Last updated on November 4th, 2023 at 04:47 pm
The ability to apply reasoning and knowledge to manipulate one’s environment, learn, understand, and deal with situations are traits of a smart person, with which he navigates life effectively and achieves his goals.
People think you are not a smart person when they call you stupid, dumb, or foolish.
It is not a good feeling but as much as it hurts, you should examine yourself when it comes from different people at different times.
Though one cannot be brilliant in all areas, however, curiosity, common sense, and intuition are needed in all areas for one to be considered a smart person.
It takes a lot though to measure smartness because there are factors that can cloak or make a smart person appear dumb in certain situations.
I gauge smartness however in an everyday situation that does not require lessons and subsequent examinations or tests.
Even in strange or unfamiliar situations, one can quickly adjust and manipulate things to his advantage.
On the other hand, there are telltale signs that a person is not smart when there are successive recognizable patterns in his dumb behaviour especially when it comes to situations where one needs to improvise without instructions by making use of intuition and instincts.
What makes a smart person?
Note: In this post, smartness and intelligence would be interchanged even though they can mean slightly different things in different situations. However, a smart person might not actually be intelligent in the whole sense of it. But for the scope of this post, we are sticking with the below meaning of smartness.
Smartness is the quality of being intelligent and able to quickly come up with appropriate solutions in difficult situations.
Smartness is a very desirable and admired quality in humans as it is directly involved in the survival and getting-by of humans in their daily activities.
I call people smart who can navigate the everyday terrain skillfully, evading problems, avoiding altercations, and harnessing every advantage there is in any dealings.
Smartness can be applied both for good and for bad. For instance, knowing every trick to get things done quickly like multitasking, though smart people are learning the dangers of multitasking; or cutting corners to beat time is admirable and can be commended.
However, using your smartness to rip people off or swindle them is in excessively bad taste.
A smart person is not just defined by his high scores on IQ tests. There is much more to smartness that is exhibited in the everyday conduct of curious minds and brilliant personalities, like insatiable curiosity and a spontaneous sense of humour.
What a smart person is not?
A smart person is not only a person who has acquired formal education or went to school.
It can be seen in every human who has the ability to observe, apply thoughts and solve problems.
Smartness is not the accumulation and collection of information through experience but the ability to apply those experiences and knowledge in every given instance.
It is one thing to be knowledgeable and it is another to apply the knowledge for useful benefits.
Smartness is not swindling or hoodwinking people to take their belongings. A smart person does not take advantage of people who otherwise you should assist or help.
In Nigeria where there are many young people who engage in internet fraud, they are seen as smart people but in the real sense, they are thieves who use different formats to distract people and extract information from them with which they foment their crime.
This is also what people think of when you describe someone as smart in some other countries and it is seldom associated with something good.
These are people who are too lazy and preoccupied with easy lives and do not wish to find any other meaningful source of livelihood apart from being criminally smart.
Becoming a smart person
There is a difference between wanting to be a smart person and wanting to appear smart to people.
People do all sorts of things to mimic smartness but do not know the fundamental rudiments of being smart. They end up hurting themselves or others in the quest.
Though smartness comes to some people naturally, anybody can become a smart person with deliberate efforts and painstaking dedication to the rudiments through self-development and improvement.
However, smartness or intelligence depends on what information and knowledge one is exposed to and how he has been able to develop himself.
If you have never seen a computer or used it for the first time, there is no way you can know how to operate it.
But if you have taken lessons on the computer and know the basic use of it, you can be smart on it by your approach.
So, it’s safe to say that becoming a smart person is dependent on the knowledge available and the exposure one has received.
You can’t pretend to be smart
What this also means is that you cannot appear or pretend to be smart. You might end up looking stupid and foolish while forcing your way to appear smart because it has more to do with complex thoughts and problem-solving skills than strength or physical abilities.
Becoming a smart person requires concrete steps to take as it doesn’t happen overnight.
Recording success means sticking to habits that will stimulate intelligence, acquire knowledge, experiences and practice a lot.
The mind has to be stretched and exercised before it can do a lot of things effortlessly.
Whether in leadership, business, arts, engineering, or just simple daily living, you have to push and challenge yourself daily.
Tips to becoming a smart person
There are plenty of hacks and daily living habits that can help people to become smart. But keep in mind that all the tips listed here do not work for everyone.
Try out the tips to see how they impact your intelligence.
1. Insatiable curiosity
Smartness could be natural to some people, however, you have to be curious to become a smarter person.
Curiosity is the strong desire to know more, to be better, to unravel, to achieve more, and to keep going. It is the drive you need in many areas of your life to be a smart person.
When a particular curiosity is satisfied, another would take position because there must be always something to be curious about and that means something new to learn.
And learning new things adds to your wealth of knowledge which in turn makes you smarter.
Below are ways to develop or sharpen your curiosity to be a smart person:
- Reading is the closest way to acquire knowledge and know more
- Let your mind interact with like minds
- Do not be afraid to ask questions
- Be an expert who is interested in everything
2. Be flexible in your thoughts
A brilliant personality is not rigid in its thoughts. This means they have open minds at all times and their thought pattern is not fixated on culture or religion.
The ordinary personality could be fixated on certain conditions or beliefs and tend to be active or do better in such conditions but become docile outside that.
Brilliant personalities express dynamism in all situations and this explains why they are not intimidated by the environment, other personalities, or any situation.
When in group tasks, they seek other people’s opinions to see how further they can explore and not obtrude their own opinion even if they are leaders.
Self-control is the ability to keep your feelings in check and not be overwhelmed by emotions.
It takes self-awareness and a strong will to be in control of your feelings and emotions.
Emotions and motivation are the drivers of cognitive processes in human beings like perception, learning, memory, attention, reasoning, including problem-solving.
Smart people tame the influence of negative emotions through self-control, especially as it concerns the modulating of motivation and behaviour.
Having insatiable curiosity needs self-control to harness other needed self-development skills to be smarter.
4. Question everything
Do not swallow everything you hear or are told hook, line, and sinker. Ask questions, and go on a fact-finding mission on things you are curious about to have first-hand information.
This eliminates confusion, and bias and you have strong conviction when you share the information.
Smart people keep their eyes and mind open to absorb information and then filter out what is not necessary.
For a long time, religion, culture, and other factors you as a human inherited could be hindrances to becoming a better and smart person.
When you are curious and exercise self-control, you question everything, and possibly, you will have answers that would improve your smartness.
5. Read as much as you can and be a smart person
Being a smart person can never be interesting when you don’t seek information through reading.
In other words, if you are not an avid reader, you hardly can be as smart as you can be.
Smart people savour information through reading and they are not apologetic about it.
Since knowing more and more is key to improving your smartness tremendously, then reading should be one of your strategies.
You cannot imagine the wealth of knowledge you can amass through reading. You improve your knowledge, vocabulary, and confidence, and you become a better teacher. Just as they say, ‘you travel to many places through reading.’
It takes curiosity, self-control, questioning everything, seek knowledge to become a smart personality.
6. Think of new ways to do things
This is where smart people are always exemplary. They discover smart ways of doing things to the amazement of others.
This could be seen as cutting corners. However, if you are not breaking the rules or laws, it is fine to save time and achieve more.
Most smart devices that are invented today are always about saving time, space, and cost or just reducing the burden on humans while increasing efficiency.
Finding new ways of doing things requires critical, lateral, and all kinds of thinking there is.
It’s only a smart person that can subject his thoughts to focused thinking can bring about a smart way of doing things.
It takes curiosity, self-control, questioning everything, and reading up information to seek knowledge so you can be inspired to think of new ways to do things.
7. Filter contents you absorb, filter your friends
The contents you consume both online, in books, and from friends have either detrimental or uplifting effects on you.
They either increase or decrease you. Experience has shown that smart people have fewer friends and so have less garbage to deal with.
They have fewer friends because they love quality and are selective in choosing their friends.
The people you spend your time with, people you can call confidants says a lot about you and determine to an extent how smart you can be.
8. Keep diaries of your life
A diary is a book used in keeping records that describe your honest life, especially on daily basis, and usually has a yearly calendar.
A journal does almost the same work for you but it’s more of recording your thoughts and reflection on events around you.
For me, both can serve the same purpose. You record your experiences, observations, encounters, adventures and whatever it is that is memorable.
I grew up seeing my dad’s many diaries dated back to his youth. He wrote down every major event or activity that happened each day. From travels to financial commitments to village meetings and items bought.
He kept comprehensive diaries of his life’s activities, year after year which gave me a peek into his rich organized past.
He was a smart man who kept referencing those diaries so we follow in his footsteps and avoid pitfalls where necessary.
Humans have retentive memories, but with the ups and downs of life, we might lose a lot of details.
Keeping dairies is keeping the events and their stories intact and unadulterated for future reference and reflection.
9. Be creative and exercise your brain
An unstretched brain is a dull brain. You need to exercise your brain to stretch it into smartness.
People who are too lazy to do mental exercises are dull people who seldom think past what their local emotions and instincts offer.
Engaging in problem-solving activities like games and writing, art and others would excite your brain to become active.
The activities help develop connections in the brain that make you think better and faster.
Creative writing drives your brain to manufacture scenes, characters, and environments that can make up a story.
Also, writing increases your vocabulary which is another attribute of smart people. A good expresser of himself and communicator is effective to convey his thoughts and opinions.
10. Learn to enjoy solitude
Solitude is simply being in your own company. There are people who naturally love their own company because they are more comfortable on their own either because they are shy, detest crowds and strangers, or just because they want to concentrate.
That’s their lifestyle and is not imposed by situations like work, heartbreak, or crime.
They can be described as introverts or nerds. The most important thing is that they are not in solitude against their will.
However, if you are not naturally wired to love your own company, it’s time to start enjoying it, if not for any other thing, for the mental benefits.
Subject yourself to love it as it’s going to be a good factor in determining how fast you would become a smart person.
Solitude gives you the opportunity to interact with yourself, ruminate over the subject of your interest, and have a deep retrospect and understanding of such. It makes you ask some deep questions and look for answers.
This also can be a form of meditation that thrives in the absence of distraction and noise.
11. Continue to have all-round learning and education
People think learning has to do with only formal education at school, college, and university.
We all were told as early as we can remember to go to school and get good grades so we can become a doctor, engineers, or lawyers to get good jobs.
However, this type of education acquired in schools is just one type of learning. There are many more avenues to learn and acquire knowledge and develop skills that are needed throughout your life.
People always think intelligence or smartness could not be improved on as it was believed to be a gift, which it is anyway but can also be acquired.
Somebody who is not smart can acquire smartness to some degree as long as he puts effort to learn and acquire knowledge.
12. Identify and follow your passion
Through continuous learning, you would be able to identify your passion. When you discover your passion, it becomes fun and you would fit in easily, focus, and learn to have in-depth knowledge about it and not struggle.
It is better to be a smart person in a few areas than to have a shallow knowledge of a broad range of areas.
You identify your passion when you continue to learn. Chances are you might stumble on something that resonates with you naturally.
You don’t struggle to be successful in it, it comes to you as fun and you are fulfilled as a person doing it.
When you narrow your passion and interest, you become smart and competent in the area.
Explore, delve in, and give it all your energy and you will see the desired results.
13. Master metacognition
Metacognition is thinking about your own thoughts. It is an appraisal of one’s thinking and the process of monitoring, understanding, and assessing your performance as it regards learning and growth.
It is a critical awareness approach that can help you know when you are slacking and how to intensify your effort to figure out your life.
For instance, you can gauge your learning progress and pattern or how a particular factor is affecting your learning process and how to improve.
14. Be current with the news
No matter the industry you might have an interest in, an intending smart person should constantly look out for current news, if not for your career, at least to be in the know. You do not know where your next opportunity might come from.
If you are not a friend of the latest trends, then you are prone to miss out on important opportunities you might not get back.
Keep up with current events both in your locality and the world over. It will increase your intellectual ability and make you current and smart.
Also, being current lets you have an opinion, or suggestion and let your voice be heard about the current situations in the locality which is an attribute of a smart person.
15. Put the technology aside sometimes
I remember a funny scenario that used to play out in my teenage years with my dad. He used to run a pharmacy shop in the neighbourhood and I was always with him during holidays.
Each time he had to calculate people’s bills he would use a pen to write out the items and their prices beside them, and then calculate them using the tens and units system of calculation.
This cracked me up each time. The funny thing is that there is a calculator that would have made his work easier but he would always say he does not need it. The man was always accurate with his calculations.
Though a calculator would have saved more time, not using it still had its own benefits for my dad.
That singular brain exercise would keep his brain active and contributes to his smartness every day.
Technology helps man to do a whole lot of things without expending much energy and makes things easier and more convenient. But this can also take a toll on you by making you dumber.
Making use of the brain for complex tasks sometimes is recommended to keep the brain exercised.
16. It’s okay to look stupid sometimes
Sometimes, to be smart, you need to be dumb or appear dumb especially when you are not sure of the people around you and not familiar with the environment.
Smart people assume stupidity on a required occasion to extract information, ask relevant questions and acquire knowledge.
Your ego might come in the way of this and you would be like “How can I of all people take that?”. Put down your guard and be smart.
Investigative journalists disguise sometimes spend days or even months in the prison to extract information.
When you have your focus on something that is worth it, you don’t mind if the process is rigorous or lowly, you lean in for the sake of it.
17. Be receptive and open-minded
Being receptive is how willing you are to consider other views or try out new experiences.
Do not put away information or an idea because it is unattractive, confusing, scary, or intimidating the usual way you think and process information.
Avoid cognitive dissonance, the natural hesitation of the mind to ignore or avoid opposing information.
Cognitive dissonance is detrimental to being a smart person because you might shut out information that is capable to change your life.
An open mind would have more information to consider, and the more information and ideas you have, the more chances of stumbling upon a good one and becoming a smart person.
18. Improve your vocabulary
Having a rich vocabulary conveys rich meaning and beautifies communication and at the same time, puts you on the pedestal of an intellectual.
Smart people know this and that is why they are good communicators.
They boycott the usual and employ the unusual words appropriately and score enviable communication points.
It does not take much to enrich your vocabulary. Read, jot down, and look up words, and put them to use.
Again, put them to use. If you have a really good vocabulary and you don’t use them, it’s as good as not having them. Remember, practice makes perfect.
19. Modesty is a virtue, practice it
Modesty is the quality of moderation, not being too proud about yourself or obtruding in a way that is unwelcome.
In the world of today, there are too many attention-seeking people who can go overboard to get noticed.
A smart person who is modest and confident wields all the charms there could be in seduction. People are comfortable around you because you identify with them.
Immodest behaviours most times are triggered by an inferiority complex because it wants to measure up, feel among, and get noticed.
However, a smart person would readily see through it eventually.
Adaptability is the ability to be able to adjust to new conditions or situations. It also means learning new skills and ways of doing things in response to changing dynamics and circumstances.
Intelligent and smart people are able to thrive outside their comfort zones without many lapses.
They adapt quickly because they have conditioned their mind to focus on the most important things and be resilient when the odds are against them.
Becoming a smart person demands you develop tough skin for situations that might not otherwise be soothing for you.
Some people find it difficult to cope in unfavourable situations while smart people cope and thrive.
21. Visit new places
It is said that a traveler is more knowledgeable than an old man. Traveling to new places, having new experiences, and enriching your knowledge is a smart things to do.
Apart from giving you a fulfilling feeling, it makes you first-hand information and knowledge about a particular place, people, and culture.
You will be fascinated at how much you do not know about humans, animals, weather, architecture, etc. Travel and see.
22. Apply emotional smartness
Emotional intelligence plays a crucial role in becoming a smart person. This is the ability to know your emotions, have a grip on them, and use them to navigate properly in social circles and society at large.
Being aware of situations with a deep thought of how to navigate them clearly and not merely drifting along is important.
23. Be intuitive
People who are high in intelligence traits have the ability to understand things instinctively without conscious reasoning.
Every human and animal of course has instincts with which they navigate the course of life, but processing intuition and applying it in situations properly sets smart people aside.
Having the inner insight into situations without conscious reasoning is a gift that eludes many.
Smart people are aware that there is more to this world than we see. There are subtle but consistent messages conveyed by the universe through our surroundings and people.
24. Don’t be afraid to fail
Smart people are not afraid to fail. They carry this air of confidence with them and seem to infect people around them.
They have the habit of embarking on tasks not minding if they fail or not. They believe there is something to learn from every venture.
Brilliant people are actually kept on their toes by failure.
This however does not rob the energy they inject into whatever task they engage in. Failure for them is only another opportunity to get it right.
I always believe that when I try something new and fail, that’s because I am new to it and probably don’t know all the tricks in it. It challenges me to be painstaking when trying again.
25. Be objective to be a smart person
Being objective means being free from bias, and sentiments and being true irrespective of who might be offended. Objectivity is essential for the accuracy of how things work around us.
You do not behave in ways that suggest you are after your interest, but the interest of whatever the collective target is; shoving all sentiments aside in pursuit of excellence.
Objectivity is another area where the smart person is selfless and considers others in his dealing.
Instead of influencing change in the next person, objectivity demands that you accept people the way they are, their beliefs, or whatever they hold dear and instead work your way around them to harness whatever importance they have.
26. Be practical
Dwelling only on theory and word of mouth is not for smart people. They accept the challenge and get to work.
One of my mentor’s slogans is “If you never try, you will never know.”
I always keep this close to my heart in my conduct in life. It helps me not to write every task off as bigger than me or not enough.
This is the opposite of putting things over the next day which might as well be put over the next day.
Procrastination is the enemy that steals and keeps stealing successes from people who are lazy to get down to work.
Due to their wealth of experience smart persons have, they apply knowledge to situations instead of ideas and guesswork.
27. Do not seek validation
I have always believed that it is weak and inferior people who seek validation from others to feel happy and better about themselves.
People who are smart are confident people and comfortable in their own efforts and by themselves rather than in the company of others.
This explains why some ordinary people can never be by themselves. There was a roommate in the higher institution that never left the company of his clique; whenever he did, he became depressed and irritable.
This constantly kept him away from himself as he tried to please and feel wanted by others.
The funny thing about this kind of people is that they feel deeply hurt when the people whom they enjoy their company become unavailable as they attend to their own personal needs and give them signals they want privacy.
They whine and complain and fall even deeper into depression.
Application and integration of all of the above
Some are born smart people, while some learn how to be smart. It all depends on the strength of your interests and what you want to achieve.
Smart people are not the only successful people in the world.
Becoming a smart, intelligent person would not be achieved if only what you do is wish and wish.
All the above should be applied, tweaked, and integrated into your everyday life so they can stick and become a part of you.
Though you might not be able to apply all to the latter but covering a greater number of them is in good taste and you would see the tremendous improvement and confidence you will record in no time.
Don’t hesitate to write me a comment and let me know how you feel about this post or your progress in becoming a smart person.
A Personal Development Content Creator and an author. I write about life ethics and love to document and share life hacks and experiences of people to help others make good life decisions.
Every content published on The Conducts Of Life is well-reviewed by our board of experienced professionals in psychology. Contents are fact-checked for accuracy, relevance, and timeliness and we include links to sources at the bottom of every article for more insight.