers also know their job is to create the movement in muscles that help me type this. And every cell in your body knows what every other cell is doing.

We've also figured out that genes don't act independently. As parts of a larger whole, they work cooperatively in the development and functioning of their organism.

This fact holds true at the larger scale. Each member of our human community plays an integrated role in the health and growth of the whole species. And we're intimately connected to each other when it comes to learning new skills and information.

I'm not referring to monkey see, monkey do. We know how to do things we've never observed.

And this isn't a recent discovery. Long ago, researchers noted that we draw upon and contribute to the collective memory of our species. For years, scientists have been studying this phenomenon with both animals and people.

For example, when one lab rat learned a new trick (how to escape from a specific maze) at Harvard, rats in labs all over the world learned the same trick faster. The more rats that learned the trick, the faster and easier it became everywhere else. And some of their descendants performed the trick the first time, with no learning needed at all.

Researchers have also observed this phenomenon in humans. For instance, as more people learn how to ski and play computer games, others seem to learn them faster.

In the 1980s, we resisted, scoffed at, and struggled with the first home computers. Yet, children today seem to pop out of the womb eager to click the mouse and surf cyberspace.

The most surprising evidence of this use of collective memory is our performance on standardized IQ tests, which remain almost unchanged since their inception nearly a hundred years ago. Historically, our overall IQ has ticked up a few points per hundred years as part of our evolution. But our average IQ score has skyrocketed a whopping 30% between 1920 and 1990, from about 75 to 100. Why?

A small part of this increase can be accounted for by improved nutrition, enhanced teaching methods and general practice with test taking. But the key factor in our apparently recent surge in intelligence isn't that we're smarter, but that this particular test is becoming progressively easier because so many people have taken it before.

The implications of this stunning discovery are profound. You're not a distinct body, separately learning and living from the rest of humanity.

Humans thrive when working together in harmony, not in ruthless competition. You know, when one cell in your body “forgets” its role, it will start doing just one thing: rapid cell division. We call this proliferation of unneeded cells “cancer”. Unchecked, your own cells can kill you.

How does it feel to know that your learning and achievements aren't independent of our larger community? And that you're affected more than you know by the actions of others?

The point is: you have more power and more opportunities than you're aware of, to live your life with more meaning.

Author's Bio: 

Judy Widener is a Certified Life Coach and author of Power For A Lifetime: Tools You Customize to Build Your Personal Power Every Day Of Your Life. You can sign up for Discovering Your Values, a 5-day e-course at no cost at http://www.myinnerfrontiers.com. Her passion is assisting her clients to discover what is most important to them, then to create more balance and satisfaction in their lives. She offers a comprehensive program that teaches clients simple ways to build their personal power and overcome obstacles to achieving their dreams. Judy has coached more than 600 people over the past 13 years. Her website is http://www.myinnerfrontiers.com.