Resilience and learning

How we behave now will impact on our future. This is a statement most people would accept as a truth of sorts. How then can we change our futures, if that’s what we want to do? What do we need to be doing now to ensure a brighter later life? How should we behave so that we create the sort of futures that we dream of being a reality? This is important for anyone to think about but critical if you run your own small business. The latest research on how the mind works gives us a few pointers. At a recent seminar on “the neuroscience of learning” some simple and startling new facts about the development of the brain gave me food for thought. As a trainer in resilience and change management I’ve seen evidence of the benefits of goal-based activities over habit-based activities or learning. Again and again I’ve encouraged and witnessed a chresilienceange of thinking affecting a delegates’ feelings and in turn their actions when they approach things from the point of view of the outcome they want. Hearing some of the facts and figures about learning and leadership I came away with a renewed enthusiasm for promoting the work I do on resilience and developing inner strength, and excited about trying out some new learning techniques. One significant fact highlighted was that stress kills neurones in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, and as we get older these don’t grow back. For me this highlighted the importance of getting to grips with what causes us stress and finding ways of reducing or controlling the stressors in our lives, and the younger we are when we do this the better. The prefrontal cortex is where we manage our ‘executive’ and ‘social’ functions. To explain, ‘executive’ functions include decision making. ‘Social’ functions are thinking about others, and our intentions and emotions. We are most effective when these two activities are connected as that determines how good we are at making decisions under social stress and how we react to peer pressure; skills we as business owners need to hone. This research emphasises the importance of encouraging lots of both social and executive brain activity to improve the vitality of our business ventures. We already know that synapses or neural connections are strengthened each time we repeat a new piece of learning but I also learnt how much the setting or place that we learn in can affect how well we remember; that repetition of learning within a 3-hour time span massively improves our likelihood of remembering; . I was amazed to hear that our brains are only fully mature at age forty years; I was reassured to learn that positive facts given about aging to older people increased their memory performance from between 10 and 30%. I learnt so much more and lots that had implications for the work I do. Further to this I also felt confident it would be beneficial to trust my intuition, so much of how the brain works is as yet scientifically unverified.
For example goal setting is known to involve attention, emotion and motivation and causes the neuromodulator “dopamine” to be heartunloaded in the brain. This results in a feeling of reward and in more efficient learning, but no one knows exactly how this all works. What we can a all safely know is that brains and minds have the key to changing our present and future lives. No wonder the jewel of the brain is so carefully encased in our sculls. It holds the key to open the door into our real life dreams. But what of the heart I hear you ask, with its cage of ribs, when will science be able to teach us how to use and work with that precious gem? Already science has begun work on understanding the benefits of working with empathy and compassion. It suggests whether we work as self-employed individuals, small businesses owners or within large companies we can use our hearts and minds to think, feel and create brilliant futures for ourselves and others.