Easier to learn new things? Training “intestinal muscles” | Chantal van der List

columnChange, our brains don’t like it very much. They encounter resistance if, for example, you want to learn good new habits. Behavioral psychologist Chantal van der Liszt knows how to help your brain move past this discomfort hurdle.

The trainer at my gym sometimes asks me after a particularly vigorous workout where I can feel it in my body. He wants to know if I’m using the right muscles to lift the squat or squat. I often joke: “On my mind.” Let’s be honest: Building muscle is mainly a matter of learning how to handle that little voice in your head. This starts with yelling at the slightest thing: “This doesn’t feel good, I can’t do this, stop!”

However, we all understand that you shouldn’t listen too hard for that. Pushing your limits and a little muscle soreness in the short term helps you become physically stronger in the long term.


We often think that even with mild stress or stress, we’ve had too much hay

Last year, US researchers from Cornell University and the University of Chicago discovered that it works the same way for mental challenges. You will also initially feel uncomfortable when taking a course, taking on a new job or changing jobs. Growing up is not comfortable. But we often think, even with mild stress or stress, that we’ve taken too much hay. Intuitively, we avoid such situations.

The researchers wondered if it would help if you told people that seeking out discomfort is positive and means you’re learning. They asked people to take part in an improvisation class. During the “giving focus” exercise, they were allowed to perform movements while the rest of the class remained standing and then pass the turn to someone else.

It is no longer a hindrance but something positive

Participants who heard it was good to seek out discomfort dared to perform more wild movements than subjects who were instructed to learn something during class. They wandered around a bit. For people who embraced discomfort, that feeling was no longer a hindrance, but rather something positive.

You don’t have to go to the gym to learn to tolerate discomfort. You can train the gut muscle anywhere. By starting conversations with strangers, trying food you don’t know yet, or giving your opinion in a meeting. Choose the things you really want to do, but never dared to do, and take a small, brave step in that direction.

Want to learn more about psychology and work? Read Chantal’s books Why Perfectionists Are Rarely Happy, 13 Advice Against Perfectionists (2021) and Our Wrong Thinking at Work (2018).

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