10 Ways to Increase Your Intellectual Capacity
Nowadays, there’s a lot of talk about the intellectual capacities, but no one seems to be able to put a finger on them.
Sure, there are tests that measure your IQ and there are even tests to help determine your EQ, but intelligence itself, can’t be limited to any of the traits that we usually associate it with.
In order to assert the ways of increasing our intellectual capacity, we should first agree on what intellectual capacity really means.
The very word “intellectual” comes from the Latin intellectus which means understanding.
Nowadays, psychology differentiates many different types of intelligence depending on the subject that a specific type of intelligence ought to grasp.
Howard Gardener, an American developmental psychologist pleaded for 9 types of intelligence as follows:
Now, the problem with understanding is that there are no exact ways to determine whether someone understands something or not.
Not only that we can’t assess whether someone understands something or not… we can’t assess how much someone understands something which renders IQ tests useless… and we will see why that is so.
We usually measure intelligence (or understanding) in relation to the efficiency of solving problems. Furthermore, our problem-solving capacities are demonstrated by our behavior.
It would all be fine and dandy if our behavior was completely determined by our reason and the ability to understand. However, we are not absolutely rational beings. Au contraire!
Our behavior is determined by irrational factors as well. We’re not purely cognitive beings.
Our behavior is driven by willpower. Enter conative aspects of our being: emotions, desires, urges, motivation, states, etc. All of those may impact our cognitive abilities in a positive or a negative way.
Furthermore, cognition itself is a complex issue. Understanding is not just connecting pieces of information into novel entities.
In order to form databases so as to speak, you first need to have data. Enter perception, memorization, temperament, etc.
As you can see intelligence is not an easy thing to define nor is increasing intellectual capacities a walk in a park.
Every single psychological trait that you possess, works to determine your intellectual capacities.
Now, if you are ready to work hard to become a way better and a more intelligent version of yourself, let’s see how we can increase your capacities to understand aka your intellectual capacities?
STEP 1: LEARN HOW TO THINK
It sounds much easier than it really is.
Thinking is one of the most complex processes that the human mind is capable of. It employs most of our faculties so it’s really difficult to define it or to learn how to do it better.
Critical awareness or critical thinking are the keywords here. Don’t take anything for granted. Approach the matter with doubt. Ask yourself questions like:
Is it? What is it? How is it? Why is it? Where? When? To what end? What caused it? Can It be different and how? Etc.
Thinking is basically perceiving stimuli and processing it into information and then connecting those pieces of information into novel data.
In order to perceive, you have to pay attention to it.
Learn how to visualize what you’re thinking about. Try to look at it from all the perspectives you can think of. Try to be neutral and objective.
Learn how to analyze. Analyzing is basically fragmenting the phenomena and seeing how elements form the whole and how they correspond with each other.
The next thing to do is to learn how to synthesize. It’s one thing to break the mechanism apart in order to see how it works and it’s a totally different thing to put it together, make it work and put it to good use.
Reexamine all your values and aim for truth instead of biased opinion. Learn how to put your subjectivity in brackets and how to come to logical conclusions. Learn all you can about logical fallacies and avoid making them.
It would do you good to go through the history of philosophy and get to know the history of ideas so that you can map the universal body of thought of homo sapiens.
That brings us to another step.
STEP 2: LEARN HOW TO READ AND START READING
As you can see, step 2 is to read. Read as much as you can, as often as you can, as deep as you can.
Of course the important factors here your choice of literature as well as the quality of your reading.
Not all readings are the same. You have to learn how to really dive deep into those pages and between the lines. You know what that means, right?
To assume what is it that the writer DIDN’T say. It is only when you put together what the writer said and left out that you will know the true meaning behind the words.
Now, reading goes hand in hand with thinking. Actually, all of the steps you’ll find in this article are complementary. You can’t read without thinking and reading gives you food for thought.
When you read novels it’s like you’re going through a simulation of existence so you gain experience in different areas of life and you’re invited to view its phenomena from a plethora of different perspectives which get imposed on yours. That’s how you learn flexibility and how your viewpoint gets refined.
The other thing that you can read is self-help and personal development literature.
Not only that someone’s been there before you and solved some problems for which he/she will share practical advice in the book, but they will teach you how to think and solve problems on your own.
Reading will also allow you to peek into the psyche of many different characters which will significantly improve your emotional intelligence.
You should read everything and anything in terms of genre, but in terms of quality, aim for the best and aim only for what speaks to you. If you don’t resonate with it, drop it.
Life’s to short for books that won’t communicate with you clearly enough. You won’t get to read everything that you should anyway, so don’t waste your time reading something that doesn’t do you justice.
That said, when you read, you should strive to extract every single possible piece of information from sentences, words, and narratives that you can.
That means that if there are more ways than one in which the text can be interpreted, don’t finish reading until you interpret it in all the ways that you can think of.
For example, the first word has two possible meanings, second word 3 possible meanings, third word 5 possible meanings and when you combine them together the field of interpretation expands so much that you’ll dwell on one sentence for an hour.
Now, that’s what you call a deep reading.
Every word, every comma, carries with it a semantic potential that you should harness.
Read away until every word combines with all the other words in every single possible way that it can.
Try to visualize it more. Try to really, vividly see in your mind all the spaces and features that the text presents you with.
That way you’ll improve your imagination which will increase your intellectual capacity because we usually think in words or images. Images are metaphorical representations of thought patterns.
Speaking of metaphors, you’ll learn how to draw new connections between the ideas, how to interpret new bodies of information presented to you in new ways, how everything can work to present anything and how notions shapeshift. It’s like the acrobatics of the mind, so do your training rigorously.
Note that every genre has its own perks and sets of problems for your mind to deal with, so there’s growth potential to be found all over the vast body of world literature.
By reading the history of philosophy and classical literature, you will surely get to know some of the world’s most groundbreaking ideas and engage in dialogue with some of the world’s most intelligent people. Things like that leave a mark.
STEP 3: LEARN HOW TO SPEAK AND HOW TO TELL STORIES
Yeah, you heard it right! Learn how to speak! What’s that, you think you already know how to speak? But do you know how to think in the first place?
Speaking without thinking is just blabbering and we didn’t say learn how to blabber, now, did we?
Everyone can do that, but to learn how to precisely articulate and express your thoughts and emotions and how to adequately communicate, convey and exert your will is something else entirely.
Reading is an important step towards learning how to speak.
By reading you increase eloquence, you get to know the words and the rules by which they combine.
We’ve already said that most of the thinking is done verbally because words are symbolic representations of meaning/phenomena.
That’s why by learning how to speak, you learn how to think and vice versa.
Speech is the weapon/tool of thought. If you think about it, you’ll see that most of the time while you’re thinking, you’re actually talking to yourself. No, don’t sweat it… it doesn’t make you crazy… yet.
By learning how to precisely define, describe or articulate your thoughts and emotions, you learn how to control them and that is something that commands respect.
However, there’s a guiding light of value to adhere to when shaping your thoughts. It’s the truth.
You want your thoughts and words to always strive for the maximum truth and clarity you can get to. Otherwise, you’re just fooling yourself.
Learning how to speak is learning how to communicate, both with yourself and others which means that you’ll be able to extrapolate that much more data out of your convos as your dialogues get more subtle, deep and complex.
You will also learn how to assert yourself more efficiently because, even though human beings aren’t 100% rational, rationality is always being taken into account.
Be rational and no one will be able to disregard what you’re saying just like that.
THE POWER OF A STORY
A subsequence of learning how to speak is learning how to tell stories and all of it goes hand in hand with steps 1 and 2. You need to understand that the story is the way we organize knowledge into causal lineages.
Stories are structures that encode, map and sort out meaning that one can derive from them by means of interpretation. So your story has to be coherent. It’s the way you shape your identity and present it to others.
What you are is somewhere in between what you think you are, how others see you and what you really are. So, in a way, you are shaped by the story that you tell yourself and others about yourself.
Myths are our species’ oldest stories that encode our collective experiences an the truths that we’ve derived from them.
By organizing knowledge into narratives, you actually draw causal connections between the events.
By drawing those connections, you learn about the laws of causality which are fundamentally integrated into our perception and way of thinking.
STEP 4: KEEP A JOURNAL
When you think too much (yes there is such a thing as thinking too much), your thoughts can get ahead of you. It can get really messy in there.
That’s why it’s really useful to sometimes materialize those thoughts into shapes on paper…
It helps you keep track of everything that you need to process and it provides more clarity on the issues at hand.
There are two things you can do to get a clearer perspective on where you’re at – write an autobiography and plan your future.
These things will help you encompass both past and future and when you reconcile those with the present moment that you’re living in, you’ll become a force to reckon with.
If you keep it real, an autobiography will reveal to you what are your strengths and weaknesses, what are the mistakes you tend to repeat in life and which neurosis might make you prone to those mistakes.
Simply put, you’ll get to know yourself better and knowing yourself is crucial to increasing mental capacity. You gotta know who’s increasing what, right?
In order to work on yourself, you have to know who’s the worker and who’s worked on, so to speak.
Keywords here are awareness and consciousness.
You can say that in this context, awareness works to perceive data from the environment, while consciousness is that active transforming force that links that data to the perception of yourself.
So the function of awareness is to passively receive, while the function of consciousness is to organize, model, connect and transform as the transformer and transformed become and are one.
Your plans for your future will help you get a clear picture of the path you’re walking and your goals towards which you’re moving. You gotta know what you’re aiming at in order to hit it.
This will also give focus to your mental capacities and provide you with much needed emotional stability and a sense of purpose and a strong identity.
Having a clear list of goals, from the daily ones to the long-term plans will also help you keep it real and keep things in check. You’ll know exactly how much progress you’re making and why… or why not.
Keeping journals and diaries will also enable you to analyze the current state of affairs in your life, yourself, others, their actions, motivations, values and the nature of… whatever it is that you’re enquiring about.
Just don’t forget to write, read and think as much as you engage in real-life experiences.
Thinking gives you a frame of reference, a system to face the world and the real-world challenges your systems, shows their inadequacies and prompts their perfection.
While you perfect your notions of the world, your intellectual capacities grow, but never subordinate living the life to thinking about it.
STEP 5: MEDITATE, MEDITATE, MEDITATE
As the Zen expression goes: “If you don’t have time to meditate for 10 minutes daily, you should meditate for 20 minutes each day.”
Meditation is a much-needed exercise for both your brain and your mind.
There are many different types of meditation, but one of the most basic ones and most useful ones is mindfulness meditation which we’ll describe for the purposes of this article.
The trick behind mindfulness meditation is to just observe and passively perceive, both the world within you and the outer world.
You should PAY ATTENTION to your thoughts, feelings, emotions, desires, urges, physical sensations, etc. While paying attention you ought to detach from identifying with those phenomena. Just passively observe them as spontaneous short-circuitry of the brain.
The goal here is to silence your inner critic. Your “inner critic” is that constant voice inside your head, that ever-moving machinery of your mind. You didn’t start that machine nor can you stop it and that basically means it’s out of your control.
The idea behind mindfulness is to be wary of the fact that since workings of the mind are essentially a reflex that’s out of your control, it’s not who you really are.
It’s the consciousness that perceives the mind that is who you are and that consciousness bears no judgment to what it perceives. It just watches.
Another idea behind mindfulness is that your mind is a problem solver and when it has no problems to solve, it creates them out of nothing which makes you troubled and drains you so that when you face real problems, you have no more energy left to solve them.
If you think about it, even when you dream, your mind kind of simulates some problems for you to solve and situations for you to overcome.
The third idea behind mindfulness is that there’s an automatic entity or a structure within us called the Ego. The ego works as a focal point of all the intellectual functions. It binds them together. It is the center where they all meet, but the ego is essentially an illusion of who we are.
It’s an assumption that, in order to bind everything together, we had to create an idea about ourselves, an apparition of a character that encompasses all the disparate activities of our minds, all our experiences, etc.
The problem with that is that our sense of self is biased and doesn’t adequately represent what we really are. By viewing the world through the lens of Ego, we distort our image of reality.
That’s why mindfulness dismantles this impostor-like entity and our tendencies towards biased perception.
Some people think that the goal of mindfulness is to stop thinking entirely, which can trap you into a loop of thinking about how you should stop thinking and then despairing for not being able to do it.
The goal of this type of meditation is to somewhat take a rest from your thoughts.
Don’t be so engaged in them, but be wary of them. Focus on them. You’ll be surprised by how many of them slip by unnoticed and how much of your inner programming is actually semi-automatic and unconscious.
By practicing mindfulness, you’ll become calmer and that will increase your ability to draw efficient conclusions about what’s going on and act accordingly.
Mindfulness will also greatly improve your focus and stabilize your emotional dynamics which will surely result in increasing your overall intellectual capacities.
The thing is that intellectual capacity can be segmented into noticing, processing and emitting/transmitting data (which basically comes down to reacting).
In a way, mindfulness meditation is raw noticing and noticing everything.
Focusing your energy on noticing, then noticing how you notice, how you process and how you emit.
All of that will allow you to take a disinterested viewpoint from which you’ll be able to articulate your processes more efficiently.
By the way, you’ll simply feel 70% better when you just watch and stop criticizing everything.
STEP 6: MATHEMATICS, LOGIC, RHETORIC, FICTION, RIDDLES, MNEMOTECHNIQUES
We’ve covered the Logic and Rhetoric to an extent here. As for maths, it works much like a language except that it’s less biased with connotations, feelings, associations, analogies that we draw and reflections of our worldly existence.
In a way, it’s a distilled language that presents the formal operations of thought that our minds are capable of as well as represents the measurable relations of physical phenomena in existence.
It’s the basic, universal problem solving devoid of specific attributes of a problem or the solver.
Mathematics gives you problems to solve. The more you solve, the better you become at solving.
Memory is the other capacity that determines your overall intellectual capacities.
To draw conclusions, connect information and perform complex chains of operations, you first have to remember all the previous steps and data, right?
So the more you remember, the more building blocks you have to form something out of them.
The thing is that memory can be perfected by means of mnemotechnics.
Some of them are just ways of thinking about what you store so that you organize it better and make associations like a trail of crumbs to guide you to what you’ve hidden in your mind. Others are different.
Riddles and any kind of fiction really (whether it be literature, movies or a talk) function similar to mathematics does.
They give you abstract problems to solve and equip your mind with tools useful for encountering similar kinds of problems.
STEP 7: IMAGINATION AND LUCID DREAMING
There’s a lot of weird stuff you can do to increase your intellectual capacity.
Take imagination for example. It’s the ability to decompose, transform and combine your ideas and associations into new wholes. What’s it for?
There are many theories about that, but for example, imagination, similar to fiction, acts as a simulation of existential experience where you can practice how to handle situations that would be too dangerous to meddle in real life.
Imagination is also what consists of abstract projections of reality so, in a way, it helps you map and target existence and orient in it.
The more fictional spaces you imagine and store in your mind the more spatial intelligent you will be. Not only that, but your memory will improve and you will have frames of reference to help you conceptualize where you’re headed in life.
Imagination is basically visualization and there are a bunch of meditations you can do to exercise this ability.
You can also exercise dreaming which is one of the most complex processes your mind is capable of. Especially lucid dreaming which opens a field of experimental possibilities for you to engage in.
We’ll keep it short and note that there are ways you can induce lucid dreaming.
For example, you can form a habit of asking yourself are you dreaming and doing a reality check every once in a while.
That way, when you dream, you’ll do what you programmed your waking mind to do and when you ask yourself is this real, you’ll notice some inconsistencies based on which you’ll know that you’re dreaming.
That’s where the fun starts. The thing with dreams is that it’s your own subconsciousness talking to you in symbols… listen to what it has to say, interpret and you may very well increase your intellectual capacity tenfold.
Actually, anything you learn that helps you interpret the world, increases your intellectual capacity so be wary.
The more connections you make between the phenomena, the bigger your web of ideas and conceptions with which you can grasp the world, the higher your intellectual capacity is.
STEP 8: GET MUSICAL
Ever heard of Mozart effect? It’s basically a theory that listening to certain kinds of music may fire up your neural activity so that your intellectual capacities get heightened.
Brain activity while listening to music truly is remarkable and music has its way of addressing our subconscious parts of the mind that work by their own laws and speak their own language.
In a way, we are able to grasp it although we don’t understand it… The fact that we don’t understand it doesn’t mean that it can’t help us understand other things.
The important thing to note is that there are a lot of nerve endings in our fingers because we use our fingers to do some of the most complex activities that homo sapiens are capable of engaging in.
Moving your fingers sparks up the neural activity in your central nervous system. Now imagine what playing an instrument does to your brain.
You also have to bring the left and right hemispheres in the balance because you must learn how to control what each of your hands is doing at the same time.
Come to think of it, you may also practice writing with your non-dominant hand to build your non-dominant brain hemisphere.
STEP 9: NOOTROPICS AND PSYCHEDELICS
Did you watch the movie Limitless? If not, give it a look and skip the next paragraph or two. Spoilers ahead.
The plot, in a nutshell, is that there’s this guy who’s stuck in life and discovers a mind-enhancing drug that increases his cognitive capacities in a way that helps him excel in life.
You may assume that a bunch of problems come along with it, but the point of the story is that there are such mind-enhancing drugs.
It’s hard to predict all the pros and cons of using them because psychology is still not that advanced so as to figure everything out. Simply put, there are negative sides to every positive trait that you may acquire.
Almost all of these drugs are, neuro-chemically speaking, absolutely safe as they don’t cause any brain damage whatsoever.
Now, not all of the nootropics (literally mind-inducing) are psychedelics, but psychedelics have a significant nootropic potential as they literally open the doors of your subconsciousness to you and allow you to venture and explore the limits of your mind and, consequently, reality… so perhaps there’s a possibility that they can help you expand those limits.
Tip: If you’re aiming for psychedelics, psilocybin mushrooms might be your best and safest weapon of choice.
STEP 10: SLEEP AND EXERCISE
You may call bull on this one, but it’s one of the most essential steps to increasing your intellectual capacity.
As for the exercise, your neurodevelopment goes hand in hand with your motor functions and the physical perception which is heightened and better maintained when you get into shape.
The old Latins said: Mens Sano in corpore sano – Healthy mind in a healthy body… and in terms of mind and body alike, health may imply constant growth since the opposite of it is degeneration. Now you don’t want that to happen, right?
As for sleep, as we’ve said previously, it’s one of the most complex scientific riddles. No one knows exactly what goes on in the body and how & why it regenerates during sleep and that especially goes for brain activity.
What scientists do know however is that your cognitive and conative functions decrease if you didn’t have enough sleep during the night.
That’s right, we’re talking night-sleep because the body has its own biological clock so to speak and most of your melatonin (sleep hormone) is being released between 9 pm and 1 am. Sleeping during the day can’t even begin to compensate for the lack of quality night sleep.
Now melatonin helps regulate other brain centers which basically regulate your willpower so if you’re not motivated or can’t make yourself do anything useful during the day, it might be because you didn’t have enough quality sleep during the previous night.
Intellectual capacity is a tool for engaging in real-life situations and solving real-life problems so don’t forget to take it out on the streets so to speak.
Intelligence is not something that you can acquire via reading and abstract thought alone… Its very purpose and final test designed to measure it is experience.
As said, intelligence is the sum of all your mind’s capabilities which includes awareness, consciousness, focus, feeling, imagination, emotions, perception, willpower, etc.
It all comes down to what you choose to do with it because acting without intelligence is detrimental (although sometimes necessary) and intelligence without acting is futile.
Your behavior is what will show your intellectual capacity and decide your future mental growth and growth (or downfall) in every other field of life as well.
We may say that a final step towards increasing your intellectual capacity is rereading this article and actually applying some of these tips in real-life situations. So go live it up!
There are many other tips such as practicing to control your emotions, strengthen the will, fasting and ascetics, etc.
However, if you read the article carefully, you’ll see that all kinds of intelligence and ways of improving it have been covered in previous writing. The rest is up to you.
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