Are you as smart as you can be?

If you think how smart you are is fixed at birth, think again! Scientists are discovering that we can increase our IQ by more than 10% with some simple strategies. Here are five of them:

  1. Use the ‘right’ side of your brain. You probably know that we have two thinking brains: the ‘left brain’ is logical and linear and the ‘right brain’ is creative and intuitive. When you need to do something creative or intuitive, like solve a thorny problem, make a difficult decision or come up with a fun team-building event, kick in your right brain by pressing on your right nostril and breathing in and out normally for 15 or 20 seconds; this stimulates your right brain.

    Similarly, fire up your left brain to help you solve a maths problem or think through an issue calmly and logically, by pressing on your left nostril and breathing normally.

  2. Use your nose. What you smell can help or harm your memory and learning ability. In a series of experiments, Dr Alan Hirsch Chicago’s Smell and taste Treatment and Research Foundation found that bad smells like burnt food or cigarette smoke decreased people’s ability to think clearly while people who sniffed a flowery scent while taking a standard performance test did better because the smell of fresh flowers boosts alertness, concentration and learning speed by up to 17%.
  3. Do something different. Doing anything out of the ordinary also boosts your brain power by improving blood flow to the brain, increasing the production of chemicals called neurotrophins that protect your precious brain cells, and creating new neural pathways, all of which add up to better thinking. Even tiny changes in your usual routine can sharpen your thinking. Instead of brushing your teeth before you shower, try brushing them after or use your left hand instead of your right hand to brush your teeth; take a different route to work; eat something different for lunch or eat lunch somewhere different; learn to use the mouse on the other side of the computer; rearrange your desktop and drawers, move your wastepaper basket to a new spot….

    Using one or more of your senses in a new way or adding an unexpected element to a routine activity is called neurobics, a technique created by the late Dr Lawrence Katz, a neurobiology professor at Duke University Medical Centre.

  4. Sit and stand tall. Poor posture not only makes your ligaments, muscles and joints work harder, it also decreases the flow of oxygen to your brain by as much as 30%, which in turn reduces your mental performance.
  5. Surround yourself in yellow. According to Robert Goldman, MD, PhD and author of Brain Fitness: Anti-Aging Strategies for Achieving Super Mind Power, the colour yellow may help you concentrate. Try yellow paper, a yellow highlighter, a yellow desk pad, or yellow flowers on your desk.

Discussion questions

Which of these easy ways do you fancy adopting or adapting to beef up your IQ?



Why it’s important to put your best foot forward

We all know that beauty is more than skin deep and that a person’s clothing doesn’t necessarily reveal their true character. Nevertheless, people form strong impressions about us based on how we look. Maybe that’s not fair or accurate, but that’s the way it is. And there’s a good reason that first impressions are so important: once upon a time, quickly being able to judge characteristics like aggressiveness and trustworthiness, whether someone is a friend or a foe, kept us alive longer; it was an important survival mechanism.

A couple of million years later, give or take, we still make instant assessments. In the blink of an eye, people can, or think they can, sense whether we’re friendly or forbidding, uneasy of confident, an ethical, truthful person or a deceitful, lying snake-in-the-grass.

And we never get a second chance to make a great first impression. Whether they’re right or wrong, first impressions stick. They play a powerful role in how we treat other people and in how they treat us. They strongly influence our friendships, promotions, pay raises, responsibilities and career paths. They affect how much support and help we receive from others and whether others accept our ideas. So it behoves everyone to learn how to make a great first impression.

Two types of first impression
There are actually two types of first impression. The first is formed in a tenth of a second (that’s twice as fast as the blink of an eye) and it’s based on looking at someone’s face. Looking at a person longer than that doesn’t significantly alter your first impression, (although looking for a full second probably gives you more confidence in your assessment).

It takes about seven seconds to form the second type of first impression and this one is based on the rest of the ‘package’ you present, particularly your body language and what used to be called ‘deportment’, or carriage, and the way you’re dressed, including the accessories you’re carrying and wearing. This package is four times more important in forming the first impression than anything you say.

Not convinced? How you look reflects your innermost self, your skills and your confidence and indicates how much appreciation and respect you give yourself and expect others to give you.

How to put your best foot forward
You want to look cool, calm and collected, so watch your posture and don’t fiddle with your hair, your tie, your pen or anything else. Don’t twist and turn, shuffle, shift or sprawl and don’t tap your foot or jiggle your leg.

Height and space–standing tall, shoulders back, head straight–signal confidence and competence, so adopt an upright posture. (Good posture doesn’t just look good–it helps you breathe and think better, too.) Empty your mouth and hands to look composed and take your hands away from your hips so you don’t look aggressive, hostile or defiant.

Smile to signal friendliness and approachability–not a fake smile that shows nervousness, arrogance or couldn’t-care-less, but a genuine smile that shows ‘I’m a really nice person you’d love to get to know‘. Make eye contact to transmit your positive energy and indicate interest and openness. Shake hands to establish rapport and show you’re professional, polite and confident. Lean in a bit to show you’re engaged and interested–but respect the other person’s space.

Lower your voice to be taken more seriously. Take a deep breath and keep breathing to produce a clear, steady voice and relax you enough to speak at the right volume. Breathing also delivers oxygen to your brain so that you can think clearly about what you want to say and say it clearly and confidently.

Believe it or not, people can pick another person’s attitude instantly and you make a better first impression when your attitude is positive; for more about the importance of a positive attitude, see my earlier blog called Is your glass half empty or half full?

Discussion questions

Are the messages you’re sending about yourself the ones you really want to send? How can you use this information to present yourself in a stronger, more competent light?

Is your glass half empty or half full?

How would others describe you: as a positive person? Is your attitude and approach to life positive?  If so, give yourself a high five. Positive people achieve more, are nicer to be around and are more liked than negative people. Good luck and good health follow them around, too.

Nearly 100 years ago, a German philosopher and linguist named Ludwig von Wittgenstein pointed out that ‘words enable deeds‘. Do you take care to use positive words and phrases? Your words and phrases colour the way you think and feel and the way you think and feel shape the way you act. Your words literally program your brain and guide your actions. Thinking and talking negatively leads you down a path of failure; thinking and talking positively leads you down a path of success.

That’s the first reason a positive approach is important. Here’s another: I once met a man named John who told me he always made a point of replying ‘Fantastic!’ whenever someone asked ‘How are you?’ His intention was to portray positivity. One day, much to his surprise (and delight), someone introduced him like this: ‘I’d like you to meet my friend John–he’s fantastic!‘ John had become associated with his own word.

Like John, we all become associated with our words. That’s the second reason a positive approach is important: it influences the way other people see you. When you fill your thoughts and communications with positive words and messages, you encourage others to see you in a positive light.

A positive approach can make your days, and everyone else’s, that much brighter.

Discussion questions

How might applying ‘the positivity principle’ help you lead your team more effectively, be a better colleague, work better with your boss, and improve your results?

How much fun do you have at work?

Lots of studies have found that rest, taking breaks, having fun, and laughing are essential elements of productivity. Fun and laughter have other benefits, too. They:

  • are easier than exercising yet still burn calories
  • boost your immune system to keep you healthy
  • give you perspective and remind you of the bigger picture
  • help you cope with the curly ones life throws at you
  • help you relax, learn more easily and be more creative
  • increase your endorphin levels, the ‘feel good’ chemicals in your brain
  • increase your optimism, which helps you achieve your goals and get through your To Do list more easily
  • make whatever you’re doing more enjoyable and actually help you do it better
  • oxygenate your blood and improve your blood pressure.

Enjoying what you do helps you think more positively and optimistically, outlooks that breed success. Self-congratulations for your ‘runs on the board’ are essential to success, too; they encourage you to keep going until you reach your goal and motivate you to do even better next time.

Here’s something else to think about: a good humour makes you look better and be nicer to be around. It also improves your job prospects: in a recent US survey of 737 CEOs, over 98% of them indicated they would rather hire someone with a good sense of humour than someone without one.

The message is: lighten up, have some fun and have a laugh. When things are going well, find something to laugh about. When things are going poorly, find something to laugh about.

Discussion questions

What can you and your team do to find ways to bring more fun into your workdays?