if you're reading this and you don't think you're smart, I definitely want you to change how you think about intelligence. Being smart is so much more than taking an IQ test or being an A student. They are both great deeds, but they are more related to having a smart book. In our modern society, it is perhaps more important to know how smart people think (think critically and be open to new ideas). Here are 9 strategies that you think are smart:
1. Be open to different points of view
Thinking smart means being open to new ideas. When we spend too much for what we think of ourselves, we actually close ourselves off to new ideas. And smart is all about considering, evaluating and analyzing new ideas. For example, when I was in the fifth grade, I wrote in my diary about how amazing President George W. Bush was. I am not writing this because I have thought sharply about politics. I wrote this because my dad was very fond of George W. Bush. Therefore, me too. If I knew how to think smart like a fifth grader, maybe I'd be more inclined to count the pros and cons of both sides. A very suspicious argument that addresses only one side of the argument, and does not consider any negative points in that side. Which is the opposite of smart.
2. Seriously consider the counterargument
It is not enough to simply be open to both sides of the dispute; real critical thinking requires you to dig deep the other way. I have a hunch that Chinese herbs would be helpful for my winter cough, but I don't think smart until I do extensive research that not only confirms my initial bias. I need to find authoritative sources (think academic journals and peer-reviewed studies) that are relevant to my topic: Chinese medicine and cough. I can't choose and only include those that say Chinese herbs will help my cough. I have to read and take the other side seriously. I have to be really open to being wrong. This is a tough pill for many people to swallow. When we only look at evidence that proves what we think, it's called confirmation bias.((Psychology Today: what is evidence of prejudice?)) It's a great way to feel confident that you're always right, but it's a terrible way to learn something new. So if you want to start thinking smart, avoid confirmation bias and be truly open to counterarguments and being wrong.
3. Ask questions and listen to answers
Smart is also curious.((Play Your Way Sane: Curious Detective)) smart people ask about how the world works, what drives people, and what it all means. So the thing about being smart is to ask lots of questions.((Play Your Way Sane: Just Ask)) Surround yourself with people you think are smart. Again, to avoid confirmation bias here. If you only surround yourself with smart people who think like you, you're not going to learn much. My college experience was great because I didn't go to a school where everyone was liberal or conservative. There was a great mix of perspectives and it deepened our class discussions and thinking. If you have a team of smart people, you need to ask questions. Keep a list of things that you are genuinely curious about. For example, I'm curious about upbringing, politics, education, creativity, psychology, healthcare, other cultures, religions, philosophies... the list goes on. But not fake funk; if you ask questions, just ask them, you won't learn much. You must be genuinely interested in the answers. Learn to ask questions intelligently: how to be surprisingly good at asking questions Then, the second step is to listen carefully to the answer. Don't just listen to respond. Listen to hear the other person. Do not listen to confirm your partiality. You will need to do some sincere deep listening in order to learn new things.
For my money, smart thoughts require a lot of reading. It all comes down to collecting more and more information, more and more perspectives. Read a wide range of materials on a wide range of topics. I like to switch and read informational books that are relevant to my work: Psychology, education, theatre. Then I read a novel or something not so directly related to my daily hustle and bustle. Read several newspapers, not just the one that most closely mirrors, as you may already think. Go wide. Read on all sorts of topics. Read, read, read. Then read some more. Watch out for albeit dubious sources. There are many self-styled experts out there now, especially on the internet. If you want to learn how to evaluate your sources and distinguish authoritative from incompetent sources, go to your local library and ask a friendly librarian. They would like to teach you all about sourcing to help you become a more informed consumer of information.
5. Know you don't know
Truly brilliant people know what they don't know. They don't pretend to know everything. The more you learn, the more you realize how much you don't know. The world is incredibly complex, and there are an almost infinite number of perspectives from which to analyze this world. So it doesn't make any sense when I meet someone who acts like they know everything about everything. It's just not possible. The smartest people I know, I know for sure they don't know. And they are not shy to admit it. These smart people are curious and eager to learn more about what they don't know. I think Socrates said it's better when he said:
“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”
In other words, if you are really smart, you know that there is a lot that you are really a beginner. Okay, maybe, said Socrates, he's better.
6. Put Your Smartphone Down
Our smartphones give us access to a lot of information. But that doesn't mean they make us smarter. Research shows that we need to put our phones down, mingle and mingle with the masses, go out and enjoy nature, and just generally exist without smartphones in order to boost our brain power.((Psychology Today: Are Smartphones Making Us Stupid? )) The problem has a lot to do with focus. By simply having their smartphones in the same room as theirs did the participants perform more poorly on cognitive tests. Smartphones are addictive. Think of those enticing push notifications. When we hear the chime, we drop everything and mindlessly pick up the phone. Yes, take a break from it. If we want to turn our attention to other things, it makes a lot of sense to put the phone down and put all of our attention on other things for a moment. Try these 5 easy ways to turn off and be more mindful in your life.
7. Go deep
I know, I've already told you that one strategy that seems smart is to read on a wide range of topics. Well, it's also important to go deep. Another trick is how to make a smart dig deep into the topic. Try to learn as much as possible about one narrow topic. Interested in the history of pants? Well, start doing your research and see where it takes you. A lot of people are already doing this when they've nailed YouTube or the Wikipedia bunny hole. They start by clicking on one page, maybe all the people who have won Emmys, Grammys, Oscars and Tonys (EGOTs). Before you know it, it's four in the morning and you're watching a black and white movie about a donkey befriending a mouse. How did you get here? This is what I suggest you do with your research pants. Just try to stick more closely to the topic: trousers. Read something about pants. Then let's see what sources this book or article used. Then I read some of them. And so on and so forth. I think you will find that the more you learn, the more you will understand how much you don't already know. Here are some smart thoughts we go.
8. Challenge Your Mind—Learn Another Language
Use it or lose it. It really is a mantra when it comes to our brains. So if you want to come up smarter, challenge your brain. One way is to learn another language. Now, I am extremely slow at learning languages, but I still find that the process helps my brain a lot. And this is confirmed by research, ((live science: learning a new language at any age helps the brain )) learning a foreign language helps concentration and attention. So if you want to think smarter, think in a different language. Strain your brains and really challenge yourself. An added bonus is that you will know one more language.
9. Get out and see the world
Finally, the last strategy, as it seems smart to get there and see the world is to see and experience new places and people. Research has shown that becoming truly immersed in new cultures enhances our brain's ability to consider different perspectives at once.((Forbes: science says travel makes you smarter)) This goes back to what we said. Seriously considers several different points of view, in other words, smartly. This is critical thinking where you don't just assume that you are right. It is a mindset that takes into account the complexity of the world and is open to learning new things.
Smart about what we don't know. It is to see all sides of a dispute or problem and honor all points of view. It's also about being really curious about different people, places and ideas. Clever is not just taking the test. It is truly a state of mind. It's about approaching interactions with the desire to listen and learn. And it doesn't exactly prove you're right or about the biased selection of sources that prove what you've already thought. So admit that you don't know that much. And this is the first step to knowing the whole lot.
Think smarter more
- How to develop critical thinking skills and thoughts become clearer.
- How systems thinking makes you smarter than a human
- How to Train Your Brain to Think Fast and Think Smart