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19 Websites That Will Make You Smarter in Every Way

19 Websites That Will Make You Smarter in Every Way

It’s almost unbelievable that in this day and age almost everyone is carrying around a library of knowledge, richer in resources than that of the Library of Alexandria. So it comes as no surprise that many want to utilise this resource, the internet, to become a better, smarter, productive being!

With this in mind, 19 of the top websites that will make you a smart person, in every way, has been compiled for you.

Academic

1. Smarterer

Want to test your writing ability? Prove your programming skills? Show people that you’re an Excel genius? Using Smarterer, you can take tests that provide you with a ‘qualification’ that you can show to employers when they need proof of your abilities!

2. UniversityWebinars

If you’re a fan of TED Talks, this is basically the TED Talks of the university world. With live webinars, and a huge library of past webinars and other educational videos, you cannot go wrong with this one.

3. Memrise

Flash cards, mixed with the addictive nature of gaming. This one is great for those looking to improve their overall general knowledge, while having fun. It’s available in a multitude of languages!

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    4. Project Gutenberg

    Don’t have the time or money to read a book, but still manage to sit and read on the internet for an obscene amount of time every day? No more excuses, Project Gutenberg is a catalog of books that you can read, online, right now, without cost. Get reading!

    5. Treehouse

    Treehouse basically has something for everyone. From web development to entrepreneurial tips, you’ll never come away from Treehouse without having learnt something. The only downside is that it costs at least $25 a month after the free trial, but investing in your education is never a bad idea.

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      6. OpenCulture

      A vast compendium of educational resources, on literally hundreds of different topics. From online courses to ebooks, you can find it all on OpenCulture. It’s one of the only websites you’ll ever need on education.

      7. Udacity

      Udacity is almost like the vocational learning place of the Internet. Real people teaching you real technical skills that are needed by real tech companies, with hands-on projects instead of boring old lectures. It’s hard for this one to fail to please.

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        8. Creative Live

        Classes streamed live. Some cost, others are free, but all are worth watching! These aren’t your average classes either, they’re real practical classes that will give you real usable skills. (There’s even a section for those looking to make more money!)

        9. Future Learn

        Future Learn is a site that offers free courses, in categories such as Law, Psychology, Teaching and many more. Partnered with some of the finest universities that the UK has to offer, you can be guaranteed that the content of the course will always be high quality.

        10. Coursera

        This is similar to Future Learn, though maybe with a bit more variety. With over 800 courses, and 10,000 current students, the statistics speak for themselves. The courses are always informative, and you get a real qualification at the end of them!

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          11. BBC Languages

          Arguably one of the most well-known and most supported platforms for learning a foreign language. With simple step-by-step interactive guides on learning another language, you’ll be speaking a new language in absolutely no time!

          12. University of Reddit

          You’ve probably heard of Reddit, but have you heard that Reddit created a new site where Redditers could teach each other? Pretty much any subject you can think of is covered here, because they’re all people just like you, teaching what they know!

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          Creativity

          13. Drawspace

          So you’ve always wanted to draw, but have never known where to start? Drawspace is here to rescue you, and get you expressing in the artistic format that you’ve always desired! Easy, comprehensive, guides that will get you drawing in seconds.

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            DIY

            14. HackADay

            The name says it all. Every day a new hack is posted, with topics varying from things like fixing faulty Apple chargers to learning to build movie props – you can find it all here. Good for those who like to dabble in a multitude of hobbies!

            15. Do It Yourself

            Do It Yourself offers you a overwhelming amount of free DIY projects that you can do, in a simple and easy to read (and do) format. It’s time to become the handyman or -woman that you’ve always dreamed of being!

            16. Instructables

            Community driven step-by-step instructions on how to do pretty much anything. It’s impossible to have a look on Instructables without coming away having learnt how to do something new and useful. Check it out, it won’t disappoint.

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              Other

              17. UnplugTheTV

              A site that’ll give you a random video to watch, that’ll benefit your mind, instead of watching TV. A neat idea, and the execution seems to match. The content is not always guaranteed to be the best, but it’s always guaranteed to be better than mindless TV.

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                18. AboveTopSecret

                Alternative news sources are a wealth of information, if you can get past the bias. Don’t limit yourself to seeing the worldly events from a single perspective, explore other options. Check out the sources, draw your own conclusions.

                19. Divine Society

                A site similar to AboveTopSecret, where a multitude of interesting articles from all over the web are posted. Everything from politics to religion is covered here, so it’s worth exploring a few of the articles they have to offer.

                So there you have it, 19 sites that will make you smarter in a variety of ways. If you have any that you think belong on this list, don’t be afraid to share them in the comments below!

                Featured photo credit: Teo Siew Yong via yourpresenceheals.com

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                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.

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                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.

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                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]

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                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.

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                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

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