Think about the last seven days. Run through your routine in your mind. Chances are that everything you did, you had done before.
Forget about the mundane stuff like brushing teeth or getting dressed. Even if you struggled at work with a new presentation or a report, the sequence of events was something you had lived through before. What most of us don’t realise is that this familiar routine could actually be working as an impediment in our personal and professional progress.
Why do children learn so much so quickly and why does it become harder and harder to learn new things as we grow older?
The answer strangely is that the human brain is ‘inherently lazy’ and when presented with a task, it chooses the most energy efficient way to execute it.
What this means is that without even knowing it, we do the same things the same way over and over again. This is a self-perpetuating cycle. We develop neural pathways that help us find the shortest and easiest way to do something and the more we use these neural pathways, the stronger and more deeply embedded they become.
In fact, science shows that after 25, it becomes harder and harder for our brain to escape the familiar patterns we set up.
Net result? We continue to use the same parts of our brain through our lives, not allowing the dormant parts to realize their full potential. No prizes for guessing how this impacts our potential, both personally and professionally.
Also read: The 10-second method to sharpen your brain
The only way to realise your brain’s full power is to literally ‘awaken’ the parts you don’t use regularly by doing something completely unfamiliar and therefore forcing your brain to work in ways you are not accustomed to. Think about this in two ways:
Master of some
Pick one new thing that you are going to master in a given time-frame. It would be wonderful if this was a new language or a musical instrument, but not all of us are lucky enough to have the time and resources to do that. It’s fine to pick something simpler and easier to put into practice.
For example, I decided I was going to learn to identify different musical composers, just by listening to their music over and over again. (I have absolutely no musical training of any kind).
A friend decided he was going to learn how to make perfectly round chappatis (one month now and his efforts are still bizarrely shaped but he says he won’t stop until he has that unbroken circle). You could choose to attack a complex jigsaw puzzle or any game for that matter. Just as long as it is something that will challenge you and require you to concentrate.
You will find this hard in the beginning but as you continue down this path, you will find that your brain responds quicker, and you will feel confident about taking on more ambitious projects.
Also read: The 5-second gap that could change your life
Change the everyday
To supplement your ‘big’ efforts, do little things differently every day to ‘jolt’ your brain into focusing harder. Brush your teeth with your left hand instead of your right. If you always dress in a certain sequence – change it. Walk down a flight of stairs and count them. Buy a colouring book and fill it in. Learn a new word. There are any number of small changes you can make and it will actually be fun to think of a new one every day.
Be sure to write to me and let me know what you decided to master and what you decided to change. Have a great, interesting week.