Dare to Risk – Roundtable 11

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What risks have you taken lately. Or what edgy possibility have you avoided?

We meet people daily who feel afraid to fix a broken anything because they fear they’ll end up alone, stuck or without support. In self-satisfied circles we see new ideas dunked as mere buzz at best. Research shows that inner terror is also intensified by physiological challenges, such as our mental makeup.


It comes down to this. If we do the same thing in the same way for any length of time then our brain sets itself up to work against our ability to risk doing it differently. We only have to look at seemingly “content cultures” to see barriers to breakthroughs that could benefit many. 

Take high school lectures for instance. Research proves that facts delivered are far less effective than active learning, and yet lectures still proliferate as if telling a person facts equals that person’s learning. Even top secondary schools tend to align lessons lectured with test scores published and boast of “quality” education. The problem?

We only have to  look at political gridlocks and their very nature to stay stuck in ruts, to see few leaders who’ve actively learned to juggle brain-friendly tone skills to gather diverse insights. Lectures or delivery of facts fail to teach how to welcome differences and learn from perspectives on the several sides of controversial issues, for instance. These skills require active attempts in real situations. Change takes risk, and rewards can be life-changing.

Discouraged from attempting new approaches, we often yield to timeworn decisions about minimal efforts to avoid tedium, and by so retreating, we miss curiosity’s call to risk trying a finer way. Not only are we nailed personally, when left sluggish, lifeless, and without directions worth chasing, we’re also trapped on external treadmills which go nowhere, because they have nowhere new to go.

Change, in contrast, opens improved entry points to growth of even our tiniest capabilities, until we begin to shift along new trajectories. Regardless of tired approaches tethered to broken systems, we find momentum to turn dials toward discovery-inspired-innovations on even an ordinary day. Sure, it’s tempting to step back inside safer guardrails and resist riding traditional trams to known destinations. But each time that nudge toward another dream finds us on runways of a future innovation we find amazing change opportunities in flight.

Four Brain Realities Shift Us into Drive for Calculated Risks:

  1. Fear raises toxic cortisol chemicals that shut us down. It blocks serotonin, the brain’s wellbeing chemical for moving forward.
  2. That stuck-in-a-rut mental equipment – or the basal ganglia mental storehouse, yields to our working memory or risk equipment. Our tiny mental storehouse holds risky, new ideas on a sticky note of sorts at the front of our brain for active use.
  3. A new zip in our step comes along with courage to bat last because of dopamine or other risk-taking drugs from our natural pharmaceuticals. Dopamine, for instance, tilts us toward mind-bending opportunities.
  4. When we take a risk or dance to a new drumbeat, our brain’s plasticity moves with us by fashioning new neuron pathways toward whatever dream we chase.

In his book, The Brain that Changes Itself, Dr. Norman Doidge describes a man who risked mental and physical changes back to health after a massive stroke, and ended up restored in ways other stroke patients crave but rarely chase down.

By the time our inner voice changes from I cannot, to I can, we’ve already begun along the runway with shifted gears. Dr. Doidge’s stroke patient saw beyond the cannot traditions of stroke-related experts, who fought back against plasticity’s ability to change and heal the brain until the patient’s cure became observably complete. Discoveries about plasticity gave Bac-y-Rita, the patient’s son brilliant medical research insights which he acted upon to open a clinic for stroke patients.


Interestingly, my own rock bottom reality, where I was left on the street to fend for myself at 14, showed me how to chase possibilities beyond problems. My own experience, difficult as it was at times, validated everything this doctor learned, and affirmed how possibility thinking can fly magic carpets over problems that hold us back in broken systems. 

Possibility Thinkers Follow Growth Mindset Inner Convictions.

Instead of …

  1. I can’t learn because it’s too hard, they wonder, how can I apply what I already know to get started?
  2. I’m not a risk-taker, they consider the contrast, what risk will leave me in a better place?
  3. I’m not happy here, they spot another side and ask, how can I reorganize for fun results?
  4. I’m frustrated, they surmise, how can I learn from past mistakes?
  5. It’s not what I’m used to, they determine, I’m ready to try something new.
  6. I’m too stressed, they suggest  and expect, this thing may need a different approach.

Easy? No way. A great place to start though is to reboot our inner talk.  Act on one of the rejuvenated statements above and symbiotically we also propel ourselves onto a more elevated trajectory.

To risk anything, means we’ll likely develop the radar to spot awesome results ahead at the other end of our flight. It’s possibility thinking that supports us through to the end of what can become a rather bumpy ride again the winds of mainstream security. It means we’re leaving ourselves no space to hide and fear, through our decisions to gaze through front windshields and only glance back through rear view mirrors. Once there is no easy retreat back into stagnation, we begin to burn strong and avoid the tedium of burning out.

Each time we choose the possibility of a new approach over the problem or a tired tradition, we reset mental equipment to refresh our brain’s pharmaceuticals to ensure we’ll sustain a healthy landing at the helm. Our chemical and electrical circuitry is wired to hand us all the chemicals our brain needs to sustain innovative alterations. Yes, especially when the ride gets rough.

We’ll begin to accomplish things never before accomplished by using parts of the brain never before used. In spite of the fact that very few people risk a level of choice that runs counter to whatever culture they challenge, we’ll begin to trust ourselves to walk our inner talk and steer our brainpower into reversing a state of stagnation.

Choices to Act Cascade Challenges into Commitments to Chase

It’s not enough to sense the wonder, and hope something inside of us will suddenly change into curiosity as a lived experience. The brain changes directions toward a finer future, only after we choose to act, and begin to move toward a committed destination.

Act on a thing, and then expect that while we are deep in REM, or rapid eye movement sleep, our brain will reboot to set the stage for its reality. It’s a bit like a synergy that launches us from where we stand at the moment to carry us where you choose to stand soon.

Research has found that when people understand neural underpinnings, they often prepare to change behaviors. It begins with a shift in how we see ourselves, and often ends with a shifted direction where possibilities displace problems. In my graduate level leadership course, LEAD INNOVATION WITH THE BRAIN IN MIND, it starts with a workplace weakness and ends in a proposed strength. How so?

In that MBA class, grad students begin to see themselves based more on choices they’ll make, rather than on challenges they failed. Furthermore, if their choices connect to actions over a period of time peers’ attitudes often change about the innovation they begin to lead.

If you’re wondering, Does choosing a thing bring that thing into reality, the answer could well be yes, you bet. Our decision for a new approach, eventually will grow into related actions and personal resolve to track it down. It’s what our brain’s designed to do, and in response our living pharmaceuticals begin to hand us the best chemicals to refuel with each new flight forward.

So what’s the problem?

Fear causes us to resist the very change we crave, while masking as a rational response to risks that will launch our flight. Ruts appear easier to navigate than freeways into uncharted destinations, Aha chemicals seem locked out of our brain’s pharmaceuticals. Our new drumbeat appears too dissonant to dance and dream to its rhythm.

Our response? Look at one nagging problem today until you can design one new possibility on its other side. Then then choose to step toward your plan while you prepare to fly in whatever direction this visible goal will take you.

Choose Your Landing Pad and then Chase Your Choice!

Tell an innovative thinker that you trust, as a way to clarify your choice. Avoid sharing innovative proposals with cynics, though. When people insist on side-stepping innovative choices in favor of constant complaints from within busted barriers – they tend to ground new ventures at every level. Even the neural experts assured Bac-y-Rita – who has since been named the father of plasticity, that the brain could not bounce back or remap what it lost in lesions created by a massive stroke.

Make change for improvements a habit, and our deepest determination will muster up enough mental awareness to nudge our first tiny step in the direction of our dream. It’s as if our brain set a new stage for bigger and bolder leaps forward. Simply stated neural buoyancy will increase, each time we step in the direction of our powerful new plan toward possibilities. Oh, and by the way …

Do enjoy the journey, so that your brain will do the rest!

Created by Ellen Weber, Brain Based Tasks for Growth Mindset

This tool is available on my TpT site

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