How to Increase Your Brain Power and Improve the Quality of Outputs You Produce
“There’s A Way To Do It Better. Find It.” -Thomas Edison
It doesn’t matter how much information you feed your brain. If you don’t stretch its main functions, your brain won’t take you very far.
As Albert Einstein has said:
“Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”
Many people continuously feed their brain with various information but hardly produce actual results of learning. They demand the brain to complete many tasks at one time.
When you know how the brain operates, you’ll learn how to filter information. You don’t simply accept them, rather, evaluate how they can be integrated with other concepts. You’ll read between the lines instead of keeping score on how many books you’ve read.
Those who consistently improve their brain benefit from its immense power.
It is difficult to increase productivity and performance without tapping the brain.
Stop Doing Things That The Brain Begs You Not to Do
“The brain is the organ of destiny. It holds within its humming mechanism secrets that will determine the future of the human race”. — Wilder Penfield
The brain is a powerful organ and can learn anything you want. You can influence your brain’s capacity to generate new brain cells and rewire your neurons.
Increasing your brain power by small ways every day can lead to great returns in the future.
The brain hates when it constantly drinks from a firehose that is spewing vast amounts of information. It is not designed to be a massive storage of information. When you do, you experience fatigue and decrease in productivity.
Herbert Simon said:
“What information consumes is the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”
The frontal lobe of the brain is responsible for decision making, judgment, and other executive functions. Multitasking reduces the fitness of the frontal lobe by trying to attend to different things at one time.
The more our focus gets disrupted, the worse we do.
Daniel Goleman, in his book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, identified two main varieties of distractions: sensory and emotional.
Sensory distractions involve our five senses while emotional distractions are those that keep intruding into our thoughts which are more difficult to stop.
No one is immune to these unfavorable conditions. By improving your brain’s capacity, you can overcome the hurt that these conditions cause.
When you use your brain poorly, it withers. But if you work it well, it grows.
Challenge Your Slow Thinking More Often Than What You Used To Do
“If there is time to reflect, slowing down is likely to be a good idea.” — Daniel Kahneman
Most people want improvement but they rely on instant formula or hacks. Improving the brain’s capacity is not the kind of exercise most people are willing to take.
It takes deep thinking and effort to challenge the status-quo.
You’ll have to dig deeper on the things you know to judge what happens around you. You’ll have to synthesize different information to produce a reliable meaning.
Nobel Prize Awardee and author, Daniel Kahneman, explains two types of thinking that operate in our brains. System 1 as he calls it is the “automatic thinking” and System 2 is the “effortful thinking.”
Most people rely on System 1 because it operates automatically and quickly. It requires little effort to activate and no sense of voluntary control.
For instance, when somebody throws an object on your face, your immediate reaction is to avoid it. Before you can even think, you already avoided the object. The instinct came automatically without any effort.
However, people only use System 2 when they really desire to use it.
System 2 requires attention to effortful mental activities. Kahneman also calls it “slow thinking” because it can reprogram the automatic functions of System 1 if needed. System 2 can follow rules and make deliberate choices with effort.
Filter Things That Do Not Contribute to Your Overall Growth
“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” — Alexander Graham Bell
In the TV series Brain Games, they made a social experiment to see if people are aware of their surroundings. They assigned a clerk to talk to people about a tv event. In the mid-conversation, the clerk ducked down to grab a pen and was eventually replaced by another clerk.
Most people failed to identify the switch even when they had face-to-face interaction.
They found out that people don’t notice changes because they don’t expect them to occur. The brain is not prepared when these things happen.
This loss of attention happens every day and can be detrimental especially on documents we sign or important matters we deal with.
Daniel Goleman said:
“The stronger our selective attention, the more powerfully we can stay absorbed in what we’ve chosen to do. The more distracted we are, the more shallow our reflections; the shorter our reflections, the more trivial they are likely to be”.
Are you constantly distracted?
Can you hold off for one-hour without checking your phone?
Can you keep your mind from wandering off while talking to people?
Can you differentiate the important information from what should be ignored?
Do you jump on new task immediately instead of making good progress on your current goals?
Selective attention happens when you filter information by sorting input and output, attending to essential information and discarding less critical at hand.
Sandra Bond Chapman, in her book, Make Your Brain Smarter identified three strategies to improve attention:
a. Brain Power of None
Sandra Chapman said:
“Solving problems or searching for an answer is not just about focusing and blocking distractions; it is also about stepping back to let the mind rest.
Science shows that a calm brain is able to produce more creative ideas and solve complex problems.”
Goleman calls it “open awareness” when you simply let your mind wander and relax. Once the creative insight hits you, you can then switch to strategic attention to focus on it.
When you are solving a problem and can’t seem to find the solution, it is best to step back a little further and let the brain rest. By doing so, you allow it to calm down that will build the connections necessary to solve the problem.
b. Brain Power of One
Most people think that multitasking helps them perform better.
For tasks that require less controlled thinking, multitasking isn’t bad. But when it requires deep and effortful thinking, the brain likes it best when it can attend to one task at a time.
This is not to say to simply focus on one activity for an extended period of time. Brain appreciates the novelty.
Take a break in between to perform other tasks that won’t drain the brain. It helps your mind to be mentally energized during breaks.
Instead of tackling different tasks at the same time, focus on one task even if it’s only short segments of time. When you do, try to avoid any distraction until you finish the task.
c. Brain Power of Two
“When you’re hunting elephants, don’t get distracted chasing rabbits.” — T. Boone Pickens
Society tries to fool us that we are being productive when we try to do more.
Most people have a long to-do list and choose to do the easiest things first so they can have the satisfaction of crossing something off their list.
What happens is that the difficult tasks are pushed later on when the brain is already tired.
When you are not constantly interrupted, you develop a laser-focused attention on things that really matter. It allows you to be more present on the important activities you need to attend.
Chapman suggests focusing on your two elephants when writing your to-do list. These elephants are the most important things you need to do that will help you achieve the results you want.
When the brain is rested, it can tackle the more difficult task and can produce more effortful thinking.
When taking a break, you can then tackle the less important tasks which require less effort from the brain. Do not let less important tasks take over your brain’s energy.
Create New Interpretations That Others Would Probably Not Conceive
“Many great ideas have been lost because the people who had them could not stand being laughed at.” — Anonymous
Most people do not like to think when confronted with some logical arguments. They resort to answers that come immediately in their minds.
Your integrated reasoning depletes quickly without practice. Instead of relying on rote thinking patterns, improve your integrated reasoning to boost your brain’s performance.
By doing so, you’ll be able to synthesize meaning from different sources of information. You don’t simply memorize facts without understanding them. Your higher order thinking skills are strengthened accordingly.
Do you ask probing questions that push your brain for deeper thinking?
Do you easily accept ideas the way they were presented?
Do you try to discern how ideas fit with your personal knowledge, biases, and experiences?
Your frontal lobe benefits from deep thinking. No special apparatus is needed to exercise integrated reasoning.
All you need is to force your System 2 to work even when your lazy thinking tries to snatch your attention.
“Reading without deeper processing does not improve integrated reasoning.”
Instead of taking the literal meaning of a text or quote, create new meanings out of it.
Combine recent ideas with your past ideas and experiences to find out how you can connect them.
Come up with new interpretations of things that others would probably not conceive.
When you apply the valuable inputs you receive, they are likely to stick in your brain for a long time.
Distinguish Yourself From the Pack by Rethinking Practices to Solve Problems
“A pile of rocks ceases to be a rock pile when somebody contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind.”- Antoine Saint-Exupery
People who are considered innovative thinkers stretch their creativity and imagination. They continuously rethink practices to find better ways on how to solve things. They don’t get discouraged by repeated failures.
Instead, they learn from their mistakes and stretch their brain’s power to seek a better solution.
Tom Freston has said:
“Innovation is taking two things that already exist and putting them together in a new way.”
When you develop innovative thinking, you’ll distinguish yourself from the pack. You’ll recognize and solve problems efficiently. You’ll showcase the unique qualities that will help you stand out.
Innovative thinking challenges you to find solutions to problems without falling back on standard accepted methods.
All the developments and improvements we enjoy right now are products of innovative thinking done by great people in the past.
“When you develop your brain, you can produce outputs that no one else perceives.”
The more you seek improvement, the better you become. Unless you take the first step to develop good habits, your brain will not be able to show its inner genius.
Expose yourself to different kinds of people and materials, learn something new and find ways to connect them. Set a time for free-flowing of ideas without worrying whether they make sense or not.
Deliver New Value by Stretching the Capacities of Your Brain
The only person who limits your brain capacity is you. Unlike many people who rely on their autopilot way of thinking, you’ll use more of your effortful thinking. You don’t regress and rely on Google to deliver the meaning for you.
In a complex world where almost everyone has access to the same information, you’re able to deliver new value by putting ideas together in novel ways.
The more you practice it, the more intellectual capital you build.
So build away.
Want to Fuel Your Performance?
I’ve created a checklist to help you find out if you are operating based on your inner drives. If you are driven inside, your performance and life become better.