Ways to Be Smarter

It’s not very charitable of me, but I’m firmly of the opinion that some people are more intelligent than others. And I’m also aware that some people – no matter where they are on the intelligence spectrum – routinely work hard to use more of their native brain power than most others do.

But that doesn’t mean one of these “more intelligent” people can’t do something stupid. The truth is, everyone acts stupidly from time to time. But at least for me, the fewer stupid things I do, the better. In fact, one of my important goals is to do the fewest possible stupid things.

To help avoid behaving stupidly, I have found it’s valuable to keep in mind some stupid things NOT TO DO. Here’s a good list to get you started:

Stupid Analysis

Hindsight is always 20/20, and after a situation turns out badly it’s easy to berate yourself for making a bad choice. But that’s not fair, because bad things can happen to anyone when – as is commonly the case – some of the facts of the situation remain uncertain or unknown.

What’s stupid, however, is failing to set the stage for making the best choice and thereby generating the best possible outcome by gathering enough of the relevant information that is available to you at the time.

What’s also stupid is failing to take into account all the facts you actually have, all the details staring you in the face, and all the obvious implications of what’s going on around you when it’s time to make your choice.

If you don’t perform your due diligence, you have no chance to correctly analyze and understand what is really going on.

Stupid Distraction

One of the most common reasons for stupid analysis is stupid distraction. Instead of paying attention to the truly important facts, details, and implications you’re facing, you focus on something irrelevant. For example, you’re not looking where you’re going and you smack into a lamp post. Or you’re defending yourself on some trivial matter when your partner is really angry over your insensitivity.

What’s stupid is taking your eye off the ball in crunch time, letting the tail wag the dog, or – in the time-honored analogy – re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Stupid Emotionality

Stupid emotionality encompasses the notions of both “drama queen,” and “narcissist.”

In one, you make too big a deal of some ordinary issue and get so wrapped up in extra emotionality that you have no room left for an honest response to a far more important element of the situation.

In the other, you’re so wrapped up in your own feelings, and “playing to the audience” so as to get the attention and action you desire, you have no room left to recognize and respond to other people’s emotions.

The result is usually a train wreck of an interaction that can leave a permanent emotional scar on anyone paying attention.

Stupid Fear

There are plenty of people, things, and situations to legitimately fear, just as there are plenty with no legitimate claim on your ability to feel afraid. Within this range, there’s an appropriate level of fear that makes sense in each situation. For example, the appropriate level of fear is far different when you see a bear caged in the zoo compared with seeing a wild bear when you’re alone in the forest.

What’s stupid is failing to accurately distinguish the appropriate level of fear in a particular setting – and the reasons for it – so you are as comfortable as possible reacting and choosing the best way forward.

Stupid Rush to Judgment

In complex situations, understanding what’s really going on and deciding on the best way forward tends to take time. You must gather relevant information, process and understand it, draw on past experience, develop alternatives and options, and then weigh the pros and cons of each possible choice. This process can be difficult and the interim ambiguity can feel uncomfortable.

What’s stupid is rushing through this sequence and/or accepting your first thought, short-circuiting your available brain-power and pumping out a convenient “solution” before it’s fully considered and vetted.

Stupid Self-Destruction

Some people suffer from “imposter’s syndrome,” perfectionism, or otherwise feel they are powerless to generate productive and successful results. As a result, they subconsciously make mistakes and bad choices that undermine satisfactory outcomes in many of the relationships and situations they encounter.

What ‘s stupid is failing to recognize this tendency and doing nothing to counteract it. You need not feel unworthy of the results your best efforts can produce.

Most of the time, this strategy of “avoiding the stupid” is a simple but powerful way to help you be more productive and more successful in  your work and your life.

The more often you can avoid behaving in these ways, the more time you’ll spend doing the smart things and selecting the smart alternatives that are quite often open to you.

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