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7 Signs You’re Smarter Than You Think, Even If You Don’t Feel You Are

7 Signs You’re Smarter Than You Think, Even If You Don’t Feel You Are

Intelligence comes in all shapes and sizes. People have widely varying skill sets and have very different education backgrounds (formal or otherwise!). Because of this, it’s important to remember these differences when interacting with others. For instance, if I were placed in a room full of physicists, I would feel like the least intelligent person in the room. However, put me in a room full of writers and I’d feel right at home. You never want to sell yourself short or feel that you’re less intelligent than you really are. That’s not beneficial for anyone.

Intelligence doesn’t always present itself in the form of book smarts or prowess in a particular academic field. Intelligence can also be found in practical skills, musical ability, even athletics. Intelligence is multifaceted and complex, which means that it applies to many more people than you might initially think. People often think that they aren’t smart simply because they don’t fall into a specific category; that’s not true at all!

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So even if you don’t feel like you’re smart, read these 7 signs that indicate you are smarter than you think you are and face the day with confidence.

1. You’re hard on yourself.

One of the most frustrating things that could happen to you is not being able to understanding something. For smarties like you, it’s incredibly annoying to come across something you don’t get right off the bat. How come? Because things usually come easy for you. So when something isn’t readily apparent to you, you feel badly about your own intelligence.

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2. You’re tuned in.

Smart people are usually pretty tuned in to the world around them insofar as they read and watch the news. You likely keep up on current events somewhat, even if that means simply scrolling through your Twitter feed. You like to know what’s going on around you, and you like to understand the issues that are facing the country and the world today. Even if it’s a cursory interest, it’s there.

3. You’re misunderstood.

Maybe your humor was too sophisticated. Maybe your vocabulary was too advanced. Whatever the situation, it’s common for intelligent people to be misunderstood by those around them. It’s no fault of yours; it’s just the way smart people go through life. You’re constantly explaining yourself to others. And that brings me to my next point…

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4. Your friends are smart.

Smart people tend to surround themselves with other smart people. After all, who wants to hang around with a bunch of people who don’t understand your jokes? Your friends understand you and can relate to you, so you’re just as smart as they are. And since your friends are, well, your friends, you think highly of them. They think just as highly of you!

5. You have high expectations for yourself.

Smart people are expected to do great things. Even as children, smart people are placed in advanced classes and given higher level reading materials. Because of this, smart people tend to have big plans in their futures. Whether that be to go to a certain college or follow a certain career path, you’re likely planning big things for yourself down the road. Maybe you want to expand your business or come up with a new strategy for an athletic team. Whatever your goal, you expect to achieve it.

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6. You like games.

Many smart people enjoy games because they’re things to be figured out. For instance, many intelligent people enjoy filling out crosswords and playing card and board games. These games require thinking and concentration, which appeals to smarties like yourself. Games are great because they’re stimulating. When you’re playing a game, you’re thinking, even in your down time! This is especially true for people who work with their hands and are in the business of fixing or building things. Everything is a puzzle.

7. You’ve been told you’re smart.

Honestly, many smart people don’t like to think of themselves as smart because it’s almost a social no-no to do so. It’s like you’re bragging on yourself, when, in reality, you’re simply stating a fact. What is the number one way to know that you’re smart? People have told you that you’re smart. Intelligence gets a lot of attention, especially in work and classroom settings. So embrace your braininess and enjoy life in the smart lane!

Featured photo credit: Pedro Ribeiro Simões via flickr.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!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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