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5 Foolproof Ways to Get Smarter Stat

What does it take to be the smartest person in the room? Probably not what you're thinking!
by Juan Salazar | Aug 20 2020

From the time we start school, our abilities are tested and scored against a specific standard. Over the years, what’s supposed to be a system that helps us learn and shows us the possibilities of our potential, often ends up being one that makes us question how smart we are.

However, what we often seem to forget in adulthood is that being smart is about curiosity and a willingness to keep learning. The brain is an elegant organ with an incredible ability to change. With constant training we can seize its potential to grow and its capacity to restructure itself. Once we realize that and learn to constantly and consistently challenge ourselves, our ability to learn and grow our intelligence grows exponentially, too.

In Mindset, Carol Dweck outlines two common mindsets: those with a fixed mindset, and those with a growth mindset. With a fixed mindset, we believe that our abilities are set in stone, and that talent is king. The growth mindset takes a completely different approach — those with it see potential for development everywhere, and pursue their goals in spite of any difficulties. The growth mindset sees problems as opportunities, and it is as effective as it is optimistic. In short, it encapsulates the spirit of the lifelong learner.

Which one of the two mindsets do you have? Which one would you like to have? Here are our favorite tips and tricks to help you overcome a fixed mindset and learn to be smart.

1. Read More

Children who develop stronger early reading skills tend to develop higher intelligence later in life and this ability does not stop at childhood. Research published in Neurology suggests that reading is a good workout for your brain, effectively keeping your mind sharp longer and avoiding the decline in memory and brain function that comes with age. The more knowledge you acquire, the more likely you are to make connections which gives your brain a satisfying feeling of learning and growth.

Avid readers also benefit from a deeper understanding of the personal situations of those around them. Research published in Science found that reading literary fiction — narratives with vivid depictions of subjects’ inner feelings and thoughts — can be linked to increased understanding or simulation of the affective characteristics of the subjects.

Blinkist is a great way to get your daily dose of reading, wherever you might be. Do you feel like you don’t have time to read everything you’d like to read? With Blinkist, over 14 million users worldwide read or hear the key messages from bestselling nonfiction books in 15 minutes or fewer.

2. Talk to People You Admire

So much for “never meet your heroes.” Learning to be more intelligent is not confined to the classroom or the library. Aside from reading, you should try to meet and discuss your research and your ideas with people you respect.

Constant exchange with others will not only help you reinforce the knowledge you’ve acquired but will expose you to different viewpoints and experiences that can shape your view and broaden your understanding of a particular subject. As you meet people and discuss your ideas with them, your field of knowledge expands and enables you to make those important connections or introduce you to fresh ideas and perspectives.

3. Learn to Love Mistakes

In our learning journey, constant challenges help us grow and allow us to tackle difficult tasks or lessons with a confidence which would have seemed impossible before. Though inevitably, even as we learn to be smart, we will always make mistakes.

Mistakes are not your enemy. On the contrary, looking at mistakes as learning opportunities is key to a growth mindset and learning to be smarter. Making a mistake is a tremendous opportunity to learn information that disagrees with the way we learned to do things. When we make mistakes, we are confronted with a new perspective.

Students of Zen Buddhism are no strangers to this philosophy. The concept of Shoshin, which means ‘beginner’s mind’, prescribes freeing our minds of preconceptions, to be able to approach studying with openness and eagerness, even when doing so at an advanced level. A true beginner’s mind is empty and open, and willing to learn and consider all pieces of information.

4. Expand Your Definition of What Being “Smart” Means

Schools teach us that there’s one kind of intelligence, which is measured by academic success. Furthermore, they even give priority to certain academic fields over others. However, we know that to successfully navigate the intricacies of human life, only banking on “book smarts” simply doesn’t cut it.

A growth mindset is key in widening our definition of intelligence, and we can only learn by trying. In Finding Your Element, Ken Robinson presents the growth mindset as an understanding of skill as a development process. It means seeking constant, incremental development, as well as consistently trying new things, until you find what you’re good at, or what you want to be good at.

Emotional Intelligence is a great example of an undervalued expression of intelligence. This book by Daniel Goleman explains the impact of emotions on our everyday lives, and how they can be either helpful or harmful. It also highlights the power of emotions in creating positive outcomes and in avoiding adversity. Emotions are fundamental to decision making; they help us understand the world and are crucial in any interaction with others. With emotional intelligence we can create a balanced and fruitful dialogue between the emotional brain and the rational brain.

Traditionally, we think of talent as something we’re born with, and you’ve either got it, or you don’t. However, in The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle uses recent findings in neuroscience to reveal that, by employing a particular type of training called ‘deep practice’, we can physically rewire and develop our brains to create what he calls a ‘talent code’. This is why certain types of training and coaching seem to create almost endless talent. Coyle makes the argument that genius is born by practice, and not by genes.

5. Challenge Your Self-Talk

If you’ve grown up to believe you’re stupid, it can be hard to challenge. However, this is just a faulty belief, not a reality. By learning to be self-compassionate, and to challenge those inner voices, you’ll be on the road to believing in yourself and your intelligence in no time.

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield addresses the negative mindsets that stand in opposition to creativity, keeping us from doing what it takes to fulfill our dreams. Pressfield helps readers identify how fear and self-doubt negatively affect their creative pursuits, and gives key lessons on how to overcome them. The War of Art serves as an orientation to anyone who has been, or is still, struggling to realize their passion. It sends a very clear message — we have no control over the amount of talent we have, but talent alone cannot take you where self-motivation, self-inspiration, self-validation, and self-encouragement will. No matter how talented we are — if we don’t put in the work, then our dreams might just stay dreams.

By freeing our mind of preconceived notions can we come to experience the clarity of approaching situations without limitations. In You Are A Badass, Jen Sincero writes about overcoming the biggest stumbling blocks we face on our self-development journeys, and especially those that we might not be completely aware of. One of the strategies she uses is embracing the beginner’s mindset when tackling challenging tasks.

Your experience in the world is directly related to how you see and place yourself in it. If you don’t consider yourself intelligent, you’re likely to go through life feeling like you can’t change that. However, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. People with a fixed mindset obstruct their own development through their belief in innate talent and their fear of failure. Go for the growth mindset instead — work hard, train your brain, and be kind to your mind to ultimately realize your potential to the fullest.

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