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Change-ability Tip #4: Are you “playing it safe” or are you starving your brain?

Photo: D. McAbee. "A Cedar Apple Rust fungus gall on the cedar tree. Looks like a brain!"

"A Cedar Apple Rust fungus gall on the cedar tree. Looks like a brain!"

Facing challenges at work or elsewhere in your life? You’re in good company. Personally, my response is to put my head down and to try to work harder… or at least work longer. For me, this is “playing it safe” rather than boldly initiating change. So far, this strategy hasn’t been as successful as I’d like. As I get older… er… more experienced, I’m thinking that working harder/longer and playing it safe might not be the best path to success.

During the few minutes a day that I’m not working, I love to read about brain research and neuroplasticity/neurogenesis. Check out Brain Leaders and Learners: Practical Tactics from Neuro Discoveries with Dr. Ellen Weber. According to researchers, five conditions (very often present when we “play it safe”) are the very things that prevent us from getting smarter. In one blog post, Dr. Ellen Weber says stress, isolation, boredom, exhaustion, and too little exercise slam the door on “new brainpower regeneration.” Huh!

It becomes circular–playing it safe because we’re afraid we’re not up to (smart enough?) to handle change… results in feeling worn-out, isolated and stressed … and no further ahead in terms of brain power!

So what is change-ability tip #4? Support your brain. Schedule activities to address stress, isolation, boredom, exhaustion, and lack of exercise. Visualize new brain cells sprouting and new pathways zig zagging to new ideas and strategies for embracing change!



Comment from Ellen Weber
Time: January 31, 2009, 2:57 pm

Shelley, thanks for the link and for the refreshing insights here! Great site. I was curious about what activities you would suggest – to help a person create space for brainpower growth on a busy day.

Would you suggest using one extra intelligence, for instance:-)? Great site!

Comment from Shelley
Time: February 1, 2009, 10:24 am

Hi Ellen … thanks for your comment! In my opinion, making space for brain power growth while juggling everything else in life begins with awareness–maybe even automated reminders from your online calendar. For people of my generation and older, feeling stuck and believing that we lack power and ability to change (our reactions, our brain power and our “natural abilities/talents”) is common. We grew up with the message that we had a ’set point’ for intelligence and achievement.

I love your Jan 30/09 post, “Move Intelligence Up a Notch Today” ( because not only do you offer clear, practical ways to increase different intelligences, but the activities are so conducive to relaxation, regeneration, and creative thinking. Adding an extra intelligence to our toolkit is easier than we realize!

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