Mental elasticity: why we should train it

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Louise Hay

Mental elasticity: why we should train it

Using a more flexible mindset helps us respond to daily difficulties more effectively. Ultimately, life is change. Each challenge helps us to have an elastic, dynamic and creative mind.

Written and verified by the psychologist GetPersonalGrowth.

Last update: 15 November 2021

Albert Einstein said that the true potential of our intelligence lies in the ability to change. Being able to take on new perspectives and ideas, freeing ourselves from concepts that we do not need is one of our greatest virtues. It is therefore not strange that within psychology, as well as art, it is a new concept has recently emerged with force: that of mental elasticity.

A few years ago, the New York Museum of Modern Art, MoMA, hosted an exhibition on mental elasticity. Our society and our species are experiencing a time of profound change. Science and technology have an ever greater weight in our way of elaborating reality, of working, of relating and even of understanding the world.

In Design and the elastic mind, a book written by the architect and research director at MoMA Paola Antonelli, we talk about need to develop more elastic thinking. Only in this way can we survive and give our best in a constantly evolving environment. An environment in which we are now almost forced to improvise, to react quickly to solve various challenges.

Developing an elastic mind is not easy. The brain is often very resistant to change and tends to live anchored in its comfort zones. Nevertheless, teaching our conservative mind to be more innovative and flexible can help us foster positive change.

"Progress is impossible without change and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."
-George Bernard Shaw-

Mental elasticity: what does it mean?

When we talk about a mental quality that we should all train, develop and apply to our daily life, we are undoubtedly talking about cognitive flexibility.

Conversely, we tend to have a static mentality that blames itself every time things don't turn out the way we want them to. A mentality that does not make us admit criticism, that does not make us manage disappointments or mistakes and that tries to avoid challenges for fear of failure.

We should reformulate the concept of talent starting from this. Although a person may have a natural predisposition towards certain skills (art, music, engineering), it is a talent that will hardly allow him to be successful if he does not also have an elastic mind. It means being able to open up to new paradigms and knowing how to apply a series of strategies that make the difference.  

Get used to ambiguity

Things are never black or white. Our reality develops around a range of unattractive grays that we have to get used to. Only in this way can the mental elasticity get used to the uncertainty typical of many of the things that involve us: the job we have today and that tomorrow we could lose, that person who supports us but who tomorrow might not do it anymore, etc.

Mental elasticity, beyond conventional thinking

Conventional is that safe space that is easy to get used to. It gives us a feeling of permanence, tranquility and fulfillment. And yet, if there is something we have to learn, it is that life is not static, but fluid, varied, changing and, often, very fast in moving. To survive these changes, we must learn to innovate, to go beyond the conventional.

To develop innovative thinking, we need to start trusting our creativity and intuition. This is possible only by observing, looking beyond, perceiving needs, new perspectives and applying proactive conduct.

Tolerance to defeat: making mistakes means learning

Tolerance of mistakes and how we deal with them says a lot about us. While the fixed mindset remains stuck and tends to avoid situations in which it does not feel prepared, the resilient mind applies a completely different approach. He understands, for example, that a defeat is not a valid reason to limp in certain situations. That a defeat is a learning opportunity and that a step back is often a way to take a better run.

A brain that never stops asking and feeds on curiosity

If we must mention a person who has been able to apply great mental elasticity throughout his life, this is undoubtedly Leonardo da Vinci. The symbolic man of the Renaissance explored the world of knowledge like no one before him through observation and experimentation.

Leonardo was a pioneer of his time in many subjects thanks to that gift that we all have and that usually shine especially in childhood: curiosity. The elastic mind not only does not fear change, but seeks it as it is motivated by a constant thirst for knowledge.

In conclusion, as the psychiatrist Robert Cloninger points out, if we are receptive to the news and changes in our daily life, and if we accept them fearlessly and creatively, our personality will emerge stronger. The supple mind that tries to go beyond its comfort zone will never be the same again.

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