Do Something You are Bad at – Your Brain Will Love It
In our productivity-obsessed culture, we are always trying to put our best foot forward. We hide our weaknesses and play up our strengths, meaning we keep doing things we are already good at and do not give time to things that we are not so good at – where we might fail.
The thing is, this might not be the best for your brain.
While the human brain loves habits, it thrives and grows only under challenging circumstances. But here’s the catch – most of us tend to avoid things we are challenged by because we are afraid of failure.
Evolutionarily, we are wired to avoid risk, but we also seek new experiences, and at most junctures of our lives we are at a crossroad between these two tendencies. How to strike a balance then?
Here’s something to do – choose a thing you want to try but are scared of failing at, and start doing it as a hobby or recreational activity.
For example, say you have always wanted to learn image manipulation. But your field of experience is different, and you never had the opportunity to learn. I say, start anyway. Download a free software, go through some manuals, and get any random image to work on. You’ll face hurdles at every step, will have to consult several sites, look frantically up and down the software just to make the first, tiny change you wish to see. You’ll get a simple effect done in four hours which may take a professional a quarter of one.
But, a lot of things have happened into your brain which you may not know immediately but has far-reaching benefits. What are they?
Your brain gets a much-needed workout
When you follow pre-established habits everyday, your brain falls into the same neural patterns. Things you are good at already have established neural pathways in your brain. The more you do it, the less time and brainpower it takes you, because by now your brain is just following an established path blindly. It doesn’t have to work.
But when you do something out of your way, your brain is forced make new connections and work extra hard. As a result, your brain “grows”. Your attention-directing abilities gets better, and so does your memory. You see, its not at all about how well you are doing it, but about how much you are learning, and challenging your brain makes it fitter, more agile, and better insulated against brain-degenerative diseases like Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
You learn to face failure
The fear of failure is one of the greatest sources of anxiety in the modern world. We cannot reinvent ourselves if we are not willing to get out of our comfort zone, and going out of comfort zone means being willing to fail. But there are often much at stake at our professional work, and we fear the risk.
But failure is actually a pretty necessary experience for your brain growth. When we reach a hurdle it pushes us to think creatively, deeply, and in a more focused way in order to get past it. As a result, we learn better, in a more structural way, and remember what we learned a lot better too. The burnt hand learns best, it is said.
Consciously doing things you are bad at in a safe/no-stake environment like your leisure time is a great way to practice facing failures.
For one, you get into the habit of doing hard things, and each hurdle you cross there makes you better suited to face failures and pitfalls in your professional life as well. Also, you become less concerned about embarrassment and public judgement as a whole.
You learn about your strength and weaknesses
Success makes us believe we are invincible. But we are not. All of us have weaknesses, and success rarely makes us aware of that. And that is a problem. None of us are completely self-aware on our own, we learn as much about ourselves as our surroundings through the many experiences we have.
When you do something you are not a pro at, both your weaknesses and strengths shine through, and those strengths might be very different than what you previously thought. It makes us better judges of ourselves, enables us to take actions for change if necessary, and also helps us take better decisions.
Uncoupling our idea of success from our self-worth is a necessary process – something more and more of us seem to be needing in these times. So let’s take some time out from our pursuit of success and dabble a bit in failures. You’ll learn and grow a lot, we promise!