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Last Updated on February 15, 2021

10 Hacks to Increase Your Brain IQ, Focus, and Creativity

10 Hacks to Increase Your Brain IQ, Focus, and Creativity

Many people aim to become smarter. While joining brain training programs is an option to increase your brain IQ, focus and creativity, it can be quite expensive. Luckily, there are plenty of free brain training hacks you can learn to make your brain smarter.

In this article, I’m going to introduce to you 10 free brain training hacks that will boost your brain IQ and help you achieve your goals.

The Importance of Brain Training

The fundamental building block in the brain is the neuron. By learning ways to enhance the building block, we open a new frontier for understanding the power of our brain. Marilyn vos Savant, author of Brain Building: Exercising Yourself Smarter, remarked:

“Building your brain power will open a new frontier beyond which lies an understanding that seems nearly incalculable.”

The idea is that we can improve our brain power and intelligence through certain brain training exercises. Brain training is simply cognitive training using exercises to improve your brain functions and problem solving skills. By improving your brain power, you will find that your brain IQ, focus, creativity, and working memory will increase as well.

Let’s take a look at how you can improve your intelligence through brain training.

Brain Training Hacks to Increase Your IQ

Here are 10 brain training hacks you can use now to boost your mental functions and IQ scores:

1. Learn by Teaching

In Mindhacker, Ron and Marty Hale-Evans argue that we should learn by teaching:

“Before you can teach an idea, you must understand it. Therefore, teaching situations can be proving grounds for your own knowledge. Accelerate your learning of a subject by agreeing to teach it.” -Ron and Marty Hale-Evans

How to make this work:

  1. Dive deep into a concept by breaking it apart (analysis) and putting it back together (synthesis).
  2. Find a way to teach the content. If you have the appropriate education, try teaching an online course. If not, try teaching a new idea through places such as Udemy.
  3. Use innovative systems thinking tools to conduct analysis and synthesis and to teach your course. If you don’t have access to a course, simply try explaining the idea to a friend, spouse, or child.

Before you teach a concept, it’s a good idea to dig a bit deeper into how to quickly grasp a new concept, skill, or idea. You can do just that in this Lifehack Fast-Track Class: Spark Your Learning Genius

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2. Learn by Writing

One of my favorite methods for learning and increasing brain IQ is writing. By writing or blogging on a new topic, I force myself to break apart concepts. I then piece them back together by writing about them.

How to make this work:

  1. Start writing for a blog, or start your own. A great place to start writing is on Medium.com.
  2. Dive deep into a concept by breaking it apart (analysis) and putting it back together (synthesis).
  3. Write about the content you are learning and pay close attention to the feedback you receive once published.

3. Get Physical Exercise

Physical exercise will not only improve your body, but it will also improve your brain power. Neurogenesis is the birth of new neurons in our brain. Exercise increases the levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which supports neurogenesis.

How to make this work:

  1. Start an exercise routine.
  2. Change your diet by eliminating refined sugars, and start taking vitamins to improve the functioning of your brain and body.

4. Listen to Audiobooks

My favorite hack to use along with physical exercise is audiobooks. I am always plugged into an audiobook while exercising, driving, cutting my grass, doing chores, and just about any other activity.

How to make this work:

  1. Purchase wireless running headphones.
  2. Sign up for a free app connected to your local library e.g. OverDrive. Checkout audiobooks through this free app.
  3. Purchase audiobooks at a discount through Audible.com. If you are unable to find your audiobook free through OverDrive, purchase the books here.
  4. Download the app (or a similar app) Natural Reader, which is a free text to speech online app allowing you to convert text to audio. Essentially, you can convert an online article, a pdf, a word document, and similar files to an audio.
  5. After you have listened to an audiobook for a while, try bumping up the speed of the book.

5. Read Smarter

Start reading books faster and smarter to increase your brain IQ. There are certain ways you should read a book, and some books should be read faster than others.

How to make this work:

  1. Skim the book first by starting with the title page, the inside of the cover, the table of contents, and the back of the book.
  2. Identify the author’s main theme (and main points within the book). Ask yourself the question “why” throughout the book. For example, “Why is the author arguing this point?”
  3. Throughout the book and at the conclusion, ask yourself three questions:
    – What happened in the book?
    – What was the key takeaway?
    – What can you do with this new information?

6. Reason Backward

Maurice Ashley, Chess Grandmaster, discussed the importance of retrograde analysis, or reasoning backward, in the following Ted talk:

Let’s look at an example of reasoning backward. Read the following sentence:

After reading this sentence, you will realize that the the brain doesn’t recognize a second “the.”

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Now read the sentence again. Did you notice that you missed the second “the”?

Our mind is logical and proceeds forward, so we don’t see the second “the”; however, if we read the sentence backwards, we will always catch it.

“What is out of the common is usually a guide rather than a hindrance. In solving a problem of this sort, the grand thing is to be able to reason backward.” –Sherlock Homes, A Study in Scarlet

7. Quick and Easy Math Tricks

Let’s examine some quick and easy math hacks that should be (but are not) taught in school to increase brain IQ.

Easily Multiply Any Two-Digit Number by 11:

32 x 11

Simply add the first two digits: 3 + 2 = 5

Place the 5 between the 3 and the 2 and you have your answer: 352

32 x 11 = 352

Easily Subtract Three-Digit Numbers

645 – 372

Take 645 – 400 = 245

Then add 28 (or 20 then add 8) as 400 – 372 = 28

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245 + 20 = 265 + 8 = 273

645 – 372 = 273

Multiplication Guesstimation

Another powerful trick is multiplication guesstimation.

88 x 54 is approximately 90 x 50 = 4500

This is much easier to multiple as 9 x 5 = 45

The correct answer is: 88 x 54 = 4752

For more math tricks like this, I recommend the book Secrets of Mental Math by Arthur Benjamin and Michael Shermer.

8. Think, Try, Learn

    In Mindhacker, Ron and Marty Hale-Evans discuss a powerful tactic called Think – Try – Learn[1].

    • Think: Theorize, Predict, Plan
    • Try: Test, Observe, Record, Play
    • Learn: Analyze, Define Meaning, Change, Grow

    If you’ve ever done a science experiment, you’ve likely engaged in this type of thinking. You predict what will happen while planning the experiment. Then, you carry out the experiment, observing what happens and recording the results. Once the experiment is over, you analyze the outcomes and grow your knowledge.

    This idea can be applied to just about any activity in life and helps you utilize each bit of an experience to grow your brain IQ.

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    9. Brain Training Apps

    Elevate

    and Lumosity are brain training programs designed to improve our focus, speaking ability, processing speed, memory, math skills, and much more.

    Both programs come packed with more than 40 brain games and puzzles designed to improve our critical thinking and cognitive skills.

    A comparison of the two apps can be found here:[2]

    Elevate
    • Pros: Personal tracking, has the feel of a mobile game, available on iOS and Android, and app of the year for 2014
    • Cons: Poor graphics and only comes in English
    Lumosity
    • Pros: Fun and good memory improvement games, strong brand recognition, progress tracking, available on iOS, Android and PC, and used in over 180 countries
    • Cons: Expensive, repetitive, and have issues with iOS/Android app sync with desktop

    10. Learn a New Language

    Learning a new language is one of the most powerful ways to improve your intelligence and cognitive capacity.

    When you learn a new language, your brain IQ will increase as your thinking becomes more flexible. This type of learning will force you into an analysis of the way you use your native language, and what needs to be altered in the new language in order to make yourself understood.

    The Bottom Line

    Brain training is a powerful (yet simple) way to improve your brain IQ, creative thinking, and critical thinking skills.

    As Marilyn vos Savan said:

    “The mind can stretch. It can be strengthened, toned, and conditioned to perform miracles for you.”

    By using these 10 easy brain training hacks, you will find that you have the basic building blocks to increase your brain power, too.

    More on Increasing Your Brian IQ

    Featured photo credit: Jeremy McKnight via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Dr. Jamie Schwandt

    Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

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    Last Updated on April 28, 2021

    What Is a Fixed Mindset And Can You Change It?

    What Is a Fixed Mindset And Can You Change It?

    I sometimes think that I will never be a good cook or that I just was not born to be bilingual. Occasionally, I catch my daughter saying that I cannot do it. And I hear people say things such as they are not good at math or not cut out to be in business.

    These are all examples of a fixed mindset, and we are all guilty of it from time to time. Fortunately, a fixed mindset does not have to be forever.

    What is a Fixed Mindset?

    Psychologist Carol Dweck is one of the leading experts on mindset and the author of the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

    Early in her career, she identified two mindsets: growth and fixed. These two mindsets explain why some people face challenges head-on while others are crushed by it.

    People with fixed mindsets think that their skills or abilities are set in stone and determined at birth. If you think you are bad at math, not good at sports, or a born musician, you are demonstrating a fixed mindset.

    People with a growth mindset think that their skills and abilities can be improved and refined through effort and perseverance. When you take steps to improve yourself and stick with it, you are exhibiting a growth mindset.

    False Growth Mindset

    Dweck clarified her work by explaining that everyone has a fixed mindset at one time or another about one thing or another.[1] People do not permanently have either a fixed or growth mindset.

    I might work hard in the gym to get stronger and more flexible while giving up on my piano lessons because I think I am not a musical person. This example shows that I have a growth mindset regarding my fitness but a fixed mindset regarding my piano playing.

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    It is also an oversimplification to say that a growth mindset is just about effort. Dweck explains that effort and strategy are needed for a true growth mindset. It is not enough for me to just keep trying and failing. A true growth mindset involves effort, reflection, reassessment, and then more effort.

    Self-awareness is a critical component of a growth mindset because you have to accurately assess your current progress to make appropriate changes toward meeting your goals. Just showing up is not going to cut it.

    Fixed Mindset Triggers

    A fixed mindset trigger is something that shifts your mindset away from thinking that abilities can be improved to thinking they are fixed or predetermined. Think about what might make you raise your hands in defeat and proclaim you are not good at something and never will be.

    The most obvious fixed mindset trigger is someone telling you that you are not good at something. This can make it seem like your ability is set in stone.

    Imagine you are trying your hardest in Spanish class, and the teacher offhandedly says, “It is a good thing you are good at math.” That comment can make it seem like you have always been bad at Spanish and always will be, regardless of the effort and determination you bring to the table.

    Another fixed mindset trigger is people overreacting to failure. When people make a big deal out of your mistakes, it can seem like you’re just not meant to be pursuing whatever it is you failed at.

    Let’s use our Spanish example. Let’s say you are working on your Spanish project—a film. You show it to a friend who starts laughing and points out how you said the word “Bota” instead of “Barco” over and over as the film zooms in on a boat. Instead of thinking about all the Spanish words you got right, your mind might dwell on that one egregious error, shifting you to a fixed mindset about your Spanish abilities.

    Finally, people rescuing you from failure can trigger a fixed mindset. Continuing our Spanish language example, if your mom stops letting you do your Spanish homework and starts doing it herself to prevent you from failing, you might start to think that you are not good at Spanish and never have been and never will be.

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    How Can You Change a Fixed Mindset?

    Dweck talks about process praise as the antidote to a fixed mindset.

    Process praise is when you compliment and encourage someone to put in the effort and use strategies and appropriate resources to learn and improve. While praising someone’s abilities often leads to a fixed mindset, process praise contributes to a growth mindset.

    So if I want to help someone change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, I should say something like, “You worked so hard on this” or “What could you try to do better next time?” instead of “You are so good at this” or “It is so unfair. Your opponent must have cheated.”

    You can try process praise for yourself, too. If you catch yourself making excuses, blaming someone or something else for your failure, or assuming your abilities are fixed, try process praise.

    Focus instead on the effort you put in and strategies and resources you used to improve. Dweck recommends being matter-of-fact and not too strong or passive with your process praise. Be direct without being harsh or too accommodating.

    Here are 8 other ways to shift from a fixed mindset to growth:

    1. Do Not Blame

    If you catch yourself blaming someone or something else for your failure, stop yourself and refocus on your role in your success or failure.

    2. Aim for Self-Awareness

    Self-awareness is key to a growth mindset. If you do not give much thought in your role in your success or failure, it is going to be difficult for you to strategize and improve.

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    So, ask yourself questions about your effort, strategy, and resources. Could I have practiced harder? Am I using the best schedule for my rehearsals? Is there a better way for me to study before the next test?

    3. Avoid Negative, Fixed Mindset Self-Talk

    Try to catch yourself when you think in fixed mindset terms. Stop saying that you were not made to do this or were not born to become that. Instead, start focusing on the effort and strategy you put in.

    4. Ask for Feedback (and listen to it)

    Feedback goes in one ear and out the other when we have a fixed mindset. When people think their abilities are set in stone, they tend to make excuses, get defensive, and place blame when receiving feedback.

    Break that cycle and actively seek out feedback. Do not get defensive or make excuses and listen closely to feedback, no matter how harsh. Use feedback to develop a better plan for improving your abilities.

    5. Do Not Overreact to Failure (keep it in perspective)

    Failure is a natural part of learning and improving, so do not overreact when it happens to you.[2]

    Try to keep failure in perspective, so you do not fall into a fixed mindset.

    6. Reflect and Reassess

    Set aside time to reflect on your progress and plan how to improve. Remember that effort is only one part of a true growth mindset. You also need to refine your strategy.

    7. Do Not Compare

    When you compare yourself to others, it is easy to fall into a fixed mindset. We do not usually see the effort and perseverance others put in, which is why it can lead to a fixed mindset.

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    If someone seems naturally smart, you do not actually know how much effort they put on studying. This is why comparing ourselves to others is a fixed mindset trap.

    8. Celebrate Effort (process not product)

    Finally, celebrate your effort and perseverance. Compliment yourself on how many piano classes you have taken or how you did not give up when Calculus class got tough.

    If you get stuck on how good or bad you are, you may find yourself shifting back to that fixed mindset.

    Final Thoughts on Changing a Fixed Mindset

    It is somehow comforting to know that everyone experiences a fixed mindset from time to time. However, we should not oversimplify shifting from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. It takes more than focusing on effort.

    Do your best to notice when you start to compare yourself to others, make excuses, blame others for your mistakes, and disproportionately focus on your shortcomings. These are all fixed mindset traps.

    Instead, practice focusing on your effort and strategy. How hard did you work? And is it time to switch up your game plan for learning and improving?

    It is possible to change a fixed mindset as long as we are open and honest about what we need to do and change about ourselves.

    More Tips to Improve Your Mindset

    Featured photo credit: JD Mason via unsplash.com

    Reference

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