S-T-R-E-T-C-H-I-N-G …Does the very thought of it make you want to pull the covers over your head and go back to sleep? Or are you excited by new challenges, with all of your senses awakened and the “good kind” of soreness in your muscles? Stretching– physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally is essential for our health and well-being. Think about it– the opposite of growth is at best–stagnation, and at worst, a shrinking quality of life. But nobody said it would be comfortable…
I’m currently in the middle of a learning curve at a new part-time job and as much as I LOVE being there, and I know this position is a total blessing, it’s not easy. Then again, if it were– would I really be learning anything new? I think all of the different kinds of learning that happens with a new job must be one of the best ways there is to truly stretch your brain. Forget the old adage– “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. As we get older, opportunities to stretch our mental capacity and make new connections (neuroplasticity) has been shown to help prevent dementia! Honestly, could there be a more important fight?
My new job is as a producer/host for a live talk-radio program. Here’s the unbelievable part–I wasn’t looking for a job, nor did I have any prior experience in this field! (Can you imagine the learning curve– especially for a woman way past her “Media” prime?) Actually, how the job came to be is such a great story on its own– one that could only have been orchestrated by our Loving Father–but I’m going to save that for another day.
With every new job comes a variety of mental challenges that make this situational learning as effective in stretching the brain as what can be accomplished in a formal classroom environment. There are language skills, such as learning a job specific vocabulary, and memory skills– being able to talk about, and promote the work of the company. There are also usually technical skills– the practical how to’s of accomplishing work tasks. But the brain growth (and stretching) doesn’t end there.
Vocational learning also includes things like learning to get along with your co-workers, and how to anticipate the needs of your supervisor. Relational learning lights up a different area of the brain than the language center–once again demonstrating how a new line of work (whether a paid position or as a volunteer) can do much to keep your brain vibrant and healthy.
One thing that has surprised me about this learning curve is how I’ve been making adjustments to rhythms of life at home. While I still haven’t completely worked out all the bugs, I have carved out a regular block of time for research and writing for the job–the consistency is helping me be more productive in this role. Of course, my hope is to eventually recapture more focused writing time for personal projects –such as this blog–as well.
Stretching can be uncomfortable, it can be risky, and at times even bring public embarrassment! (You don’t ever want to know how long 6 1/2 seconds of silence can be–as I discovered on my first attempt at hosting the program!) Still, I wouldn’t trade this opportunity for growth, and especially as I KNOW this position was hand-picked for me! Where are you STRETCHING?