Tag Archives: creativity

Keys To Success: Use cognitive skills to reach your goals

What is success? Is it a college degree? Getting hired for your dream job? Finally, securing financial stability? Or is success about thriving relationships, connecting with your inner self, or finding happiness? Success is something we all strive for, but do not always know the best way to obtain it. Keep reading to discover the keys to success, as well as the underlying cognitive skills you can apply to reach your version of success!

Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

What is Success?

Success is the achievement of set goals and desired objectives. The term “success” is ambiguous—open to more than one interpretation—being that each individual possesses unique aspirations. While some endeavor to earn a six-figure salary and rank high in social status, others are content with a few strong relationships and a meager salary at a job they are passionate about. Neither version of success is wrong. Defining the concept of success simply depends if you meet your personal goals.

Why is Success Important?

Success is important because if done properly, it contributes a sense of well-being. Reaching your view of success brings happiness, fulfillment, and increases confidence. You know that if you were successful in achieving your goals despite the obstacles, you are equally capable of tackling whatever you set your mind to in the future. However, following another’s version of success is counterproductive. You cannot feel satisfied aspiring towards goals that are not your own expectations. Still, success can facilitate outside success. Accomplishing your aspired intentions benefits the productivity of businesses and the economy, which can inspire others to seek their own keys to success.

Keys To Success: Have Goals

The beginning key to success is to formulate realistic goals. Having a goal provides you with direction. You cannot “achieve” your desired outcome unless you know what it is you wish for in the first place.

Outline your goal(s). Write them down. Visualizing your goals on paper allows you to brainstorm how to go about achieving them. From there, you can divide the main goal into smaller, short-term goals, to increase your chance of success.

When mapping your goals:

  • Ask yourself, What are your values and priorities?”—Your inner beliefs are a guide through the decision-making process.
  • Consider your skills—What are you good at? What skills have proven beneficial in previous jobs?
  • Keep your goals realistic—While it’s important to aim high, you will eventually become burned out or discouraged if you create unrealistic goals.
  • Research—Have others been successful at your goal? How did they accomplish this? Learning from their mistakes may make reaching your goal easier.

Keys To Success: Strengthen Cognitive Skills

Now that you have a goal, you must framework each step necessary to successfully meet that goal. The complex thinking involved in doing requires cognitive skills. Cognitive skills are a set of higher-order thinking processes that allow us to reason, pay attention, learn, and remember. They are the skills we use to make sense of the world around us and to complete tasks with problem-solving. Cognitive skills are the keys to success because being successful entails overcoming problems and analyzing our environment.

Memory

There are multiple types of memory, but working memory is the most crucial key to success. Working memory is a form of short-term memory designed to temporarily hold the information we see and hear for our brain to work with it. Only a few pieces of information are stored in working memory at any given time. Remembering the digits of a phone number long enough to make a call is a prime example. Working memory is comparable to a mental sticky note. The process of working memory also assists in organizing information for long-term use if deemed important.

To be successful, working memory is imperative. You must recall information to meet your goals. Brain training games, like those offered by CogniFit, are great resources to strengthen working memory.

Attention

Attention describes the ability to selectively choose to focus on relevant stimuli in the environment and respond to it, while intentionally ignoring irrelevant stimuli. The cognitive skill of attention relied on our level of alertness, the amount of time we can attend to a stimulus, and the ability to alternate attention between multiple stimuli. Success demands attention because you need to focus in order to create and attain your goals. A tip to improve your attention span is to limit distractions in the room when working. This includes a cell phone or television.

Logic and Reasoning

Logic is the step-by-step method of problem-solving, whereas reasoning is abstract thought in which we deduct conclusions from premises. Together, logic and reasoning lead to using information for concept formation and problem-solving. These two cognitive skills are strengthened through stimulating the mind by trying new activities and hobbies. Because of logic and reasoning, you can think innovatively about your goals to become successful.

Processing

You easily visualize vivid representations as you conjure your inner thoughts, right? That is visual processing—the ability to think in images. Processing occurs with sound too. Auditory processing is blending and segmenting sound. Processing is also how we respond to the information we receive. Arriving at success calls for imagining what goals you seek to be successful at, along with the actions required (i.e. the response).

Keys To Success: Possess Confidence

Confidence is believing in your power to succeed. It really is the key to success because of the belief in your own abilities drives your actions. Ruminating on the ways in which you may fail or putting yourself down is a form of self-sabotage that confidence counteracts. If you possess confidence, you are more likely to pursue opportunities for success out of your comfort zone. Recent Princeton University research on mathematicians revealed that those who were confident in their numeric abilities had better financial outcomes and fewer instances of disease.

Keys To Success: Mindfulness 

Mindfulness is maintaining awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations in the present. It is the state of accepting current experiences without judging them as good or bad. Mindfulness is developed through meditation training. During mindfulness meditation, the intention is to focus on breathing. As distracting thoughts enter your mind, you simply reroute your thoughts back to your breathing and do not attend to them. Mindfulness is important for success because it cultivates self-awareness, which is crucial to prevent biases and opinions from impacting decision-making.

Keys To Success: Connect with Values and Spirituality

Values are fundamental beliefs that motivate behavior. They are how we establish what is desirable so that we can generate a vision of how we want to be successful and what we have to do to get there without compromising our standards. Your values are sourced from your inner-core and spirit—who you are as a person. Studies of college studies indicate that spirituality provided students with a life purpose, thereby reassuring students of their academic plans and provided an ability to overcome barriers (Wood & Hilton, 2012). As you connect with your values and spirituality, you live an authentically honest life and are more likely to take responsibility for your thoughts and behavior, as well as having a matured sense of self-esteem.

Values and spirituality differ from individual to individual. For some, values are rooted in their religion (i.e. Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc.). But religion is not the sole form of spirituality. Prayer and are great, yet practicing environmentalism, humanism, or volunteering for social justice issues are also means of increasing spirituality for success.   

Keys To Success: Creativity

Photo by Gerd Altmann from Pexels

Creativity is characterized as the ability to think abstractly, discover possibilities, produce innovative ideas, and then apply those ideas to real-world situations. Creativity sets people apart and makes them unique. It is beneficial for success because it adds to the available resources we need to reach our goals. While art and creative writing are obvious examples of creativity, the result of creativity is not always tangible. Successful creativity is:

  • Organization—Clearly state your goals and your plan of action to reach your goals.
  • Communication—You will notice success requires effective communication skills in both writing and in speaking orally. Communication also includes knowing which questions to ask regarding your goals and to whom.
  • Open-mindedness—The willingness to consider unconventional concepts or produce ideas others have not thought of is a key to success.
  • Physical activity—Exercise is a mode of expression. The endorphins released during exercise have a positive effect on the brain, which increases the use of complex thinking skills.
  • Mathematics—Connecting math for real-life situations is creatively thinking about numbers.

Keys To Success: Build Strong Relationships

Humans are social creatures. Although we may be content being alone for brief periods, friendships and interactions with others have many benefits to success. Firstly, relationships promote feelings of happiness. When we are happy, we are motivated to be productive.

Next, healthy relationships offer you the increased freedom to focus on your goals. You are less likely to have disputes with the people surrounding you (i.e. coworkers, classmates, etc.) if you have strong relationships. The attributes of a strong relationship include trust, respect, communication, integrity, and openness.

Further, nobody can be successful alone. Those people are available to help you reach your goals. Relationships offer a surplus of resources you would not have connections to otherwise.

Keys To Success: Use Effective Communication

Communication is how we exchange information between groups of people. Whether at work, school or in your personal life, effective communication is a key to success. Communicate may take the form of speaking orally, a written language like in a letter or email, and through bodily gestures. Communicating incorrectly leads to misunderstandings and controversy. While communicating for success, be specific about your goal. Say exactly what you mean. Ensure the information you are delivering is accurate and concise. To practice effective communication:

  • Listen—Engage in active listening. Truly hear the other person out before responding with your perspective. Do not interrupt them in the middle of their conversation.
  • Be constructive—Constructive feedback gives each party a central point to focus on, whereas destructive comments create tension and defensiveness.
  • Control your emotions—Communicating in an emotional state is not advised. If angry or upset, you are more likely to say something you regret or give inaccurate information without thinking thoroughly about your decisions.
  • Speak with purpose—Know what you are going to say and why. You cannot achieve your overall goal without a purpose.

Keys To Success: Establish A Healthy Routine

Routines are often viewed as boring or monotonous. However, when it comes to success, a healthy routine is anything but! Adopt a routine that incorporates all of the keys to success into your day. For example, setting aside twenty minutes to free-write daily fosters creativity and encourages a routine for success.

Ideas for a healthy routine include abiding by a sleep schedule, consuming healthy foods, exercising daily, and meditation. Eventually, these actions form consistent habits to more efficiently track your progress.

Keys To Success: Learn

Knowledge is power. The more you learn, the more successful you potentially become. Learning combines all of the keys to the success mentioned above. It gives you the skills to adapt to unexpected obstacles interfering with your end goal. The learning process initiates new ideas, and in turn, alters your perspective. Almost anything can be a potential learning experience. Yes, what you read in books imparts knowledge, but discovering information via technology, directly applying experiences from past situations, and observing others are additional opportunities for learning.

References

Peters, E., Tompkins, M., Knoll, M.A.Z., Ardoin, S.P. (2019). Despite high objective numeracy, lower numeric confidence relates to worse financial and medical outcomes. PNAS, 116(39), 19386-1939. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1903126116

Wood, J.L., & Hilton, A.A. (2012). Spirituality and Academic Success: Perceptions of African American Males in the Community College. Religion and Education, 39(1):28-47. DOI: 10.1080/15507394.2012.648576

Not Sure If You Should Take The Leap? Cognitive Benefits of Learning Foreign Languages

We may not look back on our foreign language classes at school with much fondness.However, after reading about the following benefits of learning foreign languages, we may all be searching for our Spanish or French class notes.

Learning a foreign language can be difficult. The older you are, the more challenging it can be. Nevertheless, learning a new language can have a range of cognitive, health and cultural benefits.

Cognitive Benefits of Learning Foreign Languages

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Beneficial for traveling, learning and communicating

Learning a foreign language means you can explore a whole new culture, country, or continent through the native tongue. Learning a foreign language also allows us to communicate with individuals who do not speak our mother tongue.

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Stay young and stave off disease

Research has found that bilingualism can help counteract cognitive decline. In fact, it was noted that bilingual older adults had better memory than monolingual older adults. Furthermore, there has been links between bilingualism and Alzheimer’s, showing the correlation to speaking more than one language and preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, Evy Woumans and colleagues have found that in older adults diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the rate of progression is slower in bilingual patients compared to monolingual patients.

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Be more creative

A review into the cognitive correlates of bilingualism, by Olusola Adesope and colleagues found that bilingualism has been associated with enhanced creativity and abstract thinking. Essentially, being proficient in a foreign language can make you more creative and can help you think outside the box.

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Improved problem-solving skills

Bilinguals tend to have better problem-solving skills than monolinguals. In addition, bilinguals tend to perform better on tasks like the Stroop test, which requires an element of conflict management. Being fluent in a foreign language has been linked to enhanced inhibitory control ability. This means that bilinguals are better at ignoring information that interferes with their ability to complete a task. The message here seems to be that learning a foreign language can help us to solve problems faster and help us to ignore irrelevant information.

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Better cognitive control

Researchers Viorica Marion and Anthony Shook tested bilinguals in experiments of task switching. Participants were required to switch between sorting objects based on colour and by shape. Compared to monolinguals, bilinguals displayed high levels of cognitive control. They find it easier to switch between tasks compared to monolinguals. Essentially, learning a foreign language may improve our task switching ability. Researchers propose enhanced cognitive control is due to the ability to balance two languages. Bilingual language processing networks for both languages are active at the same time. As both languages are activated, the individual responds in the correct language by learning to inhibit one language over the other. By doing this, bilinguals improve their inhibitory control mechanism, to the point where when processing language, the process of inhibiting the language that isn’t needed at a particular time becomes second nature. Wondering how you can train your brain and cognitive skills? Try some fun brain games!

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Changes brain structure

Bilingualism has been found to increase neuroplasticity. Researcher Rosanna Olsen and colleagues investigated structural brain differences in monolinguals and bilinguals using fMRI. Scans revealed that bilinguals display increased activation in the dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC plays an important role in tasks which require control). This part of the brain is associated with attention and inhibition. The researchers found that the hippocampus and the left superior temporal gyrus are more malleable in bilinguals (The hippocampus is associated with memory and the superior temporal gyrus is associated with sound processing). Furthermore, these structures as well as the frontal lobe are thicker in bilingual individuals (The frontal lobes are associated with executive functions such as problem solving and executive control-need some exercises to improve executive functions?). Increased volumes of white matter have been noted in frontal and temporal lobes. According to researcher Christos Pilatsikas and colleagues, when learning a second language age doesn’t matter, as adults who have learnt a foreign language have shown increase white matter. Being proficient in a foreign language can improve connections of brain regions that control our memory, executive functioning, attention and inhibition processes.

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Improves attention and attention control

Studies have shown that on tasks of attention control, bilinguals tend to perform better than monolinguals. Also bilinguals tend to have a higher attention capacity. Bilinguals are better at filtering out unwanted information and find it easier to focus on more relevant information.

Improves ability to process information– Benefits of learning foreign languages

Being bilingual can benefit sensory and information processing. Jennifer Krizman and colleagues present participants with target sounds embedded in background noise. Compared to monolinguals, bilinguals found it easier to filter out background noise. The researchers found bilingualism enhances sound processing and sustained attention. The study found that bilinguals process sound similarly to musicians. This means that one of the benefits of learning a foreign language is being able to improve the efficiency of the brain’s auditory system, and enhance our ability to distinguish between similar sounds.

Benefits of learning foreign languages

Enhances working memory– Benefits of learning foreign languages

Managing two languages puts increased pressure our working memory. To ease the pressure, bilinguals become more efficient at information processing. Combining this with their enhanced inhibitory control ability, a bilingual’s working memory capacity and efficiency us greater than monolinguals.

Learning multiple foreign languages

We have already established that being fluent in a foreign language can improve our information processing abilities and enhance our sustained attention. As a result of these enhanced processes, bilinguals find it easier to learn a third or even fourth foreign language.

Learning a foreign language can have numerous benefits on our cognitive functions. It improves executive functions, cognitive control, attention, and memory. In addition, neuroimaging studies have revealed that learning a foreign language in later life can actually grow the brain and improve the connections between different brain regions. What is even more interesting is that learning a foreign language can counteract cognitive decline and slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Regardless of the age at which we learn a foreign language, it is still beneficial for our brains to do so. So, although it may be a little more difficult, it is clearly never too late to reap the benefits of learning foreign languages! Encouraging young children to learn a foreign language may benefit them in later life, so schools should look at making learning a foreign language a compulsory part of the curriculum. Aside from the benefits to cognition and the brain, for all of us who have the travelling bug and want to explore new cultures, learning the lingo is obviously the best place to start!

Do you have any questions or comments? Leave me a note below! 🙂

References

Adesope, O. O., Lavin, T., Thompson, T., & Ungerleider, C. (2010). A systematic review and meta-analysis of the cognitive correlates of bilingualism. Review of Educational Research80(2), 207-245.

Krizman, J., Marian, V., Shook, A., Skoe, E., & Kraus, N. (2012). Subcortical encoding of sound is enhanced in bilinguals and relates to executive function advantages. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences109(20), 7877-7881.

Mårtensson, J., Eriksson, J., Bodammer, N. C., Lindgren, M., Johansson, M., Nyberg, L., & Lövdén, M. (2012). Growth of language-related brain areas after foreign language learning. NeuroImage63(1), 240-244.

Marian, V., & Shook, A. (2012, September). The cognitive benefits of being bilingual. In Cerebrum: the Dana forum on brain science (Vol. 2012). Dana Foundation.

Pliatsikas, C., Moschopoulou, E., & Saddy, J. D. (2015). The effects of bilingualism on the white matter structure of the brain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences112(5), 1334-1337.

Woumans, E., Santens, P., Sieben, A., Versijpt, J., Stevens, M., & Duyck, W. (2015). Bilingualism delays clinical manifestation of Alzheimer's disease.Bilingualism: Language and Cognition18(03), 568-574.

Costa, A., & Sebastián-Gallés, N. (2014). How does the bilingual experience sculpt the brain?. Nature Reviews Neuroscience15(5), 336-345.

Olsen, R. K., Pangelinan, M. M., Bogulski, C., Chakravarty, M. M., Luk, G., Grady, C. L., & Bialystok, E. (2015). The effect of lifelong bilingualism on regional grey and white matter volume. Brain research1612, 128-139.

Saidi, L. G., & Ansaldo, A. I. (2015). Can a Second Language Help You in More Ways Than One?. AIMS neurosci1, 52-57.

CogniFit Brain Planning application

CogniFit Brain Planning application.

The CogniFit team is very happy to announce the release of a new application, Brain Planning.

The Brain Planning application includes three new brain games, “Perfect Tension”, “Slice and Drop” and “Fresh Squeeze”.

Planning or the ability to “think ahead” requires strong cognitive skills, creativity and cognitive energy. The new Brain Planning tasks have been specifically developed to train those important abilities.

Enjoy it!

Google causing children to be ‘brain dead’

Google causing children to be ‘brain dead’ warns successful inventor.

The “Google generation” is in danger of losing its creativity, warns one of Great Britain’s most successful inventor, because they tend to rely on the Internet for just about everything, which is putting them in danger of becoming “brain dead.”

Trevor Baylis, 75, inventor of the wind-up radio, said kids today are losing creativity and practical skills because they are spending far too much time staring at a computer screen, Britain’s Daily Mail reports.

Because of that, Baylis says he fears that future generations of inventors are being lost as too few young people are able to make things with their hands. That said, Baylis believes children could re-learn vital practical skills at schools.

Nature nurtures creativity after four days of hiking

Nature nurtures creativity after four days of hiking.

Backpackers scored 50 percent better on a creativity test after spending four days in nature disconnected from electronic devices, according to a study by psychologists from the University of Utah and University of Kansas.

“This is a way of showing that interacting with nature has real, measurable benefits to creative problem-solving that really hadn’t been formally demonstrated before,” says David Strayer, a co-author of the study and professor of psychology at the University of Utah. Disconnect and take care of your brain health.

Scientist maps how brain changes when being creative

Scientist maps how brain changes when being creative.

Different parts of the brain are active at different times and when it is engaged in a creative pursuit, that’s especially so. Not only do creative tasks require a specific part of the brain to be active, but the brain also shuts down other parts, to get you out of your own way. This is the beauty of brain plasticity.