When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. ~ Viktor E. Frankl
All learning happens at ‘the edge’. Going to the edge, and looking beyond, creates uncertainty. After all, when nothing is changing and your world is predictable, what is the need to change, or learn anything new? Sometimes changes are forced on us, sometimes they are sought. Either way, they induce learning and growth.
This appears to be at the very heart of our existence as a species. Skulls found in the Great Rift Valley of East Africa, the cradle of humanity, point to increases in skull capacity, and by definition brain size, at specific points in the earth’s history that correspond to periods of dramatic environmental change.
Professor Brian Cox’s recent BBC programme, Apeman to Spaceman, explains that the earth experiences major and rapid climatic changes approximately every 400,000 years. The skulls of various generations of hominin species (i.e. from australopithecus, to homo erectus, through to early homo sapien) reveal an almost doubling of brain capacity every 400,000 years. The theory he advances is that human intelligence is quite literally a response to periods of rapid changes in the environment as a result of violent climate fluctuations.
And while this theory is concerned with enormous changes over thousands of years, the conditions for changes driving growth and learning are no less evident within single lifetimes. The demands placed on the brain by uncertainty, unfamiliar problems, even confusion, are prerequisites for learning to take place, with new neural connections within the brain being created. See a previous post extolling the benefits of Getting Confused.
Some people choose to put themselves in unfamiliar, maybe even dangerous, situations in pursuit of personal growth. Why? After all, placing one-self in danger seems counter-intuitive as a successful strategy for survival and evolution. However, humans have clearly not survived, adapted and been so successful, in evolutionary terms, by being non-curious, non-exploratory or risk averse. There has no doubt been selection that has favoured those who have reached out, explored new territories, sought new ways of living, and have learned from all of this new experience.
We are not all polar explorers, and nor do we all sign up to bungee-jumping, but we are all familiar with the frisson of excitement associated with any number of activities that even mildly take us closer to the edge. This may be a fairground ride, watching a horror movie or climbing to the top of a hill and enjoying the view. The closer we draw to this ‘edge’, the more our senses are awakened, the more alert (even alive) we become.
To read more about people who ‘go to the edge – and beyond’ read ‘The Vital Edge’ – details of availability are here. Find out what relevance this has, and what learning can be gained for you in your everyday life, and how it can even improve your business’s performance.
“The Vital Edge” takes you on a fascinating journey through the minds of athletes, Olympians, tennis players and more, as you discover insights that will transform your thinking and enable you, your teams and your business to perform at their very best.
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