Updated: Jul 14, 2019
"I've never been the smart one"
What if I told you that anyone can be 'the smart one'?
There is a common and really damaging misconception about intelligence which is that it is static, that intelligent people have always been and will always be intelligent, and those who are not yet as intelligent will never surpass them. This is not the case.
This myth has led to many people holding self-limiting beliefs that if they have not been one of the top intellects in the past, they will never be the smartest person in the room. Tragically, it is this self-limiting belief that stops them getting to where they want to be.
Let's understand what 'intelligence' is a bit better.
Number one: Intelligence is so much more than just IQ.
That's not a title but I've put it in bold because it is so important that you know that.
There are broadly two types of intelligence. One of them is called fluid intelligence, and it is the basic ability to effectively process information. This is what people usually mean when they talk about IQ. Fluid intelligence acts as the foundations upon which we build the second type of intelligence.
This second type is called crystalised intelligence, and it can be understood as learnt knowledge or skills. So for example, how quickly you first learnt to read might depend quite heavily on your fluid intelligence, but your encyclopedic knowledge of the Harry Potter series is something you have acquired through practising the skill of reading, and so forms a part of your crystalised intelligence.
While fluid intelligence does have a strong genetic component, and does seem to be relatively static, crystalised intelligence is very strongly influenced by what a person experiences and what they learn from it, and it is relatively plastic.
In order to be highly effective in a task, a person will require contributions from both types of intelligence, and working to improve your crystalised intelligence can have a massive impact on performance.
So what can you do if you want to be more intelligent?
There are many ways you can increase your intelligence. For example:
Seek novelties: every time you try new activities, you form new synaptic connections, and as these connections build on each other, your overall brain activity increases, which in turn forms more connections on which to build new connections. The number of synaptic connections you have influences the amount of information you can learn in the future, so the more you form, the more you can learn.
Challenge yourself: just like an athlete at the gym, your brain bulks when it is challenged, and then shrinks when it reaches the level of mastery and is no longer challenged. Try out a new hobby that stretches you and your brain will grow and you will be better prepared for new mental challenges.
Think Creatively: what is creative depends on what you usually do - creative thinking is alternating between conventional and unconventional ways of thinking for you, and making connections between a range of ideas.
Don’t take cognitive shortcuts: the old saying ‘use it or lose it’ is true when it comes to your mental abilities. The more you think, the better you will be at thinking.
Be social: interacting with people exposes you to new ideas, environments, and opportunities, and so contributes to novelty. It also gives you the chance to look at your life from a different perspective, which stimulates more connections. Being with people also provides a challenge, in that you need to remember people’s names, birthdays, and what they like to do. People are generally interesting and challenging, and so are a useful tool for increasing your intelligence.
So, while there are some components to your intelligence that are relatively genetic and static, I hope that now you know that you can make a massive difference and increase your intellectual potential. It is in your power.