The more you challenge your brain, the better off you are. Our brains want to be challenged, and we need to instill this sense of urging ourselves forward, this need to experience something new, in our daughters.
Our brains are filled with neural pathways, which are connections made of bundles of neurons that receive and pass on information to different parts of the nervous system. Neurons are cells that process and transmit information through electrical and chemical signals. Our brains contain billions of such cells, with extensions called axons that carry electric signals to communicate with other neurons.
New habits, experiences, practice, and any kind of learning causes neural pathways to rearrange and change. So challenging your brain through new habits and experiences helps your neutral pathways to rearrange and change. But “use it or lose it” isn’t quite accurate when it comes to brainpower. Rather, “Use it, or work harder to develop it later on,” reflects what happens as our brains continue to develop through incorporating new habits.
Throughout our lives, our brains and intelligence can grow when we put our minds to the task, because of the brain’s neuroplasticity and its capacity to grow and change.
What happens in the very early years of a girl’s life affects the formation of her brain.
Specific neural pathways are being generated and strengthened every day—or not. A girl who is encouraged to explore, hypothesize, observe, and discover patterns is going to develop the brain of a creative problem-solver. She will exhibit more acute powers of observation, an ability to concentrate, and a gift for generating ideas. Her brain will calibrate to succeed in a world of rapid, continual change. As a girl’s experience broadens, she will have the courage of her convictions. As she grows up, she becomes a woman who can contribute to the world.
Conversely, unused neural pathways atrophy or never even activate. A girl whose curiosity is suppressed, whose mind seldom ventures into uncharted environs, who accepts the conventional role that she’s been assigned, and who is disadvantaged by the fear of looking stupid, can become stunted intellectually and may never exhibit the observational or deductive powers of a girl who is encouraged.
Such a girl may get good grades, but her brain will not be as rich in neural pathways as a girl who has been encouraged early on. It’s as if a blockade has prevented the growth of neurons in the brain of the un-encouraged girl. Such a girl will be unaccustomed to creative problem-solving, and people will not look to her for breakthrough ideas. We need to make sure this does not happen.
I’d love to hear from you. How often were you encouraged as a child? And how often do you encourage your daughters? Thank you for sharing. I appreciate your comments.