Laura Miolla

I want to talk about challenge because challenge is a critically necessary component in how we learn and grow and evolve as human beings. And yet there's so many people who do everything they can to avoid challenge. They're afraid of it. It feels too much like a test that they're going to fail. So, I want to break it down and tell you what's really happening. Back in the 1960s, researchers defined the different stages of learning. And then about 10 years later, they mapped each stage to where it engages the brain to discover that the Learning Cycle engages the entire brain. So, one of those key stages of learning happens in your prefrontal cortex. You know, this is our executive function where we access creativity, imagination, problem solving, decision making, empathy. It's our gateway to memory. And its primary function is to make meaning. You know, we're sensing something. Feeling something. What does it mean? And it creates a hypothesis of what it could mean that we then test in the real world through action. And regardless of whether the outcome is good or bad for you, you've learned something new and that becomes new knowledge, new competency, new confidence. Sounds good, right? But that learning cycle is easily derailed and where it gets derailed is in how we access our prefrontal cortex. We need the just right balance of both stress and stimulation to gain full access. So, what are stress and stimulation if nothing more than challenge? They are the same thing. The only difference that's created is from your own perception of it. It's the perspective you have of those things that make them different. And so, when the Learning Cycle gets derailed, it's because your amygdala, which is constantly scanning for threat, senses threat and tips you over fully into stress or fully into stimulation. And it shuts down all of this meaning part of your brain because you don't need to make meaning at this point. You're under threat. You need to act, You are fully in fight, flight, freeze. And what's so ironic is that in today's world, we're not being chased by tigers or anything. So, what happens is that we imagine a future fear something that hasn't even happened yet. And we bring it into the present as if it's real right now. Your mind cannot distinguish between what's real and what's imagined. So, if your mind believes it, your brain will flood your body with stress chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline to make it real and to keep you in a Fear-Stress Cycle where you're constantly only ever in action without being able to make great decisions or remember or have empathy or any of those things. This is the playground of our inner critics who say yeah, you don't need to sense or feel or know what something means. We know what it means. We have a meaning. There's only one meaning. We know what it is. Just do what we tell you to do. And of course, you do, because these are subconscious. You think it's true. So, you do what your inner critics want you to do. They always create what you don't want. So, when it doesn't work out they come back and say see? You were wrong. You failed. You suck. You're not enough. Getting out of this chemically reinforced manifestation of a future fear is so difficult, it's almost impossible to do on your own, but the first step is ... embrace challenge. Embrace change. Embrace new experience. Look for the opportunity to learn in every situation, regardless of whether you think it's good or bad. There's an opportunity for learning. And I want you to do that because challenge is also what is necessary for gaining resilience. And resilience is a key leadership skill that you can apply in all parts of your life. And that's what I want for you.

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