How Your Brain Works Against Your Goals

If your new year goals already petered out, you can blame it on your brain.  Check out the brain’s default system or basal ganglia and you are facing down gridlock to changes you seek.

Think of the basal ganglia as a mental warehouse of sorts, where every action, both good and bad, sit ready for reuse. It’s comfort zone qualities make it easy to pull up tired and broken responses that can dose an innovative challenge like a fire hose doses a burning building. !Basal Ganglia

Students fail to move their ability forward when they pluck out old habits of avoiding homework. for instance. Adults fail to support student-centered classes when they pull up former habits of their own teacher-dominated settings. Administrators fail to listen to students, teachers, and parents, when they pull up hierarchical habits of former bosses who control others.

So how do we nudge a brain based community past warehoused ruts that kill progress?

No need to stay stuck, simply outsource your working memory by learning practices such as creating cheat sheets, and  your awesome brain will create new neuron pathways beyond former potholes. Avoid static routines that increase dangerous cortisol chemicals that fuel status quo, and reboot serotonin fuels for fun and adventure!

Spot a brain’s need to regenerate to a better place

Here’s how it works. At the center of most ruts  lies your brain’s basal ganglia storage of old ruts such as annoying habits of sarcasm that insults peers, for instance. Capture1

Simply use working memory abilities to transform old habits.  Exchange sarcasm or cynicism into useful new learning opportunities, for instance, through humor that heals broken communities and builds innovative opportunities for all. Working memory can convert mean-spirit into kind, failure into success, and toxins for fear into talents for renewal.

It’s a bit like a tug-of-war where the basal ganglia tugs for tradition and familiar, and working memory pulls for innovation. Have you seen it?

Risk-takers and people who surf the cutting edges of possibilities, simply override the brain’s basal ganglia default daily.  In surprisingly straightforward ways, they engage in mental fitness within their working memory and learn to release brain chemicals that override mental ruts. How so?

Use more working memory to create, and you’ll also keep your brain fueled and rolling forward. My students love to engage their multiple intelligences in new ways, for instance. Through changing up their approaches, they override basal ganglia ruts and leap over rigid routines in favor of fun and new learning adventures.

Which side of the brain do you favor?

Which side of the chart below do you live daily? Do you act more from basil ganglia – to the left?  Or is your day fueled more by working memory to the right of the chart? !Bas or WM

It’s quite phenomenal if you think about an average brain’s ability to rebound from ruts, or reboot for rejuvenation.

The working memory’s capacity may be tiny,  yet it holds sizzling details you can apply to solve problems. While you can count facts stored on one hand, luckily working memory grows bigger with use. Think of it as your brain’s save key.  Just as your computer’s save key dumps old data to pick up new facts,  your working memory displaces current facts with newer details as fast as doughnuts disappear in Monday morning staff rooms. An uncomfortable place, working memory alerts you to apply its unfamiliar and innovative facts to spark creative changes. As with your computer save key – it’s a do-it-now or lose-it-now choice.

Help students use more working memory and they innovate and create

Consider the following facts about basal ganglia and working memory, to help students avoid bad habits, side-step routines,  and experience life-changing learning adventures.

Use these approaches to build new neuron pathways that bridge the difference between mental rejuvenation and stubborn ruts. How will these brain facts about working memory help your students override basal ganglia ruts and make a difference today?

Looking for more student-ready materials to capitalize on students’ working memory to create innovative learning adventures? Find brain based and working memory resources at my TPT site.

Related tool: Yearly planner with brain boosters and prompts to reboot your brain so that you tap and develop hidden and unused capabilities.


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Created by Ellen Weber, Brain Based Tasks for Growth Mindset

71 thoughts on “How Your Brain Works Against Your Goals

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