Develop good habits of mind and you will have not just intelligence, but brainpower – the ability to use that intelligence effectively. Life is easier and your actions more effective when these subconscious “programs” are installed in your head.

Your mind is already programmed in many ways. You may have consciously learned how to type, for example, but now the process is largely unconscious. In fact, if you were to think about what you were going to do with each finger before you did it, your typing would be far slower. Developing these unconscious programs, then, starts with conscious effort, but eventually pays off with essentially effortless and effective action.

Habits of mind are more like “meta-programs.” They determine how your mind operates in various circumstances. They are created unconsciously throughout your life. For example, you may unconsciously look for a way to escape any situation that becomes uncomfortable.

The good news is that these habits can also be much more beneficial. Habitually stopping to assess a situation from an objective perspective would be an example of this. Even more hopeful, is the fact that these habits of mind can be consciously developed.

Many “experts” will tell you that it takes three weeks to develop a new habit. Repeat the actions or thoughts you want to become habitual every day for three weeks and they become programmed in your mind. Whether or not the three-week rule is accurate isn’t important. If it takes four weeks, that’s okay too. The important point is that by consciously repeating certain actions and thoughts, you can program yourself for success.

For example, if you want to bet a more effective problem solver, you can consciously change your approach and practice new ways of thinking. Less effective problem solvers look at problems as an annoyance to be avoided or dealt with only as far as necessary. A more effective approach is to look at problems as an opportunity to create new solutions.

Suppose you want to think this way, however. How do you make it a habit? Start by looking for problems instead of avoiding them. Keep a list of problems you see each day, ranging from personal problems like not enough exercise to business-related problems, like expenses being too high, to any random problems you can identify.

Carry a list of simple questions to ask for each problem. These are questions that are designed to give you a more productive frame of mind. “How could this problem be useful to me?” is a good start. Others might include. “What are the benefits of finding a solution?” and “What do i know about this situation that can help me find a solution.”

Using your motivations might help as well. If you imagine the praise you’ll get for finding a solution to a problem, this could make you want to confront and resolve problems rather than avoid them. Whatever works, do it consciously and daily for several weeks.

Once you have done this enough times over a long enough period of time, the thinking patterns become unconscious. You’ll find yourself looking at problems differently, and trying to solve them spontaneously. Then you can repeat this process with other mental programming you want to have.

One last example: Suppose every time you needed greater brainpower, you unconsciously sat up straight and took a deep breath? Both of these actions have been shown to improve brain function. Of course it takes conscious effort and discipline at first to develop good habits of mind, but the eventual result is greater brain power for less effort.