When I proposed my definitions of fitness last week, I talked about this idea of “Smart” as encompassing Mental Fitness. This week, I’m expanding on parts of that theory. Part 1 was about Mental Health. Part 2 was on Intelligence. And this is Part 3, on Knowledge.
Reading books is a way to acquire knowledge, right? Of course, that’s like totally obvious and we all know about that, but it isn’t the only way to gain knowledge, and not always the best way either. You don’t want to be the person with all book smarts, but no street smarts.
What’s the difference between book smarts and street smarts? Book smarts are practically-useless knowledge. Street smarts are actually a form of wisdom: practical knowledge based on experience and judgment. So, how do you convert book smarts into street smarts? Test your so-called ‘knowledge’ against the realities of the world and learn what is true, what is false, and what is actually useful.
So, I guess my method for working on the Knowledge part of mental fitness is to manage the flow of information. Read, take classes, ask questions, explore new information, but make sure you take time to ruminate on and practice applying that information. That’s why I’ve always preferred learning through experience, like on-the-job learning, cultural immersion, classes with a hands-on component, and learning new sports and exercises.
Some ideas for how to acquire more knowledge (and make it useful):
- Read books and discuss them with others, practicing what you can from the information contained in them
- Watch a documentary with a friend or loved one and share what you each took away from it
- Talk to strangers, learn their stories and how they think about the world
- Travel to a place you’ve never been before and don’t know much about, exercising your curiosity to fill in the blanks through exploration
- Take a class in something interesting, but way outside your field, then see how that helps you look at your field in a different way
- Play a new sport and suck at it, then keep trying until you get the hang of it
This is where I have to talk about the overlap between these 3 elements of Mental Fitness. In some ways, I just drew the line in an arbitrary place to separate 3 concepts that are really 1. After all, your mental health depends on your intelligence and knowledge; you need to develop skills of self-awareness, mindset, and coping strategies in order to stay sane. Your intelligence is also interdependent with mental health and knowledge; you need some bandwidth, high function, and an existing knowledge-base in order to add new knowledge and skills. Knowledge, then, is the thing you’re using your intelligence to acquire. Knowledge also gives you the tools you need to manage your own mental health. That’s my concept of Mental Fitness summed up in the word “Smart”.
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