Breakthrough Moments & Epiphanies in Brain Improvement
The nature of brain development work—and arguably any challenging learning endeavor—is that you’ll do a lot of repetition and deliberate practice. Occasionally you’ll see progress rapidly; most times, it will come very slowly. Inevitably plateaus happen. But sometimes, epiphanies happen as well.
Breakthrough moments in this type of work happen in different forms. Sometimes it’s a result you didn’t expect and can’t necessarily determine to be the direct consequence of a single thing. Like when I was doing the Brain Abilities program for months and had a few mornings where I had an insane level of mental clarity, seemingly out of the blue.
At other times, you can connect a breakthrough directly to practice and focused attention.
One day while undergoing vestibular rehabilitation, I was practicing an exercise I called “tightrope walking.” With hands across your chest, you walk across the room with the heel of one foot always touching the toe of the other foot (like walking a tightrope). At first, you do it with your eyes open, then you close your eyes for 1 step out of five, then 2 steps out of five, and so on, making it progressively harder.
The challenge of an exercise like this is keeping your balance. When our eyes are open, we rely on them quite a bit for balance without realizing it. When our eyes are closed, we’re purely relying on our vestibular system for stability. If our vestibular system isn’t top-notch like that of an athlete, tightrope walking with our eyes closed may lead to us tipping from side to side, at least initially.
My breakthrough that day came while doing this exercise: I noticed that I was tensing some muscles in my foot that I didn’t need to use, and that was making me more likely to tip to the side. By consciously allowing these muscles to release (a-la the Alexander Technique), I increased my stability significantly.
I then applied this new discovery to a bunch of my other exercises. Walking while turning. Walking while tilting my head. Standing heel-to-toe with my eyes closed. Relaxing these muscles improved my stability in all of those exercises. This small discovery may have just upgraded my progress in every area of my vestibular training.
Sometimes discoveries like this happen from a cumulative result of different efforts, like in the Brain Abilities case. Other times, like above, they come from a conscious discovery that you can learn from and apply.
In either case, these things are triggered by regular practice and iteration. So whatever means you’re attempting to use in order to improve your brain, make sure consistent repetition is part of your regimen.
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