To be smart is great, but it doesn't happen overnight. If you want to become smarter, you have to create habits that will groom your intelligence and nourish your mind.
Some people are born smart, but most smart people do daily rituals to maintain their smartness. Whether they do it in leadership, business, the arts, or a different field, they push and challenge themselves daily.
Here are 18 habits that can help you become your smartest self:
1. Question everything. Don't assume anything or subscribe unthinkingly to the conventional wisdom. Keep your eyes and mind wide open. The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge--and questioning and curiosity are the key to overcoming it.
2. Read as much as you can. Many years ago, I started the habit of reading a book a day, and the wealth of knowledge I accumulate every week is priceless. Make reading a habit--serious reading, not celebrity gossip and lists on the web. Even if it's just part of a chapter each day, stick to your reading schedule and your intellect will be enriched.
3. Discover what motivates you. Find a topic that keeps you interested and dive in. It's easier to stay engaged with a topic you find stimulating. Find a format that stimulates your mind, too, whether it's a podcast or a newspaper. Feed your mind well with things it will enjoy.
4. Think of new ways to do old things. To be innovative means making creativity more important than the fear of being wrong. Even in the things you do every day, you can be inventive and experimental. When you take risks, make mistakes, and have fun instead of slogging through the same routine. You'll have a daily reminder that imagination and creativity can change the world.
5. Hang out with people who are smarter than you. Smart people have interesting things to talk about. They know how to expand their mind and feed their brain, so spending time with them is good for you on multiple levels. Seek them out at work, in service organizations, and socially.
6. Remember that every expert was once a beginner. When you have an opportunity to learn something new, you become smarter. Make a point of continuously and consistently acquiring new skills, because life will never stop teaching if you're willing to learn.
7. Make time to reflect. We're all so distracted, it's easy to dash from one thing to another without pausing to consider what it means. Make time to pause and reflect--reflection is an important part of the learning process.
8. Exercise your body. As you're caring for your mind don't neglect your body. Build discipline in doing what you need to do in terms of diet, exercise, and sleep.
9. Push yourself to become more productive. Being busy and being productive are two different things. The future you want is created by what you do. Smart people make the most of today.
10. Come up with new ideas daily. Carry a journal to jot down ideas when they come to you. Push yourself to be creative and to think in new ways. Review your ideas weekly and edit them as you go.
11. Do something that scares you. Facing your fears makes you braver, smarter, and better able to withstand what life throws at you. Sometimes the greatest rewards in life come from doing the things that scare you the most.
12. Replace TV with online learning. Devote your break time to something more productive than social media or binge watching TV. The internet is filled with awesome learning tools. It's a small habit but a big win if you can nourish your brain and advance your career and life at the same time.
13. Be mindful of what you are absorbing. Everything you take part in is either uplifting or detrimental to your mind. It's important to silence inner and outer negativity--once you do, you begin to play a role in shaping your mindsets and beliefs, which in turn guide your actions.
14. Read something you normally wouldn't. Every day, look online and in other media for topics, interests, or other sources that fall off your usual path. When you do, you absorb wisdom you would never have been able to access otherwise.
15. Share what you know. Learning something new is important, but sharing that knowledge makes what you've learned actionable and meaningful.
16. Apply your new knowledge. There really is no point in learning something if it doesn't make you smarter or inspire you to improve. The smartest people apply what they know not to become a person of success but rather to become a person of value.
17. Keep a journal. It turns out that journaling is an important way to become smarter. Taking a few minutes each day to reflect in writing has been shown to boost your brain power. Smart happens when you learn from your experiences.
18. Be selective. Intelligent people tend to have fewer friends than the average person--at least in part because the smarter you are, the more selective you become. Who you spend time with reflects who you are.
Start building smart habits today and see what happens to your thinking tomorrow.