Building Your Intellectual Capacity
While it’s vital to know what you want in life, getting clarity on that is only part of the journey. Even if you have a clear vision for your ideal life, you then need to develop the skills necessary to achieve it, build the required discipline into your life, and the right goals to bring your vision to life.
So many people believe their abilities are fixed, and that they cannot change their intellectual capability or their discipline. However, we are all capable of strengthening our ability to execute consistently and gradually build toward our goals.
What is Intellectual Capacity?
Do you love the feeling of going to bed at night feeling fulfilled and knowing you made the best of our time that day? Of course you do. If you’d like to feel that way more often, the key is to building your Intellectual Capacity.
Intellectual Capacity is your ability to think, learn, plan and execute with discipline. A helpful analogy is to think of it as your processor or operating system—building this capacity allows you to do more in less time and with less energy.
It sounds obvious but it’s true—a huge part of building your Intellectual Capacity is to believe that you can do it. High achievers are always looking for opportunities to learn more and improve themselves. They recognize that mistakes are not just a part of life, but an opportunity to learn. They understand that failing at something today is a necessary step towards mastering it in the future.
Improving requires us to understand what our weaknesses are. Some of that can be done by taking an honest look at ourselves, but often we need to turn to others. Think about the people in your life who know you well and who you can trust to be honest with you about your shortcomings. In some cases, you’ll receive feedback that will be difficult to hear, but part of capacity building means being open to feedback and using it to grow.
Once you have a sense of where you want to improve, seek out the resources that will help. A great strategy is to pick a topic you want to learn more about, research the most respected books about that topic, purchase two or three—or check them out of a library—and set aside time to read them. Or, for a quicker download, research podcasts those authors have been on, listen to them, and learn their best points.
It’s a simple idea, but it’s a great way to upgrade your knowledge—soon, you’ll find yourself handling these topics faster and smarter and making better decisions.
But Intellectual Capacity goes beyond your knowledge and ability to process information—it also involves setting clear goals that build toward your purpose and core values and moving toward them each day.
Have you written any goals for yourself—either for the year, or further in the future? If you haven’t, you need to; you won’t reach the achievements you want by coincidence. You have to think about what you want and set clear goals that will get you there.
Setting goals is an area where I’ve completely changed my approach, for the better. In the past, I would routinely set and accomplish year-long goals, but found myself frustrated when those wins didn’t get me closer to what I wanted to achieve in my life.
The problem is that while achieving goals always feels like an accomplishment, they only will change the trajectory of your life if your quarterly and annual goals feed into your five and 10 year goals. And don’t just pick goals that sound impressive to the outside world, make sure they’re aligned to what you want.
You can say you want to be CEO of a company as a lifetime goal, but if actually leading a business is not something you want, you won’t be fulfilled when you get there. Maybe you really want to be painting on a farm in the countryside. It’s your life, don’t let others define success for you.
When it comes to setting goals, quality is far more important than quantity. If you set 100 goals for your life, you’ll probably hit a lot of them, but you’ll also be pulled in too many directions and may miss out on the most important ones. I’ve found it useful to set a small number of goals that are most important to me and pushing everything else to the side whenever possible.
I know I will feel most fulfilled by those few goals and they are aligned to my core values, so that is where I focus the majority of my time and energy. If I achieve all my most fulfilling goals, I am confident that I won’t be worrying about the less important ones.
Once you have your goals, it’s important to align your daily life towards pursuing them. It was valuable for me to have a constant reminder of what I was pursuing in the long-term, so I created a tool called the Whole Life Dashboard. This tool is a combination of a self-actualization exercise and an accountability tracker—you can enter your top long-term goals and re-read them each day to stay aligned and on track.
Building your Intellectual Capacity isn’t a quick or easy process, but if you commit to making incremental progress each day, you’ll see significant results sooner than you think.
In can be natural to want to achieve something, but feeling as though you lack the ability to do so. It’s vital to understand that any person is capable of building their intellectual capacity. If you take time to learn, set clear goals for yourself, and execute with discipline, you’ll find yourself on a path to what you really want.
-Robert Glazer, Author of Elevate