Finding Intellectual Well-Being

Enhancing Your Intellectual Habits

Excerpted from Intellectual Well-Being Workbook
By John D. Liptak, EdD, and Ester R.A. Leutenberg

Finding Intellectual Well-Being

Intellectual Well-Being Workbook

Developing our mental functions can be a challenging task, but you can do this! The following tips will help:

  • Take one step at a time. By working on one behavior at a time, the task of changing your behavior will not feel insurmountable. Because mental functions are so difficult to develop, it is important to start with small mental functions and work slowly to change one at a time. By trying to change more than one behavior at a time, people set themselves up for failure. Keep it simple!
  • Create a support system to help you develop your intellectual functioning. Who can you ask for help and support in modifying your intellectual functions? Choose people with whom you feel comfortable, people who would be helpful in a specific area of your life, and people who know that you are trying to make changes. You don’t have to suffer in silence to successfully develop new, more effective thinking skills. Let people know about your desire to change and allow others to support you.
  • Write everything down. Saying you are going to make changes will not suffice. Working on defined behaviors and writing concrete goals that you set for yourself will help you to be successful.
  • Be persistent in your efforts and do not give up on yourself. Remember that it takes time to change ingrained thinking patterns. Do not expect immediate results. The purpose of setting goals is to help you take smaller steps leading to your overall goal.
  • Be accountable. If during your efforts to make positive changes you slip and go back to old thinking habits, don’t let this stop you. Attempt to learn from your setbacks and use your newfound knowledge to make successful choices to move forward. Monitor your progress.
  • Reward yourself for a job well done. Healthy and meaningful rewards provide you with positive feedback and motivate you to continue in your efforts to develop greater intellectual well-being. Find ways to reward yourself for each job well done.

The following are some ideas to help you broaden your intellectual well-being. Open your mind, avoid rejecting ideas as going too far, or being too outrageous for you. Journaling about these questions will help you refine where you are and where you want to go.

Am I thinking outside the box?

For what problem are you having a difficult time finding a solution?

With whom does this problem occur?

Is this problem at work, in school, in the home, in the community, or somewhere else?

How do you typically solve your problems, or find solutions to your problems?

Who can help you solve this problem?

Is there any reason not to ask this person for help?

Think outside of the box. What are a few possibilities of actions you can take to solve this problem?

Am I open to new ideas?

Do you consider yourself flexible or rigid? Explain.

Do you consider yourself open to new ideas or closed? Explain.

What was a time you were presented with a new idea, refused it, and were so glad?

What was a time you were presented with a new idea, refused it, and were sorry later?

What was a time you were presented with a new idea, immediately open to it, and sorry later?

What was a time you were presented with a new idea, immediately open to it, and it worked out great.

How does this quotation from Edward de Bono relate to you?

Studies have shown that 90% of error in thinking is due to error in perception. If you can change your perception, you can change your emotion and this can lead to new ideas.

Am I using my imagination?

How would you describe your imagination?

In what ways do you use your imagination?

What is an example of a time when you used your imagination and it enhanced your intellectual growth?

How does your imagination help in solving problems?

How do you use your imagination by picturing images in your mind?

What has been a barrier to your using your imagination?

Some tips to help you along the way.

Outside the Box

  • Try to look at a situation or task from a different perspective.
  • Think differently with an open mind and find new ways of functioning creatively.
  • Challenge your assumptions and beliefs. Where did they come from? Just because some things have always been done a certain way does not mean that they must continue to be done that way.
  • Break pre-conceived norms or rules to get ideas or the solutions you need. Try doing something backwards to get a new perspective.
  • Gather a few people together and free-style, brainstorm solutions.


  • When you have ideas, jot them down to avoid forgetting them.
  • Brainstorm for ideas. When brainstorming, state ideas regardless of how different they sound at the time. Write down all ideas and then revisit them at a later time. You can do this by yourself or with partners.
  • Get away from habits and routines. When you do, you will find that the mental habits which are stifling your creativity will disappear.
  • As you daydream, jot down ideas that simply pop into your head. Because your subconscious continues to work while daydreaming, you will generate more creative ideas than when you are concentrating on a task.
  • Keep a piece of paper and pencil by your bedside. If, during the night, a thought pops into your head, write it down and go back to sleep. There might be more!


  • Be creative and try different ways of thinking by engaging in puzzles like crossword puzzles, number puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, etc.
  • Read books that will take you to new worlds. This will allow you to experience sights and sounds that do not exist in your present world. Regardless of the plot of the book, think about new ways that the story could have ended.
  • Think about stores, businesses, and online shops where you interact and how you could improve upon their products, packaging, logo, service, etc. Think about ways (in your mind) that you could envision each working more effectively.
  • Try new hobbies and activities such as learning a new language or researching a country you know nothing about. You will look at the activity from a different perspective.
  • Try a guided imagery CD to help you visualize.

Good luck as you develop true intellectual well-being. Remember that this is a difficult task to master, just as learning to play a Bach toccata or shoot consistent free-throws takes time. Practice, practice, practice and you will be successful.

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