Brain and Mind Fitness Programs: resiliency, on top of attention, memory…


6.30pm: I leave the office, down­town San Fran­cis­co, and take the train.

6.44pm: just before arriv­ing in my sta­tion, I remem­ber I have an appoint­ment with my hair­dress­er, which means I have to walk in a dif­fer­ent direc­tion than usual.

6.48pm: I find myself walk­ing towards my house, oppo­site direc­tion from my hair­dress­er.

You may have had a sim­i­lar expe­ri­ence. You walk towards where you parked your car. Except that the car is not there. Then you real­ize that, on that pre­cise day, you could­n’t park your car in the usu­al place. And now you have to walk to a dif­fer­ent cor­ner of the park­ing lot. What corner?

Now you may feel dis­ori­ent­ed, not only about where your car may be, but about why we are talk­ing about this…

Well, this sto­ry is a good exam­ple of how our brains work. When we do any­thing a num­ber of times, the rel­e­vant neu­ronal net­works get more and more strong­ly con­nect­ed. “Cells that fire togeth­er wire togeth­er”. We devel­op auto­mat­ic habits, from which it is not easy to escape. We get used to just get­ting out of the metro sta­tion and walk­ing home. We know where we always park our cars.

You may also try an enlight­en­ing exper­i­ment on our habits.

Let me now make a brief detour. Over the last few weeks, I have had a num­ber of con­ver­sa­tions where the same con­cept has appeared: resilien­cy. Resilien­cy can be defined as “the abil­i­ty to recov­er from a fail­ure”. Resilien­cy is a crit­i­cal Men­tal Mus­cle to train.

I  learned the word 6–7 years ago, at an Ashoka event in Buenos Aires, Argenti­na, orga­nized by social entre­pre­neur Alber­to Croce. Richard Barth, CEO of KIPP Foun­da­tion, used it last week when we were dis­cussing sev­er­al Brain Fit­ness pri­or­i­ties for teach­ers and stu­dents. My friends at the Insti­tute of Heart­Math pro­posed using “devel­op­ing resilien­cy”, instead of “beat­ing Stress”, when we were brain­storm­ing options to part­ner with pro­fes­sion­al asso­ci­a­tions and bring proven anx­i­ety reduc­tion pro­grams to edu­ca­tors and health care pro­fes­sion­als. Mark Katz, when we met with a num­ber of school super­in­ten­dents, empathized how impor­tant for all stu­dents to devel­op the exec­u­tive func­tion of resilien­cy, and how that would help them over­come obsta­cles such as ADD? ADHD and oth­er aca­d­e­m­ic problems.

In the Neu­ro­science of Lead­er­ship post, we saw too that resilien­cy is a crit­i­cal atti­tude, and skill. To not spend too much focus and men­tal ener­gy on try­ing to dou­ble-guess hid­den mean­ings, and the past. To focus, instead, on what we can do next. On what is on our scope of influ­ence. On, as we dis­cussed before, being pos­i­tive .

Let’s sum­ma­rize. First, we have seen that some behav­iors become habits and there­by mind­less habits. They become us. What we call our per­son­al­i­ties. Then, we have seen how impor­tant resilien­cy is.

So, what pre­vents us all from devel­op­ing the habit of resilien­cy and let­ting be part of our behav­ior, habits and personality?

Brain and Mind Fit­ness are impor­tant. We can improve mem­o­ry, atten­tion, stress man­age­ment, decision-making…Now, in a holis­tic way, Brain and Mind Fit­ness includes the exec­u­tive func­tion, or habit, or atti­tude, of resilien­cy. If you know of Brain Fit­ness Pro­grams that allow peo­ple to devel­op it, please let us know. We are work­ing on that too.

Maybe a first step is to re-read the clas­sic Vik­tor Fran­kl’s Man’s Search For Mean­ing.


  1. Stephanie West Allen on October 7, 2006 at 8:27

    I have been think­ing about the role of stress and how it ham­pers our abil­i­ty to make changes and be cre­ative enough to even think of pos­si­ble changes. Of course, aligned is resilience. My think­ing was spurred by a very good book I read ear­li­er this week: WHY WE BELIEVE WHAT WE BELIEVE by Andrew New­berg, MD. I also last week first saw this arti­cle about the effects of stress on the brain:

    Have you read New­berg’s book? The arti­cle? If not, I want to rec­om­mend them as I think you will find both thought-pro­vok­ing. Hope you blog about them.

  2. Alvaro on October 8, 2006 at 8:34

    Thanks Stephanie. I haven’t read them, but the arti­cle does look fas­ci­nat­ing. Will read both and blog on Stress in 1–2 weeks, link­ing them to the amaz­ing work by Stan­ford’s Robert Sapol­sky, includ­ing his fun book Why Zebras don’t Get Ulcers.

  3. Stephanie West Allen on October 8, 2006 at 8:54

    I had not heard of Sapol­sky before. I just ordered two of his books from my local library. Thanks, Alvaro.

About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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