Advertising
Advertising

If You Want To Be Smarter, You Need To Use This Phrase Carefully

If You Want To Be Smarter, You Need To Use This Phrase Carefully

Learning new things is one of the best ways to better ourselves and implement self-development and growth. But when you’re expanding your knowledge pool are you doing it as efficiently as possible?

How often do you come across an article, book or any kind of instruction tool that goes towards gaining better knowledge in the area you’re expanding your mind, and see the phrase “for example”? After all, examples are the best way to apply your new-found knowledge to a real-life scenario, helps connect the dots and makes things much clearer. Or do they?

Why “For Example” Isn’t As Helpful As You May Think

Don’t get me wrong, throwing examples into the mix can go a long way in spelling out what you’ve learned. Seeing a way that the fundamental theory can be applied practically helps the brain put it into context.

Advertising

However, this isn’t exactly the smartest way to do this and here’s why.

While “for example” creates a pathway in the brain to understand the concepts, it’s coming from the mind of somebody else. In other words, an example doesn’t really teach us the underlying mechanisms or allow us to come to our own conclusions. We may read the example and get the ‘light bulb’ moment but we tend to accept that one example instead of thinking up several more of our own.

Thinking up different, unique examples and even making them more applicable to yourself is much smarter than taking in analogies cooked up by someone else.

Advertising

Reasoning By Analogy Versus Reasoning By First Principles

There are two ways we can make decisions and come to conclusions; one is reasoning by analogy and the other is reasoning by first principles.

Reasoning by analogy is when we base our conclusions and decisions on pre-existing ideas. Examples that are fed to us only allow us to apply what we’ve learned to an already established idea and what others are telling you. However, this is how most people work – our mind often finds the easy way out by building on an idea that is already out there. As a result, we take on problem solving from a space of assumption rather than questioning.

Reasoning by first principles is something Elon Musk has been an advocate of and praises his success on. This is when you take the basis or fundamentals of what you’ve learned and come up with your own application. In other words, come up with your own ideas free from any of the pre-existing ideas and allows us to potentially see something in much finer detail.

Advertising

The Difficulty Of Putting Examples Into Practice

You could be given all the examples in the world, and while the writer or teacher is trying to be as helpful as he or she can, it’s not allowing you to easily put these into practice. For sure, it’s helping you to remember the concept but when it comes to applying it, you could become stuck pretty quickly undoing the work you’ve put in to thoroughly learn the subject.

To really understand the concept, come up with multiple examples that fit the rule to confirm in your mind that you have fully understood. In addition, don’t use “for example” when explaining things to others. Encourage them to think up examples of their own and watch how they begin to formulate the new ideas themselves.

So next time you come across “for example” when learning something new, take it onboard but be cautious with it. Make sure you think up different ways you can transfer it into different situations and see it form a new angle breaking free from limited, existed thinking.

Advertising

Featured photo credit: tookapic via pexels.com

More by this author

Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

Science Says Guitar Players’ Brains Are Different From Others’ Success In Reaching Goals Is Determined By Mindset How to Save a Bunch of Money Easily With This Simple Challenge 11 Killer Ways To Get Rid Of Roaches Without Harming You If You Understand These 5 Rules In Psychology, You Can Live A Much Easier Life

Trending in Productivity

1 The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain) 2 What to Do When Bored at Work (And Why You Feel Bored Actually) 3 6 Effective Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills 4 How to Concentrate and Focus Better to Boost Productivity 5 15 Productive Things to Do When Bored (So Time Is Not Wasted)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

Advertising

Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

Advertising

One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

Advertising

But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

Advertising

It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

More About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next