This is part one of our BizLibrary Values series, in which we explore the benefits of continuous learning. Check out the rest of the series here:
- Part 2: Freedom To Fail
- Part 3: Passion To Be The Best
- Part 4: Enjoying the Journey
- Part 5: Building Successful Partnerships That Last
- Part 6: Respect for Others
You might be under the impression that a person’s intelligence is predetermined based on genetics or other factors… In other words, you are either smart or you are not. But research tells us that’s not the case at all. In fact, the data shows how we approach situations and how we feed our brains can significantly improve our mental horsepower.
There are many things you can do every day to learn and improve. The tips shared here aren’t complex or difficult to integrate into your daily routine. In fact, getting smarter doesn’t require a huge commitment of time and energy. You just need to be willing to learn.
Read every day
One of the best and easiest things you can do to be smarter every day is to make reading a habit.
OK, this is not exactly a shocker, and opinions vary on what’s the best brain-boosting reading material, with suggestions ranging from developing a daily newspaper habit to picking up a variety of fiction and nonfiction, but everyone seems to agree that quantity is important.
Reading presents tons of opportunities for stretching our brain capacity. It provides practical assistance by introducing new vocabulary, and is an alternative way to make our brains travel to a new place.
As our imagination works to create tangible people, places, and experiences from the words on the page, our brain is rewiring itself to understand all the new information.
Journal daily lessons
Another important strategy for being smarter every day is to write down what you learn on a daily basis.
It doesn’t have to be pretty or long, but taking a few minutes each day to reflect in writing about what you learned is sure to boost your brainpower.
A common suggestion is to write 300 to 400 words a day on things that you learned. The act of writing down lessons learned will also help commit the new knowledge to memory.
Be smarter about your time spent online
My general rule is to avoid technology in order to force the brain to do the work we’ve all come to rely on our smartphones and other devices to do. But that’s not entirely realistic in today’s technologically driven world.
However, you can be smarter about your online time. For example, every online break doesn’t have to be about checking social networks and viewing your daily ration of cute animal pics.
Replace a few minutes of skateboarding dogs with something more mentally nourishing.
For everything you learn – big or small – stick with it for at least as long as it takes you to be able to explain it to a friend or colleague. It’s fairly easy to learn new information. The ultimate test, however, is being able to retain that information and teach it to others.
As Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Make sure you’ve really learned what you think you have learned and make that new information truly stick in your memory by teaching it to others.
Play smart games
Puzzles and board games like scrabble, bridge, chess, and Connect 4 aren’t just fun. They are also a great way to work out your brain.
One of my favorite daily habits is playing Sudoku with my morning coffee. I’ve worked my way up to the Expert level and taking 10-20 minutes every morning gets my brain started and gives me a sense of readiness to take on the challenges of my workday.
Hang out with smart people
One of the best and fastest ways to learn is to spend time with people who challenge you intellectually.
It has been said that your IQ is the average of the five closest people you hang out with, so make sure your close circle includes some really bright peeps.
I personally try to spend as much time as I can with our technical team, who are very bright and think much differently than I do. I can’t say I understand all of their conversations but by listening to them I know I am getting smarter on a daily basis.
Take care of yourself
The body feeds the brain, and keeping oneself in top physical condition is crucial to fueling our brains.
Studies constantly show that people who exercise regularly have higher I.Q. scores. In addition to maintaining a strong body, people who exercise regularly actually stimulate brain cell growth.
A process called neurogenesis occurs during rigorous exercise, which increases the production of neurotransmitters. With side effects like increased dopamine, active people enjoy less stress, better concentration, and more energy.
Controlling and calming your brain can also be a powerful tool. Common themes here are to “sit in silence daily” and spend some time just thinking. I am honestly not good at this sitting still suggestion… Instead, I find that quiet time while I exercise or travel. The key here isn’t how you calm your brain, but taking the time to do so on a regular basis.
Another tip to boost brainpower is to improve your diet. Research points to a strong connection between an unhealthy diet and low I.Q. scores. To begin reversing unhealthy tendencies, try cutting out excess fat, sugar, and fast foods, and start adding more vegetables, fruit, and lean meats.
Do random new things
To create new neural pathways and strengthen the brain, it’s critical for us to continually incorporate new experiences and information into our lives.
Steve Jobs’ youthful interest in calligraphy later became baked into the foundation of Apple and its first Macs. The takeaway: You never know what will be useful ahead of time. You just need to try new things and wait to see how they connect with the rest of your experiences later on.
A famous Jobs quote says,
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
In order to connect the dots, you need to be willing to try new things, even if they don’t seem immediately useful or productive.
Whether this means visiting in a new coffee shop, taking a different route to work, taking an art class, or traveling to a different country, displacement is good for the brain.
This might be difficult to recognize in the moment since it usually feels rather awkward – at least initially. At a new coffee shop, for example, you can’t order the “usual.” You have to study a new menu, pick something you have never tried before, and make a decision.
While this seems simple, most of us enjoy the comfort of our habits. We like to know what to expect at all times.
When you travel to a new country, the language is strange, the customs are unfamiliar, and the culture presents a strange new rhythm of life. Adjusting to these new elements forces the brain to tackle new, unexpected challenges. Learning how to communicate through a language barrier forces the brain to develop creative ways to express needs and emotions.
Listening to new music, trying new foods, and navigating foreign streets all work to challenge your brain’s capacity to adapt to new situations.
Practice at work
Digesting new information is a good daily habit. And our workplaces provide great opportunities for new and interesting experiences every single day.
Regardless of the type of job you might hold, all of us are at one time or another presented with opportunities to think outside the box, solve a problem in a creative way, and contribute fresh ideas to a team.
Our workplaces also allow us to interact with others, helping us to expand beyond our own limited thinking, gain new ideas, and see things from a different perspective.
People are challenging, and no two people share the same life experiences. Everyone interprets information uniquely, stores memories differently, and digests daily life with their own intellectual flare. This makes work a great place to get smarter every day.
Although we are all inclined to think our approach is best, gaining perspective from others helps our brain consider new solutions and new techniques for many issues.
Here at BizLibrary, one of our core values is to be smarter every day – to put the effort to learn something new each and every day!
I hope you find these tips helpful in your personal and professional life. I truly believe that with enough motivation and determination, anyone can expand their mental capabilities. Integrating new habits into your regular routine can sharpen your brain and leave you inspired to take on new challenges – helping you to be smarter every day.