Whether spoken out loud or via the little voice in our heads, we can expect to feel inadequate at some point, working towards a worthwhile long-term goal.
Before getting drowned in a sea of self-loathing, let’s understand how our brains work and how we can mold it to reach our most ambitious goals.
The brain is dubbed the most complex object discovered by scientists. It weighs around three pounds. It has 100 billions neurons or nerve cells and a quadrillion neural connections. That’s 1000 times the number of stars in our galaxy. It fires a trillion electrochemical signals every second of our lives.
Advancement in technology has allowed scientists to decipher one of the brain’s most mysterious properties, critical to learning: brain plasticity or neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to create new neural connections or strengthen existing ones through intense, deliberate focus on any set of skills.
Regardless of age, our brain creates new cells when we devote enough time to master a subject. Those new neural connections in return speed up our learning. For example, Rüdiger Gamm, author of train your brain who himself admitted he was a “hopeless student who failed at basic math,” became a “human calculator capable of performing remarkably sophisticated mathematics”.
Eleanor Maguire, a neuroscientist at the University College London, is an expert in the field. In 2001, she conducted extensive research depicting how training affects the structure of our brains.
She studied the brains of sixty London cabbies against sixty non-taxi drivers. What she found was revealing; the posterior part of the hippocampus of the London cabbies was significantly larger than their counterparts, as indicated by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A subsequent analysis of the London cabdriver before and after training revealed the same story.
The intense training that these drivers went through in order to become licensed taxi drivers explains the physical change in their brains.
Memorizing the many streets, famous landmarks and other public sites result in structural neural changes.
The most important aspect of her research is this: not only are we able to learn new skills at any age, we can also increase our ability and brain power. We may not create those connections as fast as a five-year-old, but we can build them all throughout life.
When self-doubts inevitably overpower you, you can come back to this article and let those facts boost your spirit.
Obviously, we have limitations, but we are also highly adaptable species.
We can never know those limitations until we push beyond the current ones. If left unchallenged, the brain will regress to its original state via the law of least effort, and just like that, nothing gets done! So, stop assuming and start trying!