In 2006 world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., published her top-selling book Mindset.
The breakthrough book with a one-word title detailed how successful people think about their mindset compared to their unsuccessful peers. Dweck’s significant finding boiled down to people possessing one of two mindsets;
- A Growth Mindset
- Or, a Fixed Mindset
Those who routinely fell into the fixed mindset category believed in innate qualities such as, “You’re born the way you are, you can’t change it,” or in things such as, “Failure is proof of unintelligence.”
On the other hand, the more prosperous group of growth mindset thinkers believed in beliefs such as, “Failure is a chance to grow,” and “Talent can be developed.” They believed, and as Dweck proved, you can get smarter.
Which leads to this question, “How can you boost your intelligence, and what are ways to make yourself smarter?”
We decided to ask people from all backgrounds that very question while conducting our research to help you answer that exact question to boost your intelligence!
1. Take care of yourself first and foremost
Have you tried concentrating when you are hungry or tired?
As you know, having these needs unfulfilled makes learning harder. The same is true for mental exhaustion. If you are at your limit, you won’t focus, and it might feel like you aren’t smart enough to learn new concepts.
Usually, it’s not a matter of not being smart enough, but being at your mental capacity.
To boost your intelligence, mitigate that with self-care. Take time to make sure all of your needs are met, especially before embarking on a new learning opportunity. Take that bath, read that book, write in your journal, and relieve that stress! You’ll be amazed at how much smarter it makes you.
2. Adopt a Growth Mindset, as Dweck says!
Adopt a growth mindset, especially if you are someone who tends to have a fixed mindset!
The key ingredient to making you smarter is the belief that your skills and abilities can be developed over time. People with a growth mindset never stop learning new ideas and skills, they are persistent in the face of obstacles, and they learn from their mistakes and those of others. They are motivated to work hard, find their passion, and achieve success.
The good news is that you can adopt a growth mindset by merely making an effort to learn and stay open-minded. Just knowing the difference between the two perspectives will make you smarter and boost your intelligence!
When challenges arise, embrace them, and persevere rather than shying away. It’s entirely up to you whether you decide to adopt the growth mindset and reap the lifelong benefits or stick to what you know.
3. Read more books!
Countless studies show that millionaires and high-level executives read multiple books per month, yet the average adult reads less than one book per year. Reading books, fiction or on-fiction, makes your brain sharper and makes your thinking more flexible.
Not to sound to cliche, but reading expands your horizons and helps you learn new things. I suggest incorporating reading into your weekend schedule and reading a bit before bed every night.
Reading develops your thoughts, helps you understand other people, and exercises your brain while also helping you relax – ever read in bed? It is like a sleeping pill.
In all seriousness, reading a book sharpers your brain, especially the part of your brain that deals with critical thinking and analysis. It can also help you increase your concentration- a key tool to help you get more intelligent. Additionally, reading expands your vocabulary, which will make you sound more intelligent as well. Reading also encourages your imagination, which is tied to your intelligence.
Reading doesn’t have to be hard either. Whether it’s a book about a mindset shift, learning a new skill, history, or even just a daily business newsletter like Morning Brew, becoming a lifelong reader will keep you sharp.
4. Adjust your belief system on intelligence!
The first step in becoming more intelligent is believing you can become smarter. Neuroscience has shown that our brains continue to grow and develop new connections throughout the lifespan, and thus it is possible to rewire your brain literally.
Of course, change is difficult because you may be building an entirely new pathway, but over time that path will become worn down like a well-trodden trail, and the task or skill will become easier. Thus, the second step is to persist in learning new skills and habits. Combined, believing you can become more intelligent and then prevailing in learning the new skill will allow you to reach almost any goal you set yourself.
5. Learn to Crowdsource
A successful strategy businesses use is crowdsourcing information, solutions, and ideas – something you need to try to boost your smarts!
The term “crowdsourcing” was coined by Wired editors Jeff Howe and Mark Robinson in 2005. They define crowdsourcing as “the act of a company or institution taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally large) network of people in the form of an open call.”
The proliferation of social media makes it easy for individuals to tap into crowdsourcing solutions. For example, suppose you are a timeshare owner looking to hack your timeshare. In that case, you can tap into the collective wisdom of 22 million fellow owners worldwide in Facebook groups or decade-long forums.
This goes for just about anything from a DIY project to start your venture. You can find a variety of answers to those types of questions from those more experienced in a matter of minutes, thus making yourself smarter!
6. Stay active and exercise
We all know we should exercise regularly, but why?
Besides the noticeable physical gains of exercise, if you want to improve your brain function, staying active is one of the best ways. Studies have found that your hippocampus activity is enhanced when you exercise, which stimulates and regulates a part of the brain related to memory. It means that your intelligence will get a boost in the long term when you continue to move throughout the day.
We’ve all heard the saying ‘sitting is the new smoking’. If you have a job where you sit behind a desk for over eight hours a day, moving and exercising regularly is even more critical. How can you exercise when you only have a couple of minutes?
Follow a 30-day planking challenge for beginners or joining a step challenge are simple ways to get moving and get smarter!
7. Play games like sudoku and scrabble
Stimulating your brain – and not with TV – is a simple way to make you smarter. Believe it or not, a simple way to do this is to play games like Sudoku, Scrabble or complete daily crossword puzzles.
If you haven’t noticed already, your brain can produce quite a few chemical reactions, and positive stimuli like a crossword increase brain functioning. Mental focus, recall, creative skills, and more are all used when you try your hand at some brain games!
8. Know when you have a fixed mindset!
You already know you should embrace a growth mindset and be the person with an attitude that welcomes challenges and values hard work, but what about the fixed mindset?
Avoid it at all costs!
A fixed mindset avoids challenges and readily gives up when obstacles are before them, which is the exact opposite of what it takes to become smarter. The belief that you can not improve your situation, whether that’s finances, relationships, intelligence, etc., can hurt your growth.
Shying away for fear of “not looking smart” isn’t a good idea. So knowing when you have a fixed mindset is vital. No one can entirely have a growth mindset, but it’s essential to know when we tend to have a more fixed mindset to overcome it in that particular area!
9. Surround yourself with the right people
There is a saying that you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Surrounding yourself with the right types of people is the key to developing your intelligence.
The people around you will influence you, your behavior, thoughts, and, ultimately, your intelligence, either positively or negatively!
People who are driven, ambitious, continuous learners, and open to ideas are more likely to influence you to be the same way. So, find those people in your life who inspire you to learn and who awaken your drive to know more.
10. Avoid results-oriented thinking
Avoid the all too common results-oriented thinking!
Here is what we mean. Say your neighbor plays the lottery and wins a million dollars. Our monkey brains immediately ponder, “Maybe I should play the lottery. I like money too!”
We see a result of a specific action and impulsively make a judgment connecting the action to its consequence. But our rational brains know the lottery doesn’t work that way. The lottery odds are not in our favor. The results you saw–i.e., your neighbor’s big win–don’t change the fact that the lottery is a losing proposition. Connecting a single action to a single outcome often leads to incorrect correlations.
The real world isn’t quite as simple as the lottery or the coin flip. Observe all the data and don’t jump to conclusions. You can–and should!–apply rational principles to avoid results-oriented thinking in your life.
11. Recognize, you’re not an expert in everything
Greek Philosopher Aristotle famously wrote, “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.”
The first step in getting smarter is to acknowledge when you are not an expert. Everyone can’t be an expert at everything, so whether it’s a money related topic, or anything else, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Asking for help is probably one of the best ways to learn – bringing in an expert to educate you and show you the way.
There are many ways to get help from experts. In personal finance, the most popular (and most expensive) is to get help from a financial advisor or financial coach. However, you could also read books or blogs.
12. Use your downtime more wisely
Brian Thorp, the founder, and CEO of Wealthtender suggests finding and filling gaps in your day with education for your ears.
Turn your moments running errands in the car or strolling through the grocery store into compounding nuggets of knowledge when you listen to a podcast or audiobook on an educational topic you’re interested in.
Whether it’s another few words of a new language you’re learning or tips from a business book on increasing your earnings, these knowledge ‘snacks’ each day will help in a big way!
13. Take self-improvement seriously
To boost your intelligence, you should dedicate time to self-development and continuous learning.
Along the lines of protecting your physical health with exercise, self-improvement must become more intelligent. And it doesn’t have to be hard to do! For example, if you are bored at home alone, you can use the free time to work on YOU!
Ideas to improve yourself include:
- Reading for self-improvement
- Breathing exercises
- Positive mindset exercises
14. Challenge yourself on the regular
You don’t have to be the next David Goggins and run the equivalent of 267 marathons in a single year, but getting in the habit of routinely challenging yourself will make you smarter!
Whether it’s learning something new or physically challenging yourself, make sure you’re not operating in a constant comfort zone. By challenging yourself, you force your brain to make new neural connections rather than use the same old, worn ones.
Think of it as blazing a new trail through the woods instead of using the paved sidewalk around them. By doing this, you’ll force yourself to problem solve more often and stay alert, rather than operating on autopilot.
When you’re continually challenging yourself, your brain is much better prepared for adversity. The more neural pathways that exist in your brain, the easier it will be to gain intelligence. A sure-fire way to boost your intelligence is to gather wisdom. Wisdom comes from continually learning.
You could learn something new by reading a brief article about how clouds form, learning how to jump rope, or diving deep into a new investment. Whatever it is, make it challenging, and don’t give up too fast!
15. Avoid decision fatigue!
Avoiding decision fatigue will, no doubt, make you smarter.
Decision fatigue is a well-documented phenomenon that indicates our ability to make decisions deteriorates after a lengthy decision-making session.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wears the same T-shirt every day to eliminate decision fatigue, so his mind has more mental capacity for smart work. It is better to divide all daily tasks into two buckets – deep work tasks and repetitive tasks.
The deep work tasks that need concentration or require a lot of will power should be done first in the morning. If we can accomplish the job we have always wanted to achieve right in the morning, then the rest of the day will be great. You will have a sense of accomplishment to kick start your day. And you will gain momentum.
Automate the repetitive tasks to save time and mental bandwidth for jobs that require your concentration. You can use automation for everything, right from investing to exercising. Avoiding decision fatigue is the secret of how to get stuff done and become smarter.
16. Protect your mental health!
Protecting your mental health is critical in your quest to become smarter. That’s because your brain is your intelligence hub. If it’s hindered by anxiety, depression, loneliness, or another disruptive mental state, your capacity to learn, assimilate, and apply new information will be limited.
If you find yourself in a contradictory state of mind, don’t ignore it!
Although you may be in a funk that eventually passes on its own, you could be experiencing a long-lasting concern that requires intervention. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to a counselor or therapist to talk things out. The sooner you take steps to heal or improve the problem, the sooner you’ll be back to increase your smarts.
Consider incorporating meditation into your day. Meditation is well proven to give many benefits, including brain development. Apart from the physiological changes, the practice of sitting and training yourself to notice what you’re thinking aids concentration and mindfulness.
Over time, with regular practice, you begin to notice your ability to slow down your emotional reactivity to life events. You begin to approach life’s inevitable challenges with a calmness that can set you apart from those around you.
18. Try new things and learn new skills
Regina, a pharmacist, says that you should give yourself some space to do something that you find fun but challenging.
It can be a lot easier to learn new skills and make yourself smarter when it feels like fun instead of work. She has recently been working on expanding her graphic design abilities, which she describes as a rabbit hole that started by making one sticker. With each new skill built, there’s a new layer of topics to tackle and learn. A bonus, once you develop new skills in the process of having fun, you may be able to turn that around into side hustle opportunities or items to add to your resume.
19. Start a side hustle or business venture!
Kristian, the marketing director from Savology, suggests working on a side hustle outside of your general area of expertise and usual ‘playground,’ so to speak. By doing so, you’ll benefit in several different ways.
For one, you’ll be challenging yourself to think in different contexts, which might mean coming up with new and different solutions to solve new and unique problems. Secondly, you’ll be exposing yourself to new thought leaders and experts in different spaces, all of whom may be useful in helping you expand your horizon, learn new skills, and develop new ways of thinking critically.
You can check out a list of side hustle ideas here if you don’t know where to start, and keep in mind that a new area means there will be a learning curve and adjustment phase – but that is what getting smarter is all about, right?
20. Become an audiobook fanatic
George Jreije from the Not So Starving Writer recommends giving audiobooks a chance. Whether a long commute or doing chores at home, audiobooks are an excellent way to learn passively, with no effort required. Not to mention, a good portion of them are free!
If you have a card from your local library, there are almost always partnerships with digital audiobook lenders that you can sign up for, checking out books to listen to much the same way that you might check out a physical book at the counter.
Especially in an age where folks might be cautious about stepping into their local library but still be looking to save on book purchases, these free audiobooks are the perfect source for entertainment and knowledge.
21. Reduce your stress ASAP
If you’re serious about boosting your intelligence and getting smarter, be sure to eliminate all the unnecessary stress in your life!
Financial insecurity can cause stress for a lot of families. Many folks may also feel stuck in a job or career they don’t like or are unhappy doing. Relationships, money, jobs – you name it – they can all cause unnecessary stress that must go if you want to learn to become smarter.
Here are some ideas to reduce stress fast:
- Get on a budget (fiances)
- Have crucial conversations where stress occurs in life
- Organize your life
- Find ways to save money like house hacking, renting a room in the city, etc.
- See how you can reduce your commute time.
- Get help with parenting.
- Write down your top 3 stressors.
- Avoid #22 below
22. Be mindful of social media of use
Bernz JP, the founder of Moneylogue, says that exposing yourself to the right kind of media is crucial. Social media consumes so much of life these days, but it’s a good idea to turn towards other media forms if you want to get smarter!
Documentaries and podcasts are a great way to learn about a new subject or expand your knowledge of something you’re unfamiliar with. However, if you spend too much time on social media, you miss out on learning opportunities.
Social media has its pros, but it also has many cons, like breaking our attention, causing anxiety, and comparing. Not to mention, social media can make us dumber, not smarter.
Limit your social media use if you’re aiming to get smarter and boost your intelligence!
23. Explore creative endeavors
Take time to explore creative endeavors.
Whether that is art, making music, baking new recipes, woodworking, etc. Anything that helps switch your mind from the day-to-day thought processes we all go through with life, jobs, and families.
Taking the time to explore your brain’s creative side can inspire new ideas and unlock ways to tackle existing problems. Exploring creative ideas is essentially a process of trial and error. For people who explore their creative side more often, this can lead to being more comfortable and better able to deal with uncertainty in life.
24. Talk with your partner
Lindsay Goldwert, the editor-in-chief of Money Date by Zeta, recommends making a regularly scheduled monthly money date with your partner to make sure that you’re both on the same page with your finances.
“Talking about money, even with the person you love, can be incredibly fraught. The only way to deal with debts, worries, and confusion about what to save and spend on is to make your Money Date a regular part of your monthly calendar. Do it over a relaxing dinner or a drink at the end of the day. Remember, the goal is a mutual understanding of what’s going on with your short and long-term financial goals so you can win as a team.”
Communicating with your partner will make you smarter, in more ways than one!
25. Keep it simple
Strive to learn one new thing a day and make it simple.
Whether it’s Googling a new topic, picking up a new book, or discussing with someone. It can be something as small as looking up the meaning of a word or something more complicated such as perfecting a recipe or learning about negotiation tactics for real estate.
Learning one new thing every day is an easy, quick way to become more well-rounded and intelligent.
26. Become financially savvy
If you want to make yourself smarter, make sure your finances increase your brain energy on things that you enjoy learning.
Finances are the number one cause of stress. Case in point, when you are in debt, you can often have a short term mindset focused on fixing the present financial pain instead of planning and looking to the future.
Getting financially savvy will help you in the long run, and it isn’t super hard. Simply learning to do a zero-based budget, finding a debt payoff planner app, or learning about investing is pretty simple with the internet.
Fixing your money will ultimately free up time in your life and your brain!
27. Study a foreign language
In 2001, the New York Times published an article about a group of nuns in their 80’s studying Russian.
The article describes how brain stimulation and keeping yourself challenged later in life can be a possible antidote to dementia! So not only would studying a foreign language make you smarter, but it can also help you with your health in the long run too!
Learning a new language has never been easier with online programs and free apps such as Duolingo. Start by getting an app, picking a language you want to learn, and start practicing!
28. Lastly, never stop learning!
Never stop learning, and you will always be on track to getting smarter!
Continually acquiring new knowledge and improving your skills is a proven way to succeed personally, and it is something that everyone can truly benefit from.
There are plenty of different options available to boost your intelligence – including ways to learn new free online skills, and accessing information has never been easier/more affordable.
Things like cost, time commitments, and geography are no longer barriers. But don’t overlook opportunities to learn offline, either, if you prefer to learn in person.
So take online classes, attend webinars, listen to podcasts, watch documentaries, read more, volunteer, work with a mentor, start a new hobby, solve puzzles or brain teasers, or start asking more questions.
There is always something new to learn!