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Intelligence can be cultivated too. These hacks help

Tamanna Mishra
18th Jul 2017
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We have spent a lifetime with IQ tests and school and college report cards that implies we were born with a fixed amount of intelligence. Though in actuality we are conditioned to believe that we have no role to play in cultivating intelligence or the metaphoric sharpening of our brain cells. Something Olive Burkeman, a writer for The Guardian and a psychology thought leader debunks.

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

“When researchers talk about improving brainpower, what they care about most is “fluid intelligence” – the general ability to manipulate information, solve problems and generate ideas. Unlike sudoku skills, fluid intelligence is transferable: if you could enhance it, you can expect to reap benefits in multiple areas of life.”

Training your brain to respond intelligently is not only possible, it is quite exhilarating. Simple things like having fun in general, change of scene, how you spend your time, treatment of information, shapes and refines your brain’s response to situations. But the best part of it all? It is all in your control.

Here are some proven ways to “enhance your intelligence”. They may not raise your IQ immediately but will definitely make sure that you use your IQ judiciously and your cognitive abilities get sharper.

Go to places you have rarely experienced

I am a big believer in the benefits of a little “change of scene”. Cubicles are often uninspiring and corporate offsites are so boringly repetitive that they refuse to really open our brain up. It is not just you. According to neuroscientist Gregory Berns, author of Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently, “Only when the brain is confronted with stimuli that it has not encountered before does it start to reorganize perception. The surest way to provoke the imagination, then, is to seek out environments you have no experience with.”

Have an assignment that needs you to get creative? Do yourself a favour and find yourself in a fresh spot. A park, that coffee shop down the road, your balcony - in my experience they have all worked wonders. Find your sweet spot before you blame yourself for being born with the “wrong IQ”.

Question things

In general, our hierarchical culture demands that we submit to certain rules, news and viewpoints. But questioning and analyzing is essential. This is why the critical analysis of characters and literature that you learned in your formative years is essential to a lifetime of informed, comprehensive decision making.

As Einstein put it, “Don't think about why you question, simply don't stop questioning. Don't worry about what you can't answer, and don't try to explain what you can't know. Curiosity is its own reason. Aren't you in awe when you contemplate the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure behind reality? And this is the miracle of the human mind — to use its constructions, concepts and formulas as tools to explain what man sees, feels and touches. Try to comprehend a little more each day. Have holy curiosity.”

Allow yourself a moment to drift away

Immersing yourself in the task at hand often leads to a linear style of thinking. Creative intelligence demands that one allows unintentional or abstract thoughts to take shape. The sharpest insights come from this entangled “mess”.

According to Dan Goleman of Psychology Today, “It's first to concentrate intently on the goal or problem, and then relax into stage three: let go. The converse of letting go - trying to force an insight - can inadvertently stifle creative breakthrough. If you're thinking and thinking about it, you may just be getting tenser and not coming up with fresh ways of seeing things, let alone a truly creative insight. So to get to the next stage, you just let go. Unlike the intense focus of grappling with a problem head-on, the third stage is characterized by a high alpha rhythm, which signals mental relaxation, a state of openness, of daydreaming and drifting, where we're more receptive to new ideas.”

As it turns out, sharpening your brain is similar to letting go of monotony. It is fun, it provokes conversation, and most of all, it sets the stage for us to look at everything differently. What’s not to love?

Here are more reads on self-learning techniques and inspiration for a life of intelligent decision-making –

  1. 5 inspiring things we can learn from self-made billionaires
  2. Constant learning not only makes you knowledgeable, but also a better person
  3. Learn about failure, self-reliance, and the will to succeed from a true winner – Michael Jordan in 30 quotes
  4. The marathon test: 42.2 kilometers of learning
  5. What you can learn from the morning routines of these 3 successful women
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