How Do You Get Smarter?

This headline may look a bit cliche.

But I hope you will bear with me and you will be rewarded.

In your daily life, you must have someone like this:

When looking at a problem, always be able to point out the focus and nature of the problem;

The thought is particularly agile, meets the new difficulty and the challenge, always can propose the solution quickly;

Always be able to think of other people can not think of ideas, put forward new possibilities;


So what makes them smarter than the average person? Is it because they’re naturally intelligent?

Although intelligence does have a high genetic correlation (around 0.8)(T.J. Bouchard, 2013) , this does not mean that“Intelligence is innate”.

Many people confuse intelligence with cleverness. Actually, these are two different concepts. Higher intelligence simply means that you are faster at remembering, understanding and invoking information-it is not exactly the same as being“Smart”.

Just like being tall certainly gives you an advantage in basketball, but if your goal isn’t the NBA, you don’t have to be very tall to play basketball.

In fact, with the exception of some cutting-edge scientific work, most of the problems, challenges, and tasks of everyday life don’t require much intelligence. What they need more is a person’s ability to analyze, think, and solve problems in a comprehensive, systematic way-what we call“Smart”.

And this can be fully achieved through acquired methods and training. In other words, being“Smart” is actually a learned skill.

So, what can we do to make ourselves smarter?

Today, I’d like to share with you 5 common traits of smart people, hoping to give you some inspiration and direction.

1. Think in order

If there was only one word to sum up the traits of a“Smart person,” I would choose it: order.

Suppose we compare the brain to a warehouse. Here’s how it works:

The intelligent person’s“Brain Warehouse”, its capacity is not necessarily larger than the average person, storage and retrieval speed is not necessarily faster, it is the biggest feature? Is that it has a highly ordered, structured approach to warehousing that allows it to:

1) more information in the same space;

2) it is more efficient to find the corresponding content when calling the information.

That’s all.

Why? The reason is: the brain in dealing with the problem, will adopt a fundamental strategy is: first the whole, after the local.

What do you mean? To put it in perspective: when the brain is faced with a new scene, it takes from memory the most“Global” situation that is similar to the scene and focuses on the differences between the two, eventually, a set of responses is distilled.

This strategy is called pattern recognition. A classic example: the biggest difference between a chess expert and a novice is that the former has thousands of chess games stored in the brain, and every time a game is played, they are quick to figure out“What game is the current situation?” Novices lack this type of thinking, thinking and calculating the current situation in isolation.

Another example: why do some people solve problems faster? Not because their brains are faster, but because they store so many patterns, that they can quickly determine which type is closest to the problem, to quickly understand the nature of the problem.

So, for a smart person with a highly organized mind, when it comes to a new problem, the brain works like this: it finds the closest pattern, and then it tweaks that pattern to fit the current situation.

On the contrary, for an ordinary person, his mind is fragmentary and disordered, so the brain can only put many pieces together into a whole, fine-tune the temporary whole — which leads to two things:

1) it takes more time and energy to put the whole thing together;

2) the piecemeal process is often incomplete, incomplete, even conflicting and contradictory with each other.

For example, a 2018 study published in nature communications found that neurons in the brains of intelligent people are more succinct and organized than those in the general population, this leads to a more efficient use of the hypothesis-known as the neural efficiency hypothesis. (Gen çe et al. , 2018)

See below: above is the brain of a normal person, below is the brain of a smart person.

As you can see, there are actually fewer connections in the picture below than in the picture above. So why would it be more effective? The reason: its neurons are more tightly connected, more like a“Whole,” which allows it to extract“Patterns” quickly, without a lot of wasted energy and time.

We can roughly divide intelligence into fluid intelligence and crystalline intelligence. In everyday life, we generally refer to intelligence as the former, a person’s“Mental agility”, but in fact, for“Smart”, the latter may be more important.

Because fluid intelligence has an upper limit, peaking around the age of 20, then leveling off and declining into old age, crystalline intelligence can rise with age. Most of the time, the latter matters more to us.

How Do you take care of your brain?

In addition, a very simple and effective approach is to do more bottom-up information integration.

We receive a lot of information every day: may be reading to learn, may be practical feedback, may be inner thoughts… ? … what is the most common problem most people have. Is to“Collect”, but never to“Arrange”.

In this case, your information storage is highly fragmented. Information from all sources, all times, all areas, all priorities is stored in a jumble that is naturally unsustainable and difficult to use.

Therefore, I have a practice of more than 10 years of habits, is constantly combing and integration of knowledge, to comb the pieces of information into a whole, such as:

What do I know about a subject? What do I Know About It?

About a certain knowledge, how can I put other knowledge points with it to establish links, create connections?

What kind of experience and practice have I had with certain types of situations? What methodologies are summarized?

This is the easiest and most effective way to make the brain more efficient, organized, and“Whole.”.

2. Developed prefrontal lobes

Order your thinking to ensure that when you encounter problems, you will be able to analyze and think more effectively. But most of the time, there is another very important factor that can seriously affect and interfere with our ability to think.

That’s emotion.

A friend who is familiar with investing will surely know: what is the Special Point in investing? It’s not so much the ability to think, but the ability to overcome your emotions — whether it’s greed for winning or fear of losing. In this way we can make more rational and longer-term judgments.

It’s not just investing, but every aspect of life is the same: Why Is it that you know what you’re doing, but you can’t always make the best decision when it matters? A lot of the time it’s because you’re letting your emotions take over your brain.

I’ve written about two areas of the brain that are constantly vying for control: the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala.

The prefrontal cortex is our center of control and attention. What it does is: it shifts your attention to a goal and allows you to think in detail and rationally.

The amygdala is the center of our survival and emotions. It is very sensitive and very active. When you encounter danger, failure, and loss, these situations are faithfully recorded by the amygdala. When you’re faced with a similar new situation, it lights up and pulls out the corresponding memory — which, in turn, makes you feel fearful, angry, and anxious.

Its mission is to keep you as far away from danger as possible.

Thus, if you are held hostage to it, it is easy to make all sorts of short-term good but long-term bad decisions, favouring conservatism, safety and“Inaction”.

This strategy was fine in ancient times, after all, when danger would have cost you your life. But in modern times, stopping because of fear can often lead to missed opportunities and stagnation.

So why do so many people have the bad habit of“Knowing what to do, but not doing it”? A lot of the time it’s because the amygdala is telling us that when we do something, it can have bad consequences.

What kind of bad outcome. For example, injuries, cost of resources, encounter uncertainty, short-term performance and output reduction. … and so on.

This leaves room for our“Rational thinking”.

Therefore, a smart person must have the necessary quality, must be strong and developed enough prefrontal cortex. It is only when you are able to activate the prefrontal cortex in the first place to suppress and calm your emotional responses that you will be able to make truly rational and effective decisions.

So how do we exercise our prefrontal cortex?

The brain has a property called Neuroplasticity. Put simply: the more you use it, the more developed it becomes; the less you use it, the weaker it becomes.

So, if you want to have a developed prefrontal cortex, you need to exercise it in life, use it, make it more powerful.

For example:

Socialize more face-to-face. One interesting phenomenon is that there is a part of the prefrontal cortex devoted to social interaction. In other words: social needs rely on the prefrontal cortex, which in turn strengthens it.

Read systematic, complex articles and books. This can effectively exercise the brain’s ability to concentrate and strengthen the function of the prefrontal cortex.

When you have an emotion, don’t act on it immediately, but accept it first, think first, then act.

Every action we take on the brain is training it. If you often let your emotions dictate your actions, you are constantly telling your amygdala that you are right

Thinking before acting, in turn, is reinforcing the prefrontal cortex’s control and making it more experienced.

Only by combining control with orderly thinking can we make truly rational thinking and judgments.

3. Higher cognitive space

What is cognitive space? Put simply, it is our brain’s“Workbench.”. Higher cognitive space means that more“Thinking material” can be contained at the same time.

Pay attention to the distinction between cognitive space and working memory. Although the capacity of working memory is a constant of four units (Cowan, 2001) , higher cognitive space means that you can“Cram” more information into these four units, allow the brain to process more material at the same time.

Specifically, what does cognitive space mean?

1) the ability to compress and encode information, that is, to have a higher amount of information per unit of information;

2) the ability to store information in working memory, which makes it harder for the brain to process it.

As an example, if there are 10 factors to consider in facing a problem, then a person with high cognitive space can think and deal with these 10 factors simultaneously, to notice, discover, and consider the connections between them, so that it is easier to start from the whole, to find a better answer.

And the person in the low cognitive space, he can’t deal with all 10 factors at the same time, he can only deal with 1-5, then 6-10, then 1-5 and 6-10…

In the process, then, the latter is easy to lose, some details, key points, and cost more time and energy.

You may also find that this is, in fact, an important factor affecting memory and order of thought.

Higher cognitive space means you can“Compress” more information into a whole. So that means:

1) more connections between information, which makes it easier for you to remember more information.

2) the information has been“Pre-processed” by you, making it easier to put it all together.

So, is there any way to exercise our cognitive space?

Share a few of my most effective tips:

1) recall exercise: what did I just read?

What are the advantages of doing so? There are two points. One is to improve your ability to“Pack and compress” so that your short-term memory can hold more and more complex information, and the other is to remind yourself if something is missing? Can I get them back?

Try This: When you read this, think back to the full text of the article and Ask Yourself: What does the article say? May I repeat the main idea of the preceding paragraph?

2) comprehension exercise: what is its internal logic?

What is internal logic? For example: if a point can be divided into three dots, I don’t just remember the three dots, but think: what is the basis and criteria for this division? What are the principles and supports for each point? Does it have any logical connection to what we’ve been talking about?

This will help you“Force” the limits of your cognitive space, allowing you to see a more comprehensive, complex perspective, so that the brain gets used to this perspective.

3) Lenovo Exercise: What Can I get to Lenovo?

The purpose of this exercise is to help you open your mind and your vision, to exercise your ability to switch your attention back and forth between the inside and outside, and to store that switching in cognitive space.

These three exercises, not so easy, at first you may not be able to adapt, but slowly, after establishing this habit, you will definitely feel the“Light” pleasure.

4. Flexible empathy

The first three points are personal. And this is for groups and social interactions.

Many people refer to“Emotional intelligence” in their lives. What is emotional intelligence? From a psychological point of view, is to understand other people’s emotions, feelings and state, and know how to deal with the ability.

In general, it’s close to empathy.

But why“Flexible empathy”?

Because, in general, we can divide empathy into two types (Simone G, 2009) : cognitive empathy and emotional empathy. The state we want to cultivate is actually high cognitive empathy, not emotional empathy.

What is the difference between the two? The empathic system, located primarily in the anterior insula and the mid-cingulate cortex, evokes similar feelings in us, causing you to feel the same emotional response

Cognitive empathy, on the other hand, largely coincides with the DMN network, which allows you to quickly understand the other person’s thoughts and situations and know“What to do at this time.”. (Walter, 2012)

If you use emotional empathy too much, it can easily lead to a problem: emotional overload.

You will often feel emotional intrusion, constantly produce emotional and psychological fluctuations-this is actually a very tired thing, it will cause psychological overload.

On the other hand, empathic empathy can easily trigger a variety of emotions that take over the brain and lead to irrational judgments.

In turn, cognitive empathy allows you to better understand and understand each other’s thoughts without endangering yourself, thus achieving a win-win situation. Show up in life, is that you can calm, appropriate judgment of the situation, and effective to placate others, persuade others, influence others.

In this case, your communication may be effective.

So, a smart person, is not only able to deal with their own problems, but also need to be able to deal with other people, so that they can better achieve a win-win situation — not just benefit themselves, also let the side more people benefit from this kind of intelligence.

That’s what we’re after.

So how do you improve cognitive empathy? Since cognitive empathy and the DMN overlap almost completely, one approach is to exercise cognitive empathy by practicing the DMN network.

What is DMN:

It’s easy to overthink things. What should we do?

Here are a few tips:

Set aside 10-15 minutes a day to talk to people around you. Try to listen to them and understand them without rushing to a solution;

Set aside half an hour each day to think about and summarize what I did today. Write Down and talk to yourself about the things that are worth writing down.

Set aside a period of time alone, temporarily refuse to external information intake, let yourself quietly for a while, let the mind to sort out.

Be present. Ask Yourself: What Am I hearing, seeing, and touching right now? What do I think? Let the mind focus on the perception of the present moment to sort out our brain.

You’ll find that these exercises require you to“Slow down.”.

Because slowing down gives us more time to listen to each other.

5. Keep an open mind

The final point is to keep an open mind: Don’t limit yourself to the world you already live in, but to“Accept” more ideas, information, possibilities, make yourself a growing system.

These include:

1) be critical and critical: Is it possible for me to be wrong? Is it always good to have the same opinion as me? Is it always bad to have the same opinion as me?

2) Growth mindset: mistakes and failures are not scary. I am constantly growing and everything I experience will be new to me.

3) be humble and learn: the more you know, the more you understand your ignorance, the more you will respect and respect knowledge. Learning is a life-long thing, constantly to explore their ability boundaries, and then back to force themselves to input, learning, so that their mental world become more perfect and rich.

“Smart” is never a state, but a process of continuous growth.

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