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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 February 17, 2020

What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Want a Successful Career

What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Want a Successful Career

There’s nothing more soul-destroying than waking up Monday morning dreading the fact that you’re about to step back into slavery for a job you hate. You savor every minute at home before sadly turning the key in the lock to close your front door. From that moment on, you’re counting down the hours and minutes until it’s ‘TGIF’. Your anxiety might even start simmering well before your weekend is over.

Your boss might be a bully or a manager who cannot actually lead and guide their team. Receiving mixed messages, being twisted and turned in multiple directions with none of the directives being for any real benefit can plummet your motivation and satisfaction so deep you’ll almost hit the Earth’s core. You love what you do and what you trained for, but any potential ounce of enjoyment has now completely evaporated. You feel dead in the water.

You might be shocked at the suggestion that if you’re feeling these things, it’s actually a very good sign! You’re likely to be on the cusp of a significant cross-road which is going to change your life.

So, what to do when you hate your job? The following key steps are going to set you back on the golden path to enjoying career success despite the muddy waters you currently find yourself in.

1. Recognize Your Signs of Discomfort Are Exactly the Push You Need

Long gone are the days where we might expect to join a business or corporation and spend our lifetime working our way up into a cushy senior management role that will take care of us and our families for the rest of our lives. In fact, it’s actually risky business to even think this way.

Pay rises are less frequent. Your skills and opportunities to expand your skills are now limited by staying within one job or organization. By definition, having a career means being on a continuous journey of development. Nowadays, the average person changes jobs in their lifetimes between 10 and 15 times.[1] Not changing job environments caps your capacity to grow your knowledge and strengthen your capabilities. You actually make yourself less employable.

With the globalization of many businesses, you’re not only competing against people in your local neighborhood for your ideal role, you’re competing with folks from other cities, interstate, cross-country and overseas.

Some organizations are evolving with a constant focus on being innovative, taking calculated risks and embracing new technologies — those that aren’t are falling to the wayside. If you don’t flow with the changing tides yourself, you could quickly find yourself stuck stagnant on a sinking ship with no lifeline.

Monday morning blues are a key sign it’s time to start thinking and doing things differently. What you are feeling is actually a blessing in disguise.

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2. Work with a Career Coach And/Or Therapist

When we really detest our daily grind, it’s high time to keep a lookout for the development of symptoms of anxiety and/or depression.

Don’t just look for physical signs such as feeling greater and frequent fatigue, increased emotional eating, poor sleep. Loss of motivation, concentration and lower general interest not just in your work but in your personal life activities and relationships…these signs should raise alarm bells.

Your friends and family might start reflecting they’re fed up of hearing about how your boss is constantly laying blame on you for their mistakes. Tolerance has worn thin listening to constant complaints about your doing the work of two people yet never confronting your boss about it. Continuing to play the broken record of your pain is not only sucking the lifeblood out of you but your friends and family as well.

Don’t hold off working with a therapist and/or career coach when you notice these things. Both professionals will help you recognize the full picture of your experience and how it’s impacting you. Of greatest value is their helping you to start identifying changes you need to make and how to turn those into reality.

When your emotional, physical and mental resources are drained from coping with your soul-destroying nine-to-five, your mindset is unlikely to have the optimal sensibility to hatch your escape plan. You’re likely to be operating from a fixed mindset of desperation than innovation and run the stakes of moving from one crappy job situation to another.

Invest focus to rediscovering your worth, career interests and learn how to dream big again. Go deep in exploration of what your values are around what you want your work to give to you and mean to you:

  • What sorts of relationships do I want to experience in my job and throughout my career?
  • What values, ethics and principles do I want and need to be able to honor in my work to feel fulfilled and content?
  • How do I want to show up to those I serve through the work I do?
  • How do I want to feel each morning as I wake up to go to my job?
  • How do I want to feel at the end of each day?
  • What lifestyle do I want my career to afford me?
  • What do I want my career to help me learn and grow into becoming, not just skills-wise but as a person?

If working with a coach or therapist feels like an uncomfortable step for you, consider looking into undertaking a course which helps you work through these questions. Give yourself a gentle kick to ignite momentum in a different direction.

3. Read Simon Sinek’s Find Your Why

Reading Find Your Why by globally renowned organizational consultant and speaker Simon Sinek could be a transformational step in finding your way back to experiencing a successful and enjoyable career.

Sinek and his co-authors explain there isn’t really a difference between having a professional why and a personal why.

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It’s just as much the reason why your friends and family love you as an expression of the work you put yourself into every day. It’s less about tasks and activities and really about what emotional and mental satisfaction doing those things brings you.

What results is a beautiful tapestry of people not just experiencing an incredible product or service from you. You love what you do, create and get to give and they love you back for channeling that passion into that service and product they experience benefit from.

This article also guides you through to discover your why:

How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

4. Consider Expanding Your Thinking and Entrepreneurial Flair

You might think “I’ll always be an employee” and the thought of starting a business might scare the living daylights out of you. Even then, there is a strong chance you have monetizable talents that could, at the very least, swiftly direct your mindset away from the chilling notion of being stuck in your dead-end job for eternity.

The thought of creating a product or service all by yourself could be dauntingly foreign. Doing something like this could feel like ridiculously fathoming a climb of Mt Everest when you don’t know the first thing about climbing or hiking!

But once you start looking and having explorative conversations with different mindsets about ideas, instead of debriefing the horrible day you had yet again in your job, things will start to change. Like Sleeping Beauty being awoken from slumber by Prince Charming’s first kiss, you’ll start discovering a whole new way of thinking you won’t ever want to harness.

Look at what skills you have to perform your current job. What skills have you acquired in the past that might simply have been dormant for a little while? Do you miss being able to exercise certain skills?

When you have the discussion with your career coach, you’ll discover there are probably many more skills, knowledge and experiences you could even package and sell than you realize. However, remember: it’s not just about the money. It never should be.

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Even if you have been an administrator for many years, could the next step be writing an introductory course administrators or young job seekers could benefit from? There is no better teacher or education platform to learn from than hands-on experience. It might be a side gig you create which you pitch to and deliver at high schools and job-seeking agencies.

You might create a face to face workshop and/or an accompanying course that you create and sell on online education platforms such as Udemy or Teachable. Your course might inform and teach interview techniques and communication tips for working with managers and bosses. You might suggest what exercising initiative looks like and what individuals can do to help themselves feel comfortable and confident early in their jobs.

There often is nothing more satisfying than learning and knowing that someone else’s challenges and problems were overcome because of wisdom and experience we could share with them. We all have something we can teach and offer people. What might you have to offer?

5. Market Yourself in Terms of What You Want to Be Doing, Not Just What You’re Currently Doing

It’s time to start letting the masses know what you’re capable of, not just in terms of what you have done but what you’re aspiring towards and charging forward to achieve.

Global recruitment firm Robert Half explains how personal branding is essential to progress and enjoy a successful career.[2] Providing an impressive sounding resume and a cover letter are no longer enough.

What we engage with and how we show up online and offline is taken into account more now than ever. So we need to be strategic.

If you are looking for opportunities to work in overseas companies in your industry, you might consider researching best practices other off-shore companies are engaging in and writing your own short LinkedIn post about it.[3] Or you may simply look to post a link to what you have found and provide short critical evaluations about it.

Start thinking about how you market yourself and stop leaving it to chance. Whilst many think social media is only for personal social items, consider how your engagement on these platforms portrays you to your audiences. Steer potential employers and business partners to see you as you want to be seen, not just as you are.

6. Get Back on Track to a Successful Career Path by Learning New Things

When you are waking up each day with a sick feeling in your stomach knowing work duties call, there is a hard reality you have to face:

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It’s your responsibility to make the necessary changes. It is no one else’s responsibility to make you feel happy or satisfied with your work. At the end of the day, it’s yours.

If you want to have a successful career, you have to take charge of the direction and types of experiences you want to have on your journey. Where do you want to go? How far and why? What training or opportunities might give you this? Is it executive coaching? Perhaps undertaking an MBA? Allow yourself to think laterally too.

Let’s say project management is a skill set you need to learn, or incompetent boss snidely commented you would never make it without these skills. Could volunteering to crew for an event speaking company platform fast track your learning as to what’s involved? Financial forecasting, marketing, resource and supplies management, working with different team member personalities and managing client relations…you could never gain hands-on experiential learning like this you via a classroom or online course.

The e-learning industry is forecast to reach $325USbillion by 2025.[4] With the quality of online learning gateways growing exponentially with very affordable costs of access to world-class teachers, golden opportunities to increase your skill set and knowledge are at your fingertips. Never has there been a better time for you to design a career pathway and forge an enriching educational journey that feeds not just your professional curiosities but personal interests too.

Final Thoughts

No successful career has ever involved dancing to the same tune. When you find yourself despising your job more often than not, change is nigh. By using just one of these tips above, you can rechart your course to have a successful career.

In a short amount of time, you won’t only resuscitate the self-worth and recognition of our unique value that dead-end jobs can steal from you. You’ll enjoy deeper, prolonged levels of satisfaction, energizing self-discovery and opportunities to turn your career into a far more gratifying journey you could ever have imagined.

The best part is that you don’t even have to wait to land the dream job. The journey itself will be magical.

More Tips for Career Success

Featured photo credit: Christian Battaglia via unsplash.com

Reference

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