Everyone has a few abilities that they would likely consider their core ‘strengths’. Maybe your strength is your organization. Maybe you’re the best writer in the world. Maybe you’re the fastest writer in the world. Maybe you have an awesome collection of bottle tops…
Whatever it is that is your strength, the point is that it developed somehow. We work best when we’re playing to our strengths but does that mean we don’t have any say in how we become the people we are? Are we destined for one role in life and that’s it? Can you ever develop a different strength to the same extent as the ones you seem to be naturally very good at?
Brain Plasticity and Strengths
Different strengths work in different ways but let’s assume for the moment that we’re looking at a motor ability – such as golf or perhaps balancing along a beam.
In this scenario, you will likely have had a good propensity towards golf to begin with. Maybe that means you have good vision, good proprioception (body awareness) and good tolerance for abilities that require patience.
At the same time though, it will likely have formed out of practice. Practice is what makes us better at everything and this is particularly true with rote motor learning.
Brain Plasticity and Golf
So how did you get amazing at golf?
Well, every time you tried playing golf, your brain will have fired certain neurons as you swung the club and hit the ball. Neurons that fire together, wire together and as such, practicing this movement over and over would have helped you to form a pattern in your mind, making your technique more precise and more fluid.
At the same time, when you hit the ball, your brain would have played a kind of ‘demo reel’ of how it wanted it to go – most likely ending with the ball plopping into the hole at the end of the course. The closer to performing this you were, and the closer your swing looked to Tiger Woods’, the more dopamine, serotonin and other reward hormones your brain would have produced – strengthening that ability yet more.
Over time, your brain would have literally changed shape like a muscle to accommodate your amazing golf abilities. Some people say it takes 10,000 hours to master a new skill but really this is an arbitrary number. The take home lesson is simple: anything can become a strength if you practice it often enough. So get swinging!