Think of the smartest person you know. Is that person just a little different? If you said yes, there’s a good reason. As it turns out, smart people exhibit different ways of viewing the world and operating within it. Many of the habits of smart people are beneficial and should be emulated. But many habits are, well, not so beneficial.
Thomas Edison’s first attempt at inventing a light bulb failed. So did his second, his third and his hundredth and his five-hundredth. But he kept working on his invention until the light finally shone – after more than 1,000 tries.
They’re Goal Setters
Smart people commit themselves to their goals and make themselves accountable. In one experiment, students were allowed 4 weeks to accomplish a goal. Students who just thought about their goals were largely unsuccessful – only 43 percent accomplished their goals. By contrast, 64 percent of students with written goals were successful and 76 percent of students who shared their goals with friends got the job done.
Reading is fundamental – it’s bona fide brain food. Reading improves verbal skills, expands vocabulary, enhances memory and concentration and improves memory. There simply is no downside to reading, except maybe eyestrain. But you can cure that by pausing periodically to give your eyes a break.
They Deny Themselves Pleasures of the Flesh
Nationwide, more than 87 percent of all undergraduate students have had sex. But at top-tier schools, the rates for undergraduates who have had sex are much lower. For example: Harvard – 59 percent, Princeton – 56 percent and at MIT – 51 percent.
Teenagers with IQ scores of 100 or lower were 5 times more likely to have had sex than teens with IQ scores between 120 and 130. The likelihood of teen virginity increased 2.7 percent for males and 1.7 percent for females with each additional IQ point.
Their Heads Are In the Clouds
In a famous Peanuts strip, Linus, the resident thinker, despairs when he realizes he’s aware of the presence of his tongue. Smart people are metathinkers – they think about thinking. Awareness of one’s own thoughts encourages critical thinking – and you eventually forget about your tongue again too. At least for awhile.
They Drink More
Adult binge drinkers are more likely to have scored high on IQ tests as children. In fact, adults with IQs of 75 or less average binge drinking less than once per year. By contrast, adults with IQs of 125 or more average binge drinking every other month.
They Abuse Drugs
Illegal drug use is higher among adults with higher IQ scores. Men with IQs above 107 were twice as likely to abuse drugs as their peers. Women with IQs of 107 or above were three times as likely to abuse drugs as women with lower IQ scores.
They Never Sleep
Smart people tend to be night owls – but lack of sleep can have detrimental effects. Sleep deprivation is linked to a higher risk of heart disease and obesity. Lack of sleep can also lead to impaired judgment – and it’s also linked to depression.
Smart people also tend to be worrywarts. A 2012 study showed that subjects with higher IQ scores were also more likely to suffer from anxiety disorder. Anxiety is also linked to neurosis and depression. That’s enough to keep anyone awake at night.
They Crave Rejection
“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Nobody likes rejection, but the best salespeople swear by collecting as many “no” responses as possible, because each one leads them closer to the “yes” they are seeking. In the meantime, they become desensitized to rejection and allergic to being refused.
Smart people often have little tolerance for BS and have no hesitation about calling people out. And if they hurt someone’s feelings in the process? That’s regrettable, but not so much to keep them from speaking truth to power.
They Keep to Themselves
All that thinking that smart people do? They do a lot of it alone. It’s not that smart people hate other people. It’s just that the brain requires quiet to do its best work, which means periodically withdrawing from the crowd.
They Expect Nothing
Wise people know that operating on a quid pro quo basis is bad karma. They don’t grant favors with one hand while having the other hand extended. Keeping score is small minded, and there are more important things to think about – like thinking.
They’re Masters at Rope-a-Dope
The best poker players wear the same facial expression whether they’re holding an empty hand or a royal flush. Smart people know that it’s dumb to broadcast their advantages until they’re ready to put their strengths to good use.
The best chess players plan their strategy several moves in advance. They seek to see the entire board and attempt to read their opponents minds. While it’s not always possible to predict the future, knowing what to expect prevents being sideswiped.
False modesty is, well, false. It’s not that smart people brag about how smart they are. It’s just that smart people realize if they don’t believe in themselves, why should anyone else believe in them, either?
They’re Pig Headed
Conventional wisdom is just so conventional. And it’s not always very wise. Smart people follow the beat of their own drummers. They color outside the lines and they don’t let anyone stand in their way when they know they’re right.
They Love a Good Fight
It’s only through confrontation and negotiation that different sides can come to a consensus. Smart people also realize that challenges to their own thinking forces them to clarify their thoughts. As a result, their positions become sharper and more defined.
They Throw in the Towel
Smart people are well acquainted with The Serenity Prayer. When it’s clear that they’re no longer inventing light bulbs but rather shattering glass, they sweep up the shards and move on to the next innovation. Beating your head against the wall only gives you a headache.
Concentration? Smart people have it covered. If a project is interesting to them, smart people can focus their exclusive attention and efforts on the task for as long as necessary until it’s done – and done well.
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