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5 Simple Ways to Get Smarter in Life and Business

5 Simple Ways to Get Smarter in Life and Business

Although intelligence means something different to everyone, psychologists and scientists have tried to pin it down to just our IQ, as if a number can be representative of our entire mind. They used to believe that intelligence is entirely inherited. This means you’re either born with or you aren’t, and it can’t be changed or improved upon.

Today, we understand that intelligence is a much more abstract concept. It is not set in stone. It can be influenced by our environment, our mindsets, and our commitment to constantly improve ourselves.

There are two key factors over which we have control if we want to get smarter.

1. The environment we choose.

This is the classic Nature vs Nurture debate.

Nature: our genetic makeup.

Nurture: the environmental factors which influence our development.

Turns out it is not so much Nature vs. Nurture as it is Nature and Nurture, more specifically how they interact. Intelligence is only partially inherited. The full potential of our intelligence is determined by the environment we set it in. This means the people we surround ourselves with, the new challenges we give ourselves, and the shows we choose to watch, are just a few examples of factors that influence our intelligence. Nature and nurture interact together to create intelligence. Even though we can’t (yet) change our genes, we are in control of many factors in your own environment.

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2. The mindset we choose.

What about when things happen in our environment, which we have no control over? It comes down to our mindset.

Current research indicates that the only limit to one’s intelligence is what the individual believes is possible and how their behaviors either foster or limit their intelligence.

What does this mean? 

If you have always been told you are unintelligent by your teachers or your family members you are likely to have set a mental limit for yourself and what you can achieve, thus preventing you from reaching your full potential.

Michael Strasner, personal and professional coach for over thirty years, says our beliefs come from our past experiences and the interpretations we make from those events.

When we make the effort to identify the negative beliefs we have about ourselves and remove them from our thoughts then we are truly free to become anything we want, including more intelligent.

Choose the growth mindset.

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The growth mindset, a concept founded by psychologist Carol Dweck, perfectly describes the qualities which are essential to developing our intelligence.

dweck_mindset

    The qualities are:

    • Embracing challenges
    • Persisting in the face of setbacks
    • Viewing effort as the path to mastery
    • Learning from criticism
    • Finding lessons and inspiration in the success of others

    Ironically, we sometimes need to make mistakes and immerse ourselves in situations where we are in a state of disequilibrium in order to improve our intelligence. Although this may initially feel uncomfortable, it ultimately brings us much further in life than the person who’s main goal it is to appear smart in the eyes of others.

    4 Simple Ways to Get Smarter

    1. Challenge Yourself

    Lev Vygotsky developed the theory of the Zone of Proximal Development during the last ten years of his life. He believed the optimal tasks for developing our cognitive abilities are ones which are too difficult for us to master on our own, but we are able to complete with some assistance from more capable peers.

    As soon as a task becomes effortless for us to complete on our own, it is a sign that we are not challenging ourselves enough and are not encouraging any potential growth in that specific area.

    Are there any areas in your own life where the tasks have stopped requiring your conscious effort? Unless you don’t wish to improve, don’t get too comfortable.

    Intelligence is like a muscle. It can’t become stronger if it is not challenged by heavier weights and exercises.

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    2. Read Smarter

    Reading just about anything will improve your awareness and open your mind to new thoughts and ideas.

    According to an article by Glen Stansberry, “Those that read have higher GPA’s, higher intelligence, and general knowledge than those that don’t.”

    While the concept of reading books to get smarter is not exactly novel (pardon the pun), few of us actually do it.

    The reason is: we’re not reading smart. We can read even more books by increasing our reading speed, using technology like Spritz, and even dropping the books we don’t love.

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      If you haven’t read our article on how to read over 60+ books a year, I highly recommend checking it out.

      3. Hangout With People Who Are Smarter Than You

      Perhaps we aren’t exactly, as Jim Rohn said, “the average of the five people you spend the most time with” but he was definitely heading in the right direction.

      No matter how strong we are, those closest to us can (and will) have an impact on our behaviors, thoughts, and feelings.

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      It may feel more comfortable to have friends who aren’t overachievers, because it takes the pressure off of us, but ultimately one of the best ways to become more intelligent and grow as a person is to surround ourselves with intelligent and ambitious people.

      The same goes for when we surround ourselves with people who genuinely believe we are intelligent and capable. They will subconsciously show more respect and enthusiasm towards our abilities and ourselves.

      We register these slight differences in behavior and mirror their high expectations with our excellent results.

      4. Become an Idea Machine

      In James Altucher’s new book, The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth, he shares a daily habit of his with fellow readers. Everyday, no matter what, he writes down 10 new ideas.

      It is easier said than done. Altucher says, the more we practice it, the easier it will become for us to think of ideas and solutions during times of conflict, where it is essential to be able to react quickly.

      You might choose to write all of these ideas in one sitting, or you could carry around a small notepad and write down any ideas you have sporadically throughout the day.

      Conclusion

      I genuinely believe everyone is intelligent and capable of enhancing their own intelligence.

      The tips in this article are meant to help you see measurable changes in the way you think, the ideas you have, and the challenges you are able to face in real life. By measurable, I don’t mean an IQ test or your grades in school, but the progress you make towards your goals and the future you desire.

      Over to You

      Which of these tips to get smarter resonates with you? Are there any that you have not been utilizing?

      This was originally posted on Rype’s blog.

      More by this author

      Sean Kim

      Sean is the founder and CEO of Rype, a language learning app. He's an entrepreneur and blogger.

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      Last Updated on December 3, 2019

      7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

      7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

      I often hear people say, “I want to be successful but don’t know where to start” or “I’ve achieved career success yet I’m not happy.” And then I ask, “what does career success mean to you?” And many have a hard time articulating their response with much conviction.

      It’s common that people lack clarity, focus, and direction. And when you layer on thoughts and actions that are misaligned with your values, this only adds to your misdirected quest to achieve your career success.

      A word of caution. It’s going to take some time for you to think about and work on your own path for career success. You need to set aside time and be intentional about the steps you take to achieve career success. In my opinion, this step-by-step guide is apart of your life philosophy.

      1. Define Career Success for Yourself

      Pause. Give yourself time and space for self-reflection.

      What does career success mean to you?

      This is about defining your career success:

      • Not what you think you ‘should’ do
      • Not what people may think of you
      • Not adjusting to friends and family’s judgements
      • Not taking actions based on societal or community norms

      “A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms” – Zen Shin

      When you strip away all your external influences and manage your inner critic, what are you left with? You need to define career success that best suits your life situation.

      There’s no fixed answer. Everyone is different. Your answer will evolve and be impacted by life events. Here are a few examples of career success:

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      • Work-life balance
      • Opportunities for growth and advancement
      • Feeling valued that my contributions had an impact

      Now even as you reflect on the examples above, the descriptions are not specific enough. You’ve got to take it deeper:

      • What do you mean by work-life balance?
      • What do you consider to be opportunities for growth and advancement?
      • How do you like to be recognized for your work? How do you know if your contributions have had an impact?

      Let’s take a look at some potential responses to the questions above:

      • I want more time with my family, and less stress at work
      • I want increased responsibilities, to manage a team, a higher income, and the prestige of working at a certain level in the company
      • I’d like my immediate leader to send me a thank-you note or take me out for coffee to genuinely express her or his gratitude. I’ll know I’ve made an impact if I get feedback from my coworkers, leaders and other stakeholders.

      Further questions to reflect on to help narrow the focus for the above responses:

      • What are some opportunities that can help you get traction on getting more time with your family? And decrease your stress at work?
      • What’s most important for you in the next 12 months?
      • What’s the significance of receiving others’ feedback?

      Now, I’m only scratching the surface with these examples. It takes time to do the inner work and build a solid foundation.

      Start this exercise by first asking what career success means to you and then ask yourself meaningful questions to help you dig deeper.

      What types of themes emerge from your responses? What keywords or phrases keep coming up for you?

      2. Know Your Values

      Values are the principles and beliefs that guide your decisions, behaviors and actions. When you’re not aligned with your values and act in a way that conflicts with your beliefs, it’ll feel like life is a struggle.

      There are simple value exercises that can help you quickly determine your core values. This one designed by Carnegie Mellon University can help you discover your top 5 values.[1]

      Once you have your top 5 values keep them visible. Your brain needs reminders that these are your top values. Here are some ways to make them stick:

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      • Write them on cue cards or notes and post it in your office
      • Take a picture of your values and use it as a screensaver on your phone
      • Put the words on your fridge
      • Add the words on your vision board

      Where will your value words be placed in your physical environment so that you have a constant reminder of them?

      3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

      When writing your short-term and long term life goals, use the SMART framework – Specific Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Treat this as a brainstorming exercise. Your potential and possibilities are limitless.

      How you define short-term and long-term is entirely up to you. Short-term can be 30 days, 90 days, or 6 months. Maybe long-term goals are 4 months, 1 year, or 10 years.

      Here are a few self-reflection questions to help you write your goals:[2]

      • What would you want to do today if you had the power to make it the way you want?
      • If no hurdles are in the way, what would you like to achieve?
      • If you have the freedom to do whatever you want, what would it be?
      • What type of impact do you want to have on people?
      • Who are the people you most admire? What is it about them or what they have that you’d want for your life or career?
      • What activities energize you? What’s one activity you most love?

      Remember to revisit your core values as you refine yours goals:

      • Are your goals in or out of alignment with your core values?
      • What adjustments do you need to make to your goals? Maybe some of your goals can be deleted because they no longer align with your values.
      • How attainable are your goals? Breakdown your goals into digestible pieces.
      • Do your short-term goals move you towards attaining your long-term goals?

      Get very clear and specific about your goals. Think about an archer – a person who shoots with a bow and arrows at a target. This person is laser focused on the target – the center of the bullseye. The target is your goal.

      By focusing on one goal at a time and having that goal visible, you can behave and act in ways that will move you closer to your goal.

      4. Determine Your Top Talents

      What did you love doing as a kid? What made these moments fun? What did you have a knack for? What did you most cherish about these times? What are the common themes?

      What work feels effortless? What work do you do that doesn’t seem like work? Think about work you can lose track of time doing and you don’t even feel tired of it.[3]

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      What are your desires? Try it out. Experiment. Take action and start. How can you incorporate more of this type of work into your daily life?

      What themes emerge from your responses? How do your responses compare to your responses from the values exercise and your goals?

      What do you notice?

      5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience

      Do you have tendencies to use your head or heart to make decisions?

      I have a very strong tendency to make rational, practical, and fact-based decisions using my head. It’s very rare for me to make decisions using my emotions. I was forced to learn how to make more intuitive decisions by listening to my gut when I was struggling with pivotal life decisions. I was forced to feel and listen to my inner voice to make decisions that feel most natural to me. This was very unfamiliar to me, however, it expanded my identity.

      Review this list of Feeling Words. Use the same technique you use for the values exercise to narrow down how you want to feel.

      Keep these words visible too!

      Review your responses. What do you observe? What insights do you gain from these responses and those in the above steps?

      6. Be Willing to Sit with Discomfort

      Make career decisions aligned with your values, goals, talents and feelings. This is not for the faint hearted. It takes real work, courage and willingness to cut out the noise around you. You’ll need to sit with discomfort for a bit until you build up your muscle to hit the targets you want.

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      Surround yourself with a supportive network to help you through these times.

      “These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them” – Rumi

      7. Manage Your Own Career

      Not to be cynical, but no one can make you happy but yourself. If you don’t take control of your career and manage it like your own business – no one will.

      Discern between things that you can control and what you can’t control. For example, you may not be able to control who gets a promotion. However, you can control how you react to it and what you’ve learned about yourself in that situation.

      Summing Up

      For many who have gone through a career change or been impacted by life events, these steps may seem very basic. However, it’s sometimes the basics that we forget to do. The simple things and moments can edge us closer to our larger vision for ourselves.

      Staying present and appreciating what you have today can sometimes help you achieve your long-term goals. For example, if you’re always talking about not having enough time and wanting work-life balance, think about what was good in your work day? Maybe you took a walk outside with your co-workers. This could be a small step to help you reframe how you can attain work-life balance.

      Remember to take time for yourself. Hit pause, notice, observe and reflect to achieve career success by getting deliberate and intentional:

      1. Define Career Success for Yourself
      2. Know Your Values
      3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Life and Goals
      4. Determine Your Top Talents
      5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience
      6. Be Willing to sit with Discomfort
      7. Manage Your Own Career

      “When you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you.” – Lolly Daskal

      Good luck and best wishes always!

      More Tips on Advancing Your Career

      Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

      Reference

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