Back when there were approximately 57 people running to be the Democratic nominee for president, entrepreneur turned candidate Andrew Yang distinguished himself from the crowded field by pushing the idea of universal basic income. Free money from the government has obvious political upsides, but as Yang explained in a Big Think video back then, UBI has another huge upside: it makes people smarter

Optimism makes your brain work better. 

That might sounds crazy, but Yang pointed to a convincing study to illustrate his point. When scientists gave a group of farmers an IQ test before the harvest and then gave them the same test after the harvest, their scores shot up 13 points from one test to the other. Same test, same farmers. The only difference was how worried they were about money. 

Yang claims this is a stark reminder of the difference between a scarcity mindset, which creates stress about the things we don't have, and an abundance mindset, which frees our brains from constant worry that there isn't enough to go around. Optimism and a sense of possibility literally make us smarter. 

Which is why Yang thought providing Americans with $1,000 a month would not just win him votes, but would actually unleash the country's creative energy. It's also why it pays for entrepreneurs to do their best to develop an abundance mindset. 

How to develop an abundance mindset 

Short of buying a winning lottery ticket, how do you do that? On Forbes recently, life coach Caroline Castrillon offered a fascinating five-point answer. The whole article is well worth a read, but here is her basic program to get the most out of your brain. 

  1. Focus on what you have. If you're in the middle of a career transition, for instance, Castrillon suggests you monitor your internal monologue, replacing thoughts that focus on shortage and lack, such as "There aren't enough good jobs out there" or "I don't have enough transferable skills," with those that focus on what you do have, such as "Wow, I have 25 years of marketing experience, which will be a huge asset" or "Over the past 10 years, I've made great contacts."

  2. Surround yourself with people who have an abundance mindset. "You know those people who always seem positive and see the glass as half-full instead of half-empty? Find them and start spending time with them," Castrillon (and others) instruct. 

  3.  Create win-win situations. "A scarcity mindset believes that if one person wins, another loses. Try to create win-win conditions in your life to combat this manner of thinking," Castrillon writes. "This often means listening without judgment or censorship, fully understanding what a win-win means for both of you, and brainstorming solutions until you find one that satisfies both parties."

  4. Practice gratitude. Castrillon quotes Oprah to make her point: "If you look at what you have in life, you'll always have more. If you look at what you don't have in life, you'll never have enough."

  5. Train your mind to spot possibilities. Too much focus can actually blind you to unexpected opportunities. "Start training your mind to loosen its focus and create an expanded awareness. Ask yourself if you had all the time and money in the world and you knew you couldn't fail, what would you be doing? Questions like that will help to open your mind up to what's possible," suggests Castrillon. 

These might not seem like radical interventions, but as the science on the scarcity mindset shows, seemingly small shifts in outlook can have big impacts on how well we think through problems and spot opportunities. So give these simple steps a try. You might just end up a little smarter with no long hours of studying required.