Educate Inspire Change

10 Mental Habits That Will Make You Much Smarter, According to an MIT Neuroscientist


Intelligence is more than just IQ. Unfortunately in school we thought that if we weren’t good at Maths or English then we weren’t considered ‘intelligent’.

But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Real intelligence involves being creative, thoughtful, kind and adaptable in a world that is changing rapidly.

While IQ is largely fixed, there are many things we can do to become smarter.

MIT neuroscientist Ed Boyden has 10 suggestions in his epic post on MIT Technology Review. It’s definitely worth the read if you’ve got the time. If not, don’t worry. I’ve summarized his helpful tips below:

1. Synthesize New Ideas Constantly

Do you tend to read ‘passively’? According to Boyden, reading this way isn’t useful. Instead he says to “annotate, model, think and synthesize” while you’re reading. This will lead to deeper understanding, more creative breakthroughs and a mind receptive to different points of view.

2. Learn How To Learn

In an age where technology is changing at such a rapid rate, being able to learn quickly is extremely important. As Alvin Toffler pointed out: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

3. Work Backward From Your Goal

Working forwards is risky, because you may never get there. Instead if you work backward, your efforts are being directed to what’s important every step of the way.

4. Always Have a Long-term Goal

I love this. So many of us focus on immediate gratification and short-term goals, but the real power is in making a plan for the future. As Bill Gates said: “Most people overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can do in 10.”

5. Make Contingency Maps

Having visual representation of how things connect can make all the difference. You’ll get clarity on where your time and effort should be directed to.

6. Collaborate

Behind every great person…are a bunch of people. Charles Darwin said it best:

“It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”

7. Make Your Mistakes Quickly

It’s okay to make mistakes. But you need to make your mistakes quickly and move on. As Shakespeare put it, “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”

8. Develop Winning Formulas

When you find something that’s working, write down the formula! When you approach something that’s similar, you’ll know exactly what to do.

9. Document Everything Obsessively

If you don’t record it, then you might not learn anything. Much of creativity is learning how to see things properly.

10. Keep It Simple

“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” ― Albert Einstein

Originally published on Ideapod’s blog.

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