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Last Updated on February 17, 2020

How to Become Smarter: 21 Things You Can Do Daily

How to Become Smarter: 21 Things You Can Do Daily

Although many people believe intelligence is limited to those with high I.Q.s, there are a number of potential methods to boost one’s cognitive abilities and become more effective at various professional and personal pursuits.

With enough motivation and determination, anyone can expand their mental capabilities and become smarter. Integrating new habits into your regular routine and providing proper stimulation can sharpen your intellect quickly and leave you inspired to take on new challenges each day.

So how to become smarter?

Brain health is an important key in complete physical health. The list below includes the best brain-engaging activities in daily life.

Inviting Novelty

To create new neural pathways and strengthen the brain, it’s critical for people to continually incorporate new experiences and information into their lives. At first, these moments might feel useless, but eventually, you will find yourself looking forward to quiet moments alone.

1. Visit New Places

Whether this means studying in a new coffee shop, taking a different route to work, or traveling to a different country, displacement is good for the brain. This might be difficult to recognize in the moment since it usually feels rather awkward – at least initially. At the coffee shop, you can’t order the “usual.” You have to study a new menu, pick something you have never tried before, and make a decision.

While this seems simple, people enjoy the comfort of habit. We like to know what to expect at all times. When you travel to a new country, the language is strange, the customs are unfamiliar, and the culture presents a strange new rhythm of life. Adjusting to these new elements forces the brain to tackle new, unexpected challenges.

Learning how to communicate through a language barrier forces the brain to develop creative ways to express needs and emotions. Listening to new music, trying new foods, and navigating foreign streets all work to challenge your brain’s capacity to adapt to new situations.

2. Continue Your Education

Adult education is one of the best investments of time, money, and energy you can make. While education is valuable throughout childhood and adolescence, adults often underestimate their ability to learn new concepts and skills.

Challenge yourself to take a class, academic or creative. Voluntarily choosing to continue education provides a perfect opportunity for your brain to create new connections and build higher intelligence.

Also check out these 15 Ways to Cultivate Continuous Learning for a Sharper Brain.

3. Read and Watch the News

This is one activity that maintains the appearance of habit while nurturing healthy brain waves. Setting aside half an hour every morning or evening to read a newspaper or watch the news will help your brain stay active.

Digesting new information is a good daily habit. The news introduces interesting topics to consider, and will leave your brain churning with new information.

4. Read

Reading is the most basic way to facilitate brain activity, but it often presents some of the most diverse opportunities for stretching brain capacity.

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Reading provides practical assistance by introducing new vocabulary, presenting examples of proper grammar usage, and showing the elegance of a well-written sentence. However, this is only half of the magic of reading.

Whether you choose fiction, non-fiction, historical literature, or poetry, reading offers an opportunity for the reader to make big-picture connections between the literature and real life. In this way, reading is an alternative way to make your brain travel to a new place.

As your imagination works to create tangible people, places, and experiences from the words on the page, your brain is rewiring to understand all the new information.

Here’re some great books to read:

5. Approach Work in New Ways

The workplace is a canvas for new experiences. Regardless of what type of job you might hold, everyone is at one time or another presented with opportunities to think outside the box, problem solve in a creative way, and contribute fresh ideas to the team.

Instead of stressing over each new problem, it’s important to relax and starting imagining alternatives for reaching an end goal.


Challenging Yourself

Like a weightlifter who develops muscles, one must exercise the brain on a daily basis, pushing it just beyond its current capabilities. As Albert Einstein once said,

“One should not pursue goals that are easily achieved. One must develop an instinct for what one can just barely achieve through one’s greatest efforts.”

This quote encapsulates what I believe about the brain. With enough focus and stretching, the brain can truly surprise people.

Underestimating yourself holds you back from success. When people begin believing in their abilities, they often go beyond what they thought was possible.

6. Do Brain Training

Organizations like Lumosity offer fantastic daily brain training. With puzzles and games designed to increase neuroplasticity, Lumosity was created to challenge the brain to make new connections.

A group of neuroscientists at University of California Berkeley developed this program to provide stimuli for the brain to push it to adapt and re-train itself in uncharted territory. Success stories abound concerning the results of this public experiment.

You can also try these 11 Brain Training Apps to Train Your Mind and Improve Memory.

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7. Ask 5 Whys When Encountering Problems

One of the most standard problem solving solutions, the 5 whys still provide a solid start to uncovering the root of a problem.

Asking a question gets the brain working to find an answer. Instead of worrying about the problem, always start by asking why.

Learn more about this problem solving framework here: How to Solve Any Problem Efficiently with 5 Whys (Step-By-Step Guide)

8. Eschew Technology to Keep the Brain in Shape

Technology does wonders for the modern world, but in some ways, technological dependence stunts the brain’s capacity for problem solving, adapting to new environments, and being a reliable resource for practical things like simple mathematics and navigation.

Try going on a trip without a GPS. Work a few algebra problems without a calculator. Make your brain work for you; you’ll see the results.

9. Foster Creativity

Finger-painting in preschool was not only a fun activity; it helped open up the mind to new possibilities and ways of solving problems. An artistic mindset creates new opportunities to find new solutions, fresh inspiration, and peaceful confidence.

The blend of these elements in both personal and professional environments allows ordinary people to shine by becoming an innovative thinker and inventive leader. Find ways to incorporate creativity into the dull grind of daily tasks.

Take a look at these 30 Tips to Rejuvenate Your Creativity.

10. Draw

You don’t have to be an artist to appreciate the benefits of drawing, which cultivates brain activity in a unique way. In addition to nurturing basic hand-eye coordination, it sends synapses to neurotransmitters to help more permanently and vividly store your memories.

From doodles on a piece of scrap paper to charcoal portraits, drawing is a healthy brain activity for everyone.

11. Paint

Painting is an extension of drawing. It feeds the same areas of the brain; but unlike drawing, painting often introduces new and unfamiliar textures and colors to stimulate the brain.

Painters often have a keen sense of awareness towards their surroundings. Engaging in painting encourages people to notice minute details of the world around them. Focusing the brain in this manner brings a heightened state of alertness.

12. Play an Instrument

Learning to play an instrument also has outstanding benefits for the brain. Hand-eye coordination, memory, concentration, and mathematic skills all improve through playing an instrument. While some are more challenging to learn than others, any instrument facilitates increased and improved cognitive functioning.

From training your fingers to master complex musical passages on the piano to counting the beats in a musical measure, instruments force various regions of the brain to work together to create music.

13. Write

Like reading, writing encourages vocabulary growth, grammar skills, and use of proper syntax. Writing helps the brain store information more effectively and fosters better memory skills. Studies show that students who regularly take handwritten notes during college classes consistently score better on tests.[1]

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Writing forces a person to pay attention to their memories, experiences, and internal dialogues – a combination that increases brain function altogether.

Learn more about the benefits of writing: 5 Benefits of Writing: Why You Should Write Every Day

14. Role-Play

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and your brain starts to rewire to help you think like a different person.

For those struggling to form creative ideas, role-playing can help the wheels start turning in the brain to help develop unique solutions for difficult problems.


Working with Others

Although logical intelligence is important, emotional intelligence plays an equally vital part in overall success. Interacting with others helps people expand beyond their own limited thinking, gain new ideas, and see things from a different perspective.

People are challenging. Smart people often enjoy isolation because it protects them from being critical of others. However, this discomfort is necessary for truly smart people because it pushes them outside their bubble.

When you start to believe you have all the right answers, start collaborating with others to expand perspective.

15. Teach and Share Information with Others

Whether this is achieved virtually or face-to-face, pursue colleagues and peers to share experience and wisdom. Fresh faces and new ideas spur inspiration and create an amplified learning environment for the brain.

By creating a network for sharing ideas, your brain starts developing a new network for formulating and executing innovative concepts.

16. Talk to Interesting People

No two people share the same life experiences. Everyone interprets information uniquely, stores memories differently, and digests daily life with their own intellectual flare. This makes collaboration a necessity for brain health.

Although we are all inclined to think our method is the best approach, gaining perspective from another person helps our brain consider new solutions and new techniques for both personal and professional issues.

Whether the conversation is centered on religion, finances, politics, or diet trends, people should practice being a good listener. Silencing your own thoughts while the other person speaks is often challenging, but the brain needs discipline to stay sharp.

17. Work in a Team Environment

Collaborative environments are essential for enhancing brain activity. Some people who enjoy working independently dread the moment when they are forced to participate in a team-focused workplace. However, these independent individuals are highly intelligent and can benefit the most from a little teamwork.

Author Steve Johnson’s book, Where Good Ideas Come From, focuses on the benefits of collaborating with peers and coworkers to develop original ideas and effective strategies for their execution. The modern workplace continues to shift towards this team-oriented approach.

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Cultivating Physical Health

The body feeds the brain, and keeping oneself in top physical condition is crucial to adequate fueling and operation of the brain. Lack of motivation, mental fatigue, and absence of inspiration are typically connected to poor exercise, diet, and focus.

18. Exercise

Studies constantly show people who exercise regularly have higher I.Q. scores.[2] In addition to maintaining a strong body, people who exercise regularly actually stimulate brain cell growth. A process called neurogenesis occurs during rigorous exercise, which increases the production of neurotransmitters. With side effects like increased dopamine, active people enjoy less stress, better concentration, and more energy.

Dr. Michael Nilsson of Sahlgrenska Academy and Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Sweden conducted extensive research on the topic.[3] “Being fit means that you also have a good heart and lung capacity and that your brain gets plenty of oxygen,” the doctor said. His research focused on over a million Swedish military men, and Dr. Nilsson found a direct correlation between physical fitness and high scores on I.Q. tests.

19. Pursue Athletics

Multiple studies have shown active children typically do better in school and have a better chance of continuing their education after high school graduation. Although athletic pursuits can feel grueling at the time, the overall benefits of intense physical activity are wise for your future.

Whether it’s finding one thing you are good at, like basketball, running, or lifting weights, or trying something new every day, maintaining an athletic routine is important for optimal brain health.

20. Meditate

Controlling and calming the brain is as powerful as enhancing activity through instruments and puzzles. Doctors have been studying the effects of mediation on the brain for several years, and the results are impressive.

In one famous study, Dr. Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin collaborated with the Dalai Lama to study what happens to the brain during meditation.[4]

Transcendental Meditation yields impressive results for the brain. People who struggle with fear, anxiety, depression, and other mental ailments should experiment with meditation to calm themselves and develop a stronger sense of focus.

Here’s a The 5-minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime to help you start meditating.

21. Maintain a Nutritious Diet

Children and adults interested in boosting brain activity should begin by transforming their diet. Research from the University of Bristol in England points to a strong connection between unhealthy diet and low I.Q. scores in children.[5] To begin reversing unhealthy tendencies, try cutting out excess fat, sugar, and fast foods, and start adding more vegetables, fruit, and lean meats. These 12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health are good for you too.

There are also a number of unusual drinks proven to help brain function. Matcha green tea, raw cacao hot chocolate, and ginkgo biloba tea all show benefits for the brain. Some scientist claim ginkgo biloba helps pump more blood to the brain, improving circulation.

The Bottom Line

Creating daily routines to promote healthy brain activity doesn’t require the advice of a neuroscientist. While plenty of studies provide convincing evidence, increasing brain activity can be accomplished with a few basic steps.

Be intentional about your time and energy to start working towards a smarter and more fulfilling life.

More Tips about Thinking Smarter

Featured photo credit: David Iskander via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Jayson DeMers

Entrepreneur and Productivity Expert

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Last Updated on November 5, 2020

Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Overcome It)

Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Overcome It)

Nobody enjoys failing. Fear of failure can be so strong that avoiding failure eclipses the motivation to succeed. Insecurity about doing things incorrectly causes many people to unconsciously sabotage their chances for success.

Fear is part of human nature. As an entrepreneur, I faced this same fear. My ego and identity became intertwined with my work, and when things didn’t go as planned, I completely shut down. I overcame this unhealthy relationship with fear, and I believe that you can, too.

Together we’ll examine how you can use failure to your advantage instead of letting it run your life. We’ll also look at how to overcome fear of failure so that you can enjoy success in your work and life.

What Is Fear of Failure?

If you are afraid of failure, it will cause you to avoid potentially harmful situations.

Fear of failure keeps you from trying, creates self-doubt, stalls progress, and may lead you to go against your morals.

What causes a fear of failure? Here are the main reasons why fear of failing exists:

Patterns From Childhood

Hyper-critical adults cause children to internalize damaging mindsets.[1] They establish ultimatums and fear-based rules. This causes children to feel the constant need to ask for permission and reassurance. They carry this need for validation into adulthood.

Perfectionism

Perfectionism is often at the root of a fear of failure.[2] For perfectionists, failure is so terrible and humiliating that they don’t try. Stepping outside your comfort zone becomes terrifying.

Over-Personalization

The ego may lead us to over-identify with failures. It’s hard to look beyond failure at things like the quality of the effort, extenuating circumstances, or growth opportunities.[3]

False Self-Confidence

People with true confidence know they won’t always succeed. A person with fragile self-confidence avoids risks. They’d rather play it safe than try something new.[4]

How the Fear of Failure Holds You Back

Unhealthy Organization Culture

Too many organizations today have cultures of perfection: a set of organizational beliefs that any failure is unacceptable. Only pure, untainted success will do.

Imagine the stress and terror in an organization like that. The constant covering up of the smallest blemishes. The wild finger-pointing as everyone tries to shift the blame for the inevitable messes onto someone else. The lying, cheating, falsification of data, and hiding of problems—until they become crises that defy being hidden any longer.

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Miss out on Valuable Opportunities

If some people fail to reach a complete answer because of the lure of some early success, many more fail because of their ego-driven commitment to what worked in the past. You often see this with senior people, especially those who made their names by introducing some critical change years ago.

They shy away from further innovation, afraid that this time they might fail, diminishing the luster they try to keep around their names from past triumph.

Besides, they reason, the success of something new might even prove that those achievements they made in the past weren’t so great after all. Why take the risk when you can hang on to your reputation by doing nothing?

Such people are so deeply invested in their egos and the glories of their past that they prefer to set aside opportunities for future glory rather than risk even the possibility of failure.

High Achievers Become Losers

Every talent contains an opposite that sometimes turns it into a problem. Successful people like to win and achieve high standards. This can make them so terrified of failure that it ruins their lives. When a positive trait, like achievement, becomes too strong in someone’s life, it’s on the way to becoming a major obstacle.

Achievement is a powerful value for many successful people. They’ve built their lives on it. They achieve at everything they do: school, college, sports, the arts, hobbies, work. Each fresh achievement adds to the power of the value in their lives.

Gradually, failure becomes unthinkable. Maybe they’ve never failed yet in anything that they’ve done, so they have no experience of rising above it. Failure becomes the supreme nightmare: a frightful horror they must avoid at any cost.

The simplest way to do this is never to take a risk, stick rigidly to what you know you can do, protect yourself, work the longest hours, double and triple check everything, and be the most conscientious and conservative person in the universe.

If constant hard work, diligence, brutal working schedules and harrying subordinates won’t ward off the possibility of failing, use every other possible means to to keep it away. Falsify numbers, hide anything negative, conceal errors, avoid customer feedback, constantly shift the blame for errors onto anyone too weak to fight back.

Loss of Creativity

Over-achievers destroy their own peace of mind and the lives of those who work for them. People too attached to “goodness” and morality become self-righteous bigots. Those whose values for building close relationships become unbalanced slide into smothering their friends and family with constant expressions of affection and demands for love in return.

Everyone likes to succeed. The problem comes when fear of failure is dominant, when you can no longer accept the inevitability of making mistakes, nor recognize the importance of trial and error in finding the most creative solution.

The more creative you are, the more errors you are going to make. Deciding to avoid the errors will destroy your creativity, too.

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Balance counts more than you think. Some tartness must season the sweetest dish. A little selfishness is valuable even in the most caring person. And a little failure is essential to preserve everyone’s perspective on success.

We hear a lot about being positive. Maybe we also need to recognize that the negative parts of our lives and experience have just as important a role to play in finding success, in work, and in life.

How to Overcome Fear of Failure (Step-by-Step)

1. Figure out Where the Fear Comes From

Ask yourself what the root cause of your negative belief could be.[5] When you look at the four main causes for a fear of failure, which ones resonate with you?

Write down where you think the fear comes from, and try to understand it as an outsider.

If it helps, imagine you’re trying to help one of your best friends. Perhaps your fear stems from something that happened in your childhood, or a deep-seated insecurity.

Naming the source of the fear takes away some of its power.

2. Reframe Beliefs About Your Goal

Having an all or nothing mentality leaves you with nothing sometimes. Have a clear vision for what you’d like to accomplish but include learning something new in your goal.

If you always aim for improvement and learning, you are much less likely to fail.[6]

At Pixar, people are actually encouraged to “fail early and fail fast.”[7] They encourage experimentation and innovation so that they can stay on the cutting edge. That mindset involves failure, but as long as they achieve their vision of telling great stories, all the stumbling blocks are just opportunities to grow.

3. Learn to Think Positive

In many cases, you believe what you tell yourself. Your internal dialogue affects how you react and behave.

Our society is obsessed with success, but it’s important to recognize that even the most successful people encounter failure.

Walt Disney was once fired from a newspaper because they thought he lacked creativity. He went on to found an animation studio that failed. He never gave up, and now Disney is a household name.

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Steve Jobs was also once fired from Apple before returning as the face of the company for many years. [8]

If Disney and Jobs had believed the negative feedback, they wouldn’t have made it.

It’s up to you to notice your negative self talk and identify triggers[9]. Replace negative thoughts with positive facts about yourself and the situation. You’ll be able to create a new mental scripts that you can reach for when you feel negativity creeping in. The voice inside your head has a great effect on what you do.

How To Be A Positive Thinker: Positivity Exercises, Affirmations, & Quotes

    4. Visualize all Potential Outcomes

    Uncertainty about what will happen next is terrifying. Take time to visualize the possible outcomes of your decision. Think about the best and worst-case scenarios. You’ll feel better if you’ve already had a chance to mentally prepare for what could happen.

    Fear of the unknown might keep you from taking a new job. Weigh the pros and cons, and imagine potential successes and failures in making such a life-altering decision. Knowing how things could turn out might help you get unstuck.

    5. Look at the Worst-Case Scenario

    There are times when the worst case could be absolutely devastating. In many cases, if something bad happens, it won’t be the end of the world.

    It’s important to define how bad the worst case scenario is in the grand scheme of your life. Sometimes, we give situations more power than they deserve. In most cases, a failure is not permanent.

    For example, when you start a new business, it’s bound to be a learning experience. You’ll make decisions that don’t pan out, but often that discomfort is temporary. You can change your strategy and rebound. Even in the worst case scenario, if the perceived failure led to the end of that business, it might be the launching point for something new.

    6. Have a Backup Plan

    It never hurts to have a backup plan. The last thing you want to do is scramble for a solution when the worst has happened. The old adage is solid wisdom:

    “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.”

    Having a backup plan gives you more confidence to move forward and take calculated risks.

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    Perhaps you’ve applied for a grant to fund an initiative at work. In the worst-case scenario, if you don’t get the grant, are there other ways you could get the funds?

    There are usually multiple ways to tackle a problem, so having a backup is a great way to reduce anxiety about possible failure.

    7. Learn From Whatever Happens

    Things may not go the way you planned, but that doesn’t automatically mean you’ve failed. Learn from whatever arises.[10] Even a less than ideal situation can be a great opportunity to make changes and grow.

    “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.”

    Dig deep enough, and you’re bound to find the silver lining. When you’ve learned that “failure” is an opportunity for growth instead of a death sentence, you conquer the fear of failure.

    For more tips on how to overcome fear of failure, check out the video below:

    Final Thoughts

    To overcome fear of failure, we can start by figuring out where it comes from and reframing the way we feel about failure. When failure is a chance for growth, and you’ve looked at all possible outcomes, it’s easier to overcome fear.

    Stay positive, have a backup plan, and learn from whatever happens. Your failures will be sources of education and inspiration rather than humiliation.

    “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” -Thomas A. Edison

    Failures can be blessings in disguise. Go boldly in the direction of your dreams and long-term goals.

    More Tips for Conquering Fear

    Featured photo credit: Patrick Hendry via unsplash.com

    Reference

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