I haven’t been in school since I finished my master’s degree in 2011. It’s crazy to think that was almost a decade ago. When you aren’t in a dedicated learning environment every day, you have to take it upon yourself to grow and learn. A lot of people finish school and the learning stops. But whether you’re more street smart or book smart, we should always be improving and evolving. You can incorporate a few simple habits into your day-to-day routine that will make you smarter and keep you constantly moving forward.
Read every day
You knew this one was first, right? Reading is the ultimate way to increase your level of intellect, even if it’s just a few chapters a day. And you don’t have to read War and Peace in order for it to help. Reading any type of book will help increase your vocabulary and your world view. You should also be reading posts or articles you disagree with. It can potentially expand your mind, and help you see things from a different point of view. But even spending time reading for pleasure will keep your mind active and moving forward.
A lot of the time, a question will flash in our mind, but because of timing or distractions we never follow up on it. Keep a file on your phone in your notes for all of the daily questions you think on so you can revisit it later. As kids, we harbor a natural curiosity about the world around us. Trust me, I have a 3-year-old who has questions about everything. I’m not exaggerating. As I’m typing this, I just had to answer questions about why his glow-in-the-dark pens didn’t work in the sunlit living room at 10:25 a.m. even though he “turned off all the lights.” As we grow older, we get busy living life and, unfortunately, lose interest in discovering information about our world. Keep a log throughout the day and revisit it later when you have time to look up the answers.
This notebook is great for planning and “daily” tasks and checklists but also has a lined section at the end for journaling or longer notes. This is the notebook I use currently for my daily tasks and love having the extra section at the back for non-task-related notes and journaling.
Play devil’s advocate
My husband is one of the smartest people I know and he’s always playing “devil’s advocate,” which, tbh, is annoying at times when you’re on the other end of it, but has a ton of benefits for helping you expand your mind. This falls in line with asking questions, because we should never assume anything or subscribe unthinkingly to the conventional wisdom. Keep your eyes and mind wide open. Even if you agree with something, it’s always good to dissect it and view it from all angles.
Spend time with intelligent people
One of the most common habits of successful, intelligent people is the company they keep. The type of people that you hang out and surround yourself with will significantly influence the kind of person that you become. Hang out with people who are smarter than you are and you’ll find yourself growing in a positive direction. There’s a saying, if you hang out with four broke people, you will be the fifth, and if you hang out with four millionaires, you will be the fifth. The same goes for intelligence. Who you spend time with reflects who you are. Monkey see, monkey do, right?
Consistent exercise produces BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic function), which helps your brain thrive. BDNF is a protein that helps with memory, learning, focus, concentration and comprehension. This is why you feel so sharp and laser-focused during and after a strenuous workout. Keep it up though. If you really want to see the benefits, your exercise routine should be at least three to five times per week.
Listen to podcasts
You know how I said you should hang out with people smarter than you? Do it virtually with podcasts. And I don’t mean true crime or gossip podcasts. My favorite podcast to listen to for educational inspiration is Science Rules! with Bill Nye. It’s entertaining yet informative and I learn about all different topics from different experts. Rather than turning on an episode of your favorite reality tv show, turn on a podcast and soak up all that learning!
Make mind maps
Mind mapping helps you think, collect knowledge, remember and create ideas. Most likely, it will make you a better thinker. Mind mapping increases your creativity and productivity because it helps you generate more ideas, identify relationships among the different data and information and effectively improve your memory and retention. Since mind mapping works like the brain does, it allows you to organize and understand information faster and better.
It’s easy to create a life of learning and growing. Just implement a few simple habits and you’ll become a little bit smarter every day.