This very first sentence has a single purpose: striking down the writer’s block which is — according to Wikipedia — a condition, primarily associated with writing, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work, or experiences a creative slowdown. I adopted this habit of starting almost all my free texts with writing something about any potential lack of inspiration. Surprisingly, or not, it inspires me every time.
My inspiration led me to tackle the following question :
“Could self-growth boost your career fulfillment ?”
The answer is YES. Now, would it be a bad idea to walk you through the “Why & How”?
Since you are staying, let me start by gently breaking down A representation of self-growth. In fact, there are as many representations of self-growth as there are stars in the universe.
Now, our brains can not really conceptualize the universe nor the number of its stars. So, let’s say, for this story, that self-growth is something like stimulating the brain with diversity and new knowledge on all levels using a non-harmful process. That way, your brain grows and so do you.
It could be learning a new language, reading a new book, eating “yes eating’ uncommon stuff. It could also be playing chess or candy crush, cooking, dancing, taking fancy photos, sky diving, biking, hiking, reading, watching TED talks, watching Netflix, daydreaming “love that one”, walking, running, video gaming, swimming, meditating… You name it: as long as it is something new to your brain and/or your body which includes no medical harm for your physical and mental health, well, it can be considered as self-growth.
Secondly, let me remind you that the brain is one of the most marvelous, strange, complex, dangerous and interesting things that our planet has known since its beginnings.
Your brain allows you to breathe, decrypt what your eyes see, understand what people say in more than one language sometimes. It reminds you of mealtime, it changes your face when you are focused/angry/upset/bored/happy, it reminds you to book a table for tonight’s date, it makes you scream when you are scared and wakes you up to get that middle-of-the-night-restroom-moment.
Hey, do you remember that one time when you spotted someone staring at you in the subway, at some bar or in the office without even looking their way in the first place? Well, that was your brain showing off his abilities without you noticing it consciously.
By now you are probably wondering: how does all of this sweet stuff actually work?
I would love to say “ Brace yourself, dear reader! Very complex neuroscience content is coming…” However and thankfully, analogies exist to make almost everything simpler to conceptualize.
All actions taking place in your brain happen through exchanges of signals between your countless neurons: a piece of your gray matter big like a grain of sand contains roughly 100 000 neurons. The fastest the signals travel the better you get at the stuff related to those neurons.
Example: If you are a good reader. “Let’s say that a good reader is someone who reads fast while understanding, remembering and relating pretty accurately.” Scientifically, it means that the neurons related to text interpretation, processing new information, memory and imagination mechanisms are well connected and signals travel fast between them. That is exactly why sometimes you strongly and deeply relate, in a way that is beyond comprehension, your personal experiences or memories to a written quote in a book, an article, an Instagram post or an ad. Basically your memory neurons exchanged signals with its neighbors in charge of reading and understanding text.
In fact, neurons are like cities across which information travel. Throughout good roads, information travels faster, “make sense doesn’t it?”. As information travels the roads get better. You could picture it as people walking down the same path between two cities. As time flies by, their countless footsteps draw the road. Sometimes it gets even better ! Using the right resources the travelers could upgrade the road into a highway or a railway. The journey becomes quicker and requires less effort.
We all know that building connections between cities provide new activities: new jobs, more customers, visiting around, new leisure activities and resources: exchange of know-how, specific ingredients/raw material, etc.
Well... It is the same with neurons: better information traveling means new functionalities, better know-how, more efficiency, and less effort.
Our world is not Unicorn Land. “Such a world would be boring if you ask me“. So, let’s keep in mind that the way around is also true. If the roads are not used, well, they degrade. When a road is abandoned, it gets covered by wild plants, rocks and plastic garbage “hopefully less and less of the latter”. Do you recall that abandoned railway across the desert that you saw in a far west movie once or twice? Ain’t no train passing though! Moreover, sometimes there are no roads at all. Meaning: there are no connections at all between those cities/neurons. Obviously you could still climb mountains and cross icy lands but it is hard and risky unless you and your neuro-signals related to Mike Horn.
If this makes you feel down, remember that human babies are born without even knowing how to lift their heads on their own or how to say “Hello”. They basically learn everything from scratch. Human brains learn to adapt and evolve in the same way babies do.
There you have it: neuroplasticity in a nutshell.
Every and each experience you live is linked to your brain through neuroplasticity. This time, I kept the main story career-oriented since the article was originally written as a Linkedin post. It is a story about a good coder who becomes an excellent coder after taking flute lessons “guitar lessons would have been way too classic right ?”.
Let’s name this coder Yasuo for the sake of the example. Now, Yasuo is a passionate coder who loves problem-solving. He seeks the fastest and most efficient ways to smartly answer his client's needs. One day, this guy reads a post about “working less to improve”. Then, he starts flute lessons only to prove me wrong.
He missed a crucial piece of information at the time. He did not know that his brain reacted to the new lessons through creating new neuronal connections “remember the road thing ?”. The lessons reinforced existing routes as well.
This means more and better “roads” between “cities”.
You would rightfully ask me: Wait which kind of roads? why flute lessons? How are those “artsy roads” useful for coding? Duh? And I would gladly answer: “Music is art. Art is tightly linked to the right hemisphere. The right hemisphere is where lies various creativity functions of the brain.”
See? Exactly! Solving new challenges requires creativeness. To draw a better code with a brand new coding language for instance you need to think out of the box. Flute lessons are one way, among many others, to zoom out of the box by taping into creativity and memory neuro-functions. It allows the brain to manifest new solutions thanks to millions of teeny-tiny roads created between armies of neurons. You do probably remember that one time when you were thinking about solving an issue for a long time. Then, you forgot about it and went for a small trip or movie marathon during the weekend. Magic happened and a suitable answer to your issue popped in your brain the next Monday or the week after. Well, it was not exactly magic. It was your neuroplasticity and your subconscious “about which I might write a story”.
Back to our new friend Yasuo. He started to get better at finding solutions. He did not notice any change in his thinking behaviors. However, we observers can see that, now, he is more creative in his job thanks to flute lessons. His brain keeps on upgrading as he learns new music patterns leading to creative thinking and reasoning patterns. Let’s not forget that the good sir is enjoying himself.
So maybe, before you start thinking that you need to work more hours or to spend the weekends in front of your PC looking for online courses to improve your creativeness, think again. Maybe, all you need is to hack your mind & brain while enjoying yourself through a hobby of your own choice. It does not need to be a specific activity or a mental daily exercise. You get to start-over/stop/continue/change anytime. Your neurons will keep on growing anyways.