The Courage To Try
We've all been told "practice makes perfect." This is another way of saying that we adapt to external stress. In sports and strength training, adaptation is the goal of practice; our muscles break down and rebuild to adapt to the external stress placed on the body. This is the key to periodization; a training plan created to maximize potential at a specific time for a specific event based on small goals that build on one another.
But what about our brains and practicing something like my blog, Reactive or Receptive?, suggested; noticing when you're in a receptive or a reactive state? Because of neuroplascticity, the same principle applies. Without getting into too much detail, as we learn to see and shape the flow of energy and information within our subjective lives, we train the mind to myelinate the brain in specific areas. Myelin is a fatty sheathing that wraps neural circuits and increases in relation to, and along with, synaptic connections in enriched environments.
So what are enriched environments? An enriched environment is one in which you struggle to learn something that you're not adept at. It's choosing a goal just beyond your present abilities, making mistakes, learning from those mistakes and then correcting them.
As Daniel Coyle writes; "By trying hard to do things you can barely do, in deep practice, your skill circuits will respond by getting faster and more accurate. Struggle is not optional, it's neurologically required: In order to get your skill circuit to fire optimally, you must by definition fire the circuit sub optimally; you must make mistakes and pay attention to those mistakes; you must teach your circuit. You must also keep firing that circuit - i.e., practicing, in order to keep myelin functioning properly... Myelin is a living tissue."
Coyle also says; "Deep practice is built on a paradox: struggling in certain targeted ways - allowing yourself to make mistakes, to seem stupid - makes you smarter. Or to put it in a slightly different way, experiences where you're forced to slow down, make errors, and correct them - as you would if you were walking up an ice covered hill, slipping and stumbling as you go - end up making you swift and graceful without your realizing it."
What does this mean for our emotional and mental potential? Can you imagine?! For me, it's a relief and an opportunity to offer myself compassion for not making cognitive changes as swiftly as I'd like. I enjoy trying new physical challenges and fully accept that the first time I try something new I'll struggle because I know that the next time I'll be exponentially more comfortable and capable to carry out the activity. However, improvement seems less noticeable when learning the skill of meditation and bringing awareness to the present moment when not meditating.
Over the years I've heard, seen and experienced many different emotional and mental struggles; good/bad thinking, taking action (the opposite of passivity), taking responsibility, blaming, judging, comparing, and rigidity to name a few. As difficult as these things are to look at within ourselves and to begin to change, as we step out of our comfort zone and try something different, it WILL get easier because our brains physically create new pathways for the new thoughts/behaviors. The key is having the courage to try. And even courage can be learned.
Are you ready to try?
Learner and sharer of all things healthy, active, esteem building, growth promoting, witty and Hawaiian