Today it is normal to feel uncomfortable in your job. For me, this is heightened both personally and professionally in our “new normal” – a global pandemic world. As part of my continuing to push myself, I was vulnerable the other day, it was met with silence and for me, more feeling uncomfortable. I decided I needed to unpack it – why did I feel the need to be vulnerable? Why was I uncomfortable with people’s reaction?

My illustrating vulnerability has always been a learned behavior and as I disencumbered my thoughts, they brought me back to my fascination with how our brain works.

In recent years, Neuroscience research has shown our brains are more flexible, adaptable and malleable – here are 4 ways to continue being uncomfortable and learning:

1.      Neuroplasticity for me it is where my fascination started. I was in an accident at 16. My brain created new neural pathways since parts of my brain were damaged – neuroplasticity in action. I was lucky that my brain was still young and forming new pathways was easier. This rewiring can happen throughout your life, it does get more and more challenging as we age. We need to create opportunities to sustain learning and emotional curiosity.

2.      Brain agility – re-framing your current approach, putting yourself outside your comfort zone and continuing brain calisthenics. 18 months ago, I was reflecting on my career path. I came to realize what made me successful to date was not what was going to make me successful in the future. I embarked on a rigorous 9 month 8 course program at Harvard – Harvard Business Analytics program (HBAP). The future of work, mine specifically needs to continue thinking creatively, intuitively and empathetically with data.

3.      Mindset mastery – a recent theory developed by Stanford professor Carol Dweck’s suggests that our brains need to have a growth mindset. HBAP flexed my learning muscles, re-ignited my love of math, pushed teamwork solving problems and put me in an uncomfortable place. I developed new ways of thinking through trial and error – scary painful and exhilarating.

4.      Simplicity – pressing the pause button and for me is the most challenging. I signed up for the Headspace app, which has really helped me to stop, breath and be present. The benefits for taking time decrease our stress by reducing the stress hormone cortisol. Longer term, this leads to increased gyrification – the formation of more folds in the prefrontal cortex. You must have known I would get back to the brain.

I know I do not have all the answers; I know I will continue to be vulnerable; I know I need to be part of integration of data and people for positive change. How we promote new pathways, learn new skills, have a growth mindset and take a moment – is the engine for invention. It is with this optimism; I will continue this journey.

Welcome to the world of being comfortable with being uncomfortable!!!