Both of the books talk about writing down 10 different ideas every day and “stretching” your brain.
While James and Claudia Altucher both say they don’t know why it works, I think I found an answer.
Or, let’s put it this way, I read a book that had a great explanation for why their strategy works for:
- Improving your life
- Making your brain more efficient
- And becoming more successful
I’ve been writing down 10 different ideas every day before going to bed, and while I’m not an “idea machine” yet, I can already see the benefits from this practice.
The Science Behind It
Okay, you’re probably here because you want to know what scientific proof I have, right?
All of my evidence will come from the book Make Your Brain Smarter by Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph. D. but she also has a list of scientific papers as sources at the end of her book.
According to her “well-formed innovative ideas are more typically the by-product of long-standing, effortful, dynamic thinking habits and content processing patterns.” (83)
That is a mouthful, but what she means to say is creative ideas don’t just randomly pop-out of nowhere. They’re a result of a consistent every-day practice of thinking creatively and differently.
She also says that “integrated reasoning will energize your thinking as well as increase the biological well-being of your brain” and that you’re improving your integrated reasoning when you are “form[ing] uncommon ideas, identify[ing] new problems, generat[ing] and revis[ing] workable solutions” (85).
Does that remind you of anything?
Oh that’s right!
Writing down 10 ideas per day covers all the above!
While at the beginning those ideas might not be incredibly creative and different, as you keep practicing, you will improve your integrative reasoning and thus your life.
Chapman also compares a 65 year old businessman named Mark and a 55 year old executive name Wesley.
Mark had high levels of integrative reasoning and when he had to change jobs, within a year he rose to a national leadership position and was “contributing new ideas and ways of thinking to his colleagues” (88).
Wesley’s levels of integrative reasoning weren’t as high, and when he had to change his job he struggled because he couldn’t find a way to apply his old skills to a different area.
The Advantages of Improving Integrative Reasoning
The following section is a complete paraphrase of the content found on pages 90-91 of the book.
Practicing a task that improves your integrative reasoning has the following benefits:
- Increases in brain blood flow.
- Strengthening of the communication between brain regions like the left hippocampal region and the left inferior frontal lobe. (Connection betwen a memory and learning region to the problem solving and high-order reasoning region.)
- Changes in the structure of your brain
Ways to Improve It
According to Chapman the best ways to improve integrated reasoning are:
- Combining ideas with previous experiences
- Generating novel interpretations that few would have conceived. (Does this remind you of anything?)
- Combining new concepts with old concepts.
- Taking in new meanings and moving away from literal meanings.
Writing down 10 new ideas every day and performing “idea-sex” covers 3 of the 4 methods of improving your integral reasoning skills.
Do you see why James Altucher’s “10 ideas per day practice works?
It makes sure that you practice your integrative reasoning skills every day.
Yet it might not be necessary to write down 10 ideas per day to see the same improvement in brain function.
If you focus on generating new ideas throughout the day and synthesizing old and new information, you should see similar improvements.