I have also created a video presentation of this article. To listen to and watch the presentation, please click on this link: Neuroplasticity, Small Successes and Learning / Relearning Skills and Skill Sets Video Presentation
Hello and welcome back to Second Chance to Live my friend. I am happy to have you around my table. Thank you. Following a brain injury, we may find that skills that came naturally to us, now are difficult to achieve. In the process, we may find ourselves both frustrated and discouraged. We may find ourselves wanting to give up. But there is good news. By staying committed to the process we can learn to compensate and build confidence.
Little by little, we can achieve what we never dreamed possible. In the process, we can begin to celebrate successes as we are learning/relearning skill sets.
In today’s article, I would like to share with you something that has helped me to learn new skill sets. Through learning these skills I have been able to use those skills in other areas of my life. In the process of applying those skills to other areas, my quality of life has improved. In my experience, learning these skills did not come over night. But through staying committed to the process I have experienced both small and huge successes.
What has worked for me in the process of learning and relearning new skills?
During the past 17 or so years I have trained pretty consistently in various martial arts. I have engaged in countless repetitions and drills in muay Thai Kickboxing, Western Boxing, components of Wing Chun, Kali and Jeet Kune Do. During the past 22 months, I have trained with endless repetitions in modern arnis using single and double rattan sticks. In each of these martial arts, I have worked diligently to mirror both my dominant side of my body with my non-dominant side of my body. By doing so, I have developed new motor and fine motor skills.
What I discovered in the past year or so was that I had been engaging in the process of neuroplasticity — creating new neural pathways and engaging in brain reorganization — through my training in various martial arts over the past 16 or 17 years.
As explained in MedicineNet.com, I had been using the principle of the concept of neuroplasticity:
“Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment. Brain reorganization takes place by mechanisms such as “axonal sprouting” in which undamaged axons grow new nerve endings to reconnect neurons whose links were injured or severed. Undamaged axons can also sprout nerve endings and connect with other undamaged nerve cells, forming new neural pathways to accomplish a needed function.”
Recently I wrote and published an article, Living Life on Life’s Terms and Small Successes in which I spoke about life as a process and a journey, not a destination. As I embrace life — as a process and a journey — I am able to live life on life’s terms. As I live life on life’s terms, I am able to celebrate the progress that I make through small successes. These small successes have been gained through working on each part of the desired skill. These small successes have been gained through endless repetitions.
By breaking the skill down into individual parts, I have been able to enjoy the process, instead of judging my individual efforts. By working on individual parts of the skill, I have been able to celebrate the small successes, instead of focusing on the destination (having the skill). As I combine individual parts (small successes) I learn the desired skill. As I combine learned skills, I am able to combine skills into a series of learned skill sets. As I combine these skill sets, I create new neural pathways and in the process, I reorganize my brain.
As I have been able to combine a series of small successes — becoming proficient in specific drills — I have been able to learn how to execute a series of skill sets in each martial art. These small successes (parts) of my drilling and training, have not only improved my abilities as a martial artist but have also given me the ability to apply the hand-eye coordination, agility, motor and fine motor skills, speed, precision and focus to other areas of my life.
What I discovered is that my drilling, training, and mirroring of skills and skill sets — on the non-dominant side of my body — has improved the quality of my life that I experience in other areas of my life. My encouragement to you my friend would be, start slow, but start. Learn a new skill and skill set through a series of small successes. By doing so you will improve the quality of your life. By doing so you can move beyond a diagnosis or prognosis. By doing so you will move beyond the confines of any “box”.
I share the above information with you for this reason. Applying the principle and concept of neuroplasticity may help to improve the quality of life of the individuals whom you serve. Through persistence and tenacity, those individuals may find, as I have, that they are able to accomplish learn/relearn skills. Skills and abilities that may have previously seemed out of reach to them. Skills and abilities that they may have lost due to a stroke or other cognitive changes. Skills and abilities that may have seemed to be out of their grasp. Skills and abilities that may help them to have experience “awakenings”.
Whatever you are able to do with your dominant side of your body, start doing – mirroring – the same ability with your nondominant side of your body. Start out slowly, but be persistent in your commitment. Work on one part (drill) of the skill at a time. As you become comfortable with that particular part of the skill, move onto the next part of the skill. By combining parts of the skill (small successes) you will find that you have learned or relearned a new skill. As you master that skill, begin working on parts of another skill.
Combine those parts (small successes) into learning that skill. As you continue in that process, you will be able to combine each skill into a skill set. As I have found, by doing so you will be able to learn or relearn new skills sets. In the process, you will create new neural pathways and brain reorganization. In the process, you will improve your quality of l your life through small successes.
“How do you eat an elephant?”, one man said to the other. The man asked, “Tell me the answer”. One bite at a time. What you see as an elephant (skill or ability) may seem overwhelming. My encouragement to you my friend — as I need to remember too — would be that you work on consuming the elephant, one part at a time. By doing so, your elephant will be reduced (through small successes) to a new or relearned skill., because you kept “chewing”.
Below are links to short video presentations showing the progression of how the concept of neuroplasticity through repetitive mirrored movements have benefited my mind and body. The progress made spans over each of the past 5 years. Click on the below links and they will open for you on YouTube.
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