At first, I bought this book to learn more about leadership. I was planning to apply the concepts to my new role as an Instructional Coach. It came highly recommended to me by Kevin Washburn, who does a lot of research in neuroscience and has great book recommendations along those lines. But as I have been reading it, I am realizing that it applies to many more elements of my life.
David Rock uses neuroscience to discuss how to truly change a person's performance by changing a person's thinking. This also relates back to the idea of changing a person's mindset (Mindset by Carol S. Dweck), which is not easy. He explains seamlessly how the neuroscience and true understanding of how people handle situations can play an important role in influencing a person to change their perspective and/or behavior.
There are so many elements of the book that have my mind whirling so far, but this one about how people tackle new ideas really stuck with me today.
Rock explains how the brain handles new ideas: "Anytime we try a new activity, behavior, or way of thinking, we are literally forging a new pathway in our brain. We're creating circuits that don't currently exist. Doing this takes energy and requires extensive use of our conscious mind...Before we feel comfortable with a new idea or behavior we have to own it, we have to develop our own hard wiring for the idea. Getting to this point requires we go though a stage of mild discomfort, uncertainty, and often even frustration and fear" (52).
As I read this section titled "The Challenge of Changing Behavior," I immediately thought out three places I have seen this happen lately:
My Son - Cooper is almost 3 years old. Whenever he tries something new, from a toy to a game, he will react quickly with frustration that he doesn't know how to do it. Just today, he was playing with the water hose in the back yard, and it stopped working because the line had kinked. He almost started throwing a full blown fit over the fact that he couldn't get the hose to work. I had to talk him down and walk him through the steps to stretch out the hose. His natural reaction to something new is immediate frustration.
My Students - This past year, I taught many students who held a firm fixed mindset about their abilities as students. So whenever I presented something challenging or anything that forced them to think, they would immediately give up. Analyze a poem? They would freeze. Stare at the wall and do anything to avoid the assignment. Give a hard test? Sulk through it, coming up to ask questions that they hoped would lead to me just giving them the answer. Their natural reaction was to shut down when presented when new challenges or anything that stretched their thinking.
Teachers at a Workshop - We were fortunate to host Architecture of Learning on our campus this year. (Side note: You REALLY want to bring this to your school!!). Kevin Washburn puts best practice teaching strategies into a sequential order based on neuroscience and brain-based research. This workshop is very challenging and requires a lot of brainpower because participants begin embracing a new way of thinking when it comes to teaching. The teachers who came to this workshop were truly challenged by the new content; some of them were just unsure how to wrap their heads around it all. Being strong teachers who wanted to learn, they worked hard to understand, but the initial reaction to some of this new ideas was frustration and a need for clarity. They immediately wanted to discuss the new material with each other to better understand. Not long after that, the new ideas became energizing and exciting, but only because they began to "own" the ideas themselves and understand how the new concepts applied to their individual classrooms.
So, knowing how common this is around me, I realized that these three concepts are going to be vital to me as a wife, mother, teacher, and leader:
1) New ideas require mental energy and evoke strong emotions.
2) The initial reaction will most likely be frustration and fear of the new.
3) People have to begin to "own" an idea themselves before they can accept it.
David Rock goes into detail in the next sections of the book to discuss how positive feedback and encouragement can help as people try to tackle new ideas. Can't wait to share those thoughts soon!
This is just a snippet of the great thoughts coming from reading this book. So I encourage you to pick it up - try out some of these new ideas tomorrow as you interact with the people around you. You will be able to understand their thinking better. Who doesn't want that?!