think for a lot of us there comes a moment when you feel behind everyone around you. It might have been when everyone else could read but you struggled, or when your grades were lower than everyone else's. Sometimes we feel the need to change and catch up with the crowd. It never helps to fall behind, and there's nothing wrong with wanting to catch up. However, I want to make it clear there is nothing wrong with needing more help than others.

Being smart looks different for different people. Some people are book smart, some people are street smart, and others are trades smart. 

Intelligence is not a fixed attribute; it's a dynamic quality that can be developed and enhanced throughout one's life. Whether you're a student looking to improve your academic performance, a professional aiming for career advancement, or simply someone who wants to be more knowledgeable and capable, there are effective strategies and habits you can adopt to become smarter. 

Make sure before you start your intellectual journey that you’re doing it for the right reason, and give yourself grace throughout the process!

In this blog, we will explore various techniques and practices to help you unlock your full cognitive potential and boost your intelligence.

Cultivate a Growth Mindset

Before diving into specific strategies, it's essential to adopt a growth mindset. Psychologist Carol Dweck introduced the concept of a growth mindset, which emphasizes that intelligence and abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. Embrace the belief that you can improve your intelligence through effort and persistence, and you'll be more motivated to seek out opportunities for learning and growth.

Continuous Learning

Learning is at the core of intelligence development. To become smarter, you need to prioritize continuous learning. Here are some tips for doing so:

Read Regularly

Reading broadens your knowledge, improves vocabulary, and enhances critical thinking. Whether it's books, magazines, or academic journals, reading regularly is essential. I always recommend reading things you actually find interesting. I have a friend who loves trains and reads anything they can get their hands on about it. A lot of their knowledge is concentrated in one subject area but I would still call them a very smart individual. 

Pursue Formal Education

Consider taking courses, attending workshops, or pursuing a degree in your field of interest. Lifelong learning is a powerful way to improve your intelligence. Seeking knowledge from multiple sources is a great way to get a well-rounded education.

Embrace Online Resources

The internet is a treasure trove of information. Online courses, educational websites, and platforms like Coursera and edX provide easy access to a wide range of subjects.

Develop a Curiosity Habit

Cultivate a sense of curiosity. Ask questions, seek answers, and explore topics that interest you. The more you inquire, the more you'll learn. If you don’t understand why something is the way it is, then google it. Never be content with not knowing something if the answer exists. Don’t wait for someone to provide you with answers when you can go out there and get the answers for yourself. 

 People in a group discussion
Bouncing ideas around with peers is also a wonderful way to become smarter and grow what you know. Image by Business Insider.

Mindful Practice

Simply absorbing information is not enough to become smarter. You need to actively engage with what you learn. Practice mindful learning by:

Taking Notes: Writing down key points and summarizing your understanding helps reinforce your memory and understanding of the material.

Teaching Others: Explaining what you've learned to someone else can deepen your comprehension and retention of the information.

Solving Problems: Engage in challenging problems or puzzles. The process of problem-solving enhances critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Something I do to make sure I’m not just memorizing information is trying to make connections within a field or between different fields. I’ll ask, “How is this communication practice reinforced by this psychology concept, etc.” Thinking about topics on a larger scale can truly test whether or not you understand a concept.

Enhance Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a cornerstone of intelligence. It's the ability to evaluate, analyze, and synthesize information effectively. To enhance your critical thinking skills:

Question Assumptions: Don't accept information at face value. Ask questions, challenge assumptions, and seek evidence to support claims.

Evaluate Sources: In our information-rich world, it's essential to discern credible sources from unreliable ones. Learn to evaluate the reliability of the information you encounter.

Debate and Discuss: Engage in discussions, debates, and dialogues with others who have diverse perspectives. This can broaden your understanding and encourage critical thinking.

A professor once told me to question everything I know because it is very possible what I think I know is wrong. He then said, “Question everything someone tells you, even the things you learn in this very class.” Confirmation bias is a real problem and unfortunately stops a lot of people from expanding their understanding of several topics. 

Take Care of Your Body

Your brain is a muscle like many other parts of the body and if you don’t work it then you’ll remain stagnant. However, you also don’t want to overdo it. College is a prime example of when people often sacrifice their physical needs for the sake of a grade or knowledge. Being smart is a wonderful goal to have for yourself, but you shouldn’t have to give up good health to reach that goal. 

Stay Physically Active

Physical health and mental acuity are interconnected. Regular exercise improves blood flow to the brain, reduces stress, and enhances cognitive function. Aim for a balanced, active lifestyle to maintain and improve your mental faculties.

Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is vital for cognitive function. It's during deep sleep that your brain processes and consolidates information. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night to ensure your brain operates at its best.

Mindful Eating

Nutrition plays a significant role in cognitive function. Consuming a balanced diet rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and other essential nutrients can enhance your brain's health and performance.

Play Brain-Boosting Games

A woman solving a puzzle
My mom often did puzzles to pass the time and at the time I didn’t realize how complex they could be. I later attempted to get into Sudoku but it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Image by Henry Ford Health.

Engaging in brain-boosting games and activities like puzzles, chess, crosswords, and Sudoku can improve your memory, problem-solving skills, and mental agility. I can’t say that I have ever been good at brain-boosting games but I did try. 

Embrace Failure

Don't fear failure; embrace it. Mistakes and setbacks provide valuable opportunities for learning and growth. Analyze your failures, learn from them, and use that knowledge to improve.

If you get a C on a test, don’t fall into the trap of saying you aren't smart. Something you have to embrace is you aren’t going to be a genius at everything. You’ll have your strengths and weaknesses just like everyone else. Don’t let one failure stop you from trying to learn all that you can. 

Seek New Experiences

Novelty stimulates the brain. Whether it's traveling to new places, trying new hobbies, or meeting new people, exposing yourself to new experiences keeps your brain engaged and adaptable.

One of my favorite things to do is travel to new exhibits in cities. It is always a fun experience that leaves me feeling like I’ve learned so much. I also enjoy going to festivals and talking to people about their crafts. People are very passionate about their crafts and they’ll spill everything you need to know about their art. 

I’ve learned about leather making, bookbinding, and shoe making at several different festivals I’ve traveled to. 

Develop Emotional Intelligence

Intelligence isn't limited to cognitive abilities. Emotional intelligence, or the ability to understand and manage emotions, is equally important. It can improve your social interactions, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction.

Graphic of the four pillars of Emotional Intelligence 
Emotional intelligence is far more complex than it may seem, so growing this skill is a wonderful place to start. Image by Wellable.

Time Management

Effective time management is crucial for learning and personal growth. Prioritize tasks, set goals, and allocate time for focused learning and self-improvement.

That’s all the tips we have for you on how to become smarter!

Becoming smarter is an achievable goal, and it involves a combination of mindset, continuous learning, critical thinking, and lifestyle choices. Remember that it's a journey, not a destination. By incorporating these strategies into your daily life, you can unlock your full cognitive potential and continually enhance your intelligence. 

Embrace the growth mindset and stay committed to lifelong learning, and you'll find that your intelligence knows no bounds.

The most important thing to remember is you are enough the way you are now and being smarter is great but not always necessary. 

Do what you think is best for you and take care of yourself!

Nov 24, 2023