By Nick Galli, Counseling Intern
An Incredible Capacity to Learn
As human beings, we have an incredible capacity to learn. As children, our
brains are like a sponge for knowledge and skills. But when is the last time you
learned something new? As adults, it’s all too easy to settle in to our daily routine
and resist trying new things. But by staying inside in our comfort zone, we
deprive ourselves the chance to grow. Even as adults, learning adds and
reorganizes neural paths in our brain, a process known as neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity in Adulthood
Despite the benefits of learning, it can be challenging to find the time and desire
to stretch ourselves. As you contemplate the prospect of expanding yourself, I
invite you to adopt what author George Leonard called a white belt mentality.
In the martial arts, the white belt symbolizes a birth or beginning of a person’s will to acquire skills,
and it is worn by those who are just beginning their study. In other words, the white belt wearers
are constantly questioning, discovering, and improving. Over time her skills increase, they advance
through various other colored belts until they become an “expert.”
Maintaining a “White Belt Mentality”
The potential downside of advancement is a loss in the very attitude that allowed
them to get there (curiosity, humility). What are you still curious about? Maybe
you have been wanting to learn chess, try a different language, or test a new
recipe in the kitchen. Whatever the activity, as a white belt you can enter it with
anticipation and tolerance for mistakes. You can know that mastery is thousands of
hours down the road, but the journey is worth the wait.
So every day as you interact with your world, whether you’re bravely
engaging in something different or sticking with what you know well, I invite you
to put on your imaginary “white belt,” and be ready to learn something new, no
matter how big or small.