Five Simple Habits That Will Make You Smarter (Forbes Magazine)

“I write about bringing life to work and bringing work to life.”

We are too busy with our crazy everyday lives to take on the extra task of getting smarter!

That’s what we think — but it’s not true. We have a skewed definition of “learning.”

When the phrase “getting smarter” comes to mind, the first thing most of us think of is instruction.

Since childhood we have been taught that in order to get smarter, we must be taught.

We think that getting smarter requires us to go back to school, but that’s not true!

We tend to think that learning is a matter of putting new facts into our memory banks. That’s not true either! There is much more to learning than acquiring facts.

 Exercising your brain makes you smarter. Thinking in new ways about new topics makes you smarter, too.

Here are five easy ways to get smarter.  Try a few of them and pick your favorites!

Five Simple Habits That Will Make You Smarter

Vary Your Routine

Drive to work and drive home a slightly different way every day. Shop at different grocery stores. Change the arrangement of the furniture in your home. Listen to different kinds of music. Every chance you get to pull yourself out of the auto-pilot stupor we so easily fall into, grab it!

Read Things You Haven’t Read Before

When it comes to taking in information from the outside world, most of us stick to a few websites that we know and trust. We don’t seek out new sources of information.

To get smarter, read publications and writers you’ve never heard of or been exposed to before. Read about subjects you decided long ago you don’t care about. Maybe something has shifted, and you will care about them now!

I hated science in high school, but now I read science books. I did not realize back then that science is a lot more interesting than my science class was.

When you stretch yourself to allow new ideas and perspectives into your worldview, you will be amazed at how much you learn!

Question What You Know

A great way to get smarter is to question everything you’ve learned in your life so far.

The more you question, the more new ideas will come in. When someone asks you a question whose answer you know, stop and think before you give them the standard answer that springs to your lips.

Let’s say you believe that a college education is essential for career success. You’ve learned that idea and you believe it: but why?

Where did you learn that idea? What makes you certain it is true? Is it true in every case?

Have you ever sought out information to affirm or contradict your belief?

You will get smarter and smarter as you continue asking questions about the things you think you know.

Talk To People Who Are Different from You

At work and everywhere you go, seek out people who are different from you. If you always hang out with the same people, ask them to bring a friend to your next gathering and you do the same.

New people bring new histories and perspectives — just what you need to get smarter!

Talk to people who have different backgrounds and perspectives from yours. Taking their point of view – even if only for a few moments – will make you smarter!

Reserve Judgment — Stop And Reflect

Going through your day you will sometimes hear or read something startling, and recoil. You’ll say “That’s wrong!” or “That’s unprofessional!”

Pay attention to your strong, negative reactions. When fear and anger rise up in you, that’s a signal.

 Whatever you read or heard bothered you, and your first reaction was to swat it away like a fly. That’s why your brain told you “That’s stupid!” or “That’s wrong.” It’s a fear reaction.

Most people really hate to have their frames shaken. One of your frames, or mental models, gets shaken when you hear or read something that contradicts what you have always heard.

Try this technique: when you hear or read something that evokes a strong, negative reaction in you, pause and file away the statement, question or action for later reflection.

What was it about whatever you heard or read that got you upset? That question has power for you — but only if you take the time to investigate why your frame was shaken.

It is a sign that there is more for you to learn about the topic. Maybe your belief will change and maybe it won’t — the key is to give up the idea that once you’ve formulated a belief, it can never change.

You will never get smarter with that mindset!

Learning is all around us. You could spend your whole lifetime studying any topic at all and never exhaust the supply of available knowledge even in that one, ultra-specific subject area.

You will not learn anything new as long as you cling to the belief “I already know everything I need to know.”

On the flip side you need only say in your head “I am open to learning something new — send some learning over to me!” and it will show up, right on schedule!

Liz Ryan is CEO/founder of Human Workplace and author of Reinvention Roadmap. Follow her on Twitter and read Forbes columns.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizryan/2017/02/11/five-simple-habits-that-will-make-you-smarter/#73e71a864503

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