Balancing your brain

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The weather was typically British, one minute beautiful sunshine and the next rain and thunder.

In the middle of this unpredictable weather 3 planes left London Luton airport on direct flights to Glasgow, but only one of these planes would arrive in Glasgow with a cabin full of happy passengers.

All planes left in good weather but all three encountered storms along the route.  So why did 1 of the 3 planes arrive with happy passengers?  Well that was down to the pilots.

You see the pilot of the first plane was one of the most goal orientated people you’ve met.  He had been through significant amount of structured classroom training to prepare him for his role as a pilot, but he lacked flexibility in his thinking.  When faced with the storm he didn’t deviate from his goal and continued to fly in a straight line through the middle of the storm.  No damage was done to the plane and they did all arrive safely but the passengers did not enjoy the flight.

The pilot of the second plane didn’t have the training that the first pilot had and didn’t have the planning and clarity around the goal of reaching Glasgow before he took off, but he had lots of experience and when he came across the storm, he had the flexibility to divert his course and fly around it.  Unfortunately, his lack of goal orientation meant that he didn’t think to divert his course back towards Glasgow once his path was clear and he ended up at the completely the wrong airport.

Right brain vs left brain

In my earlier post 'How to make the most of learning' I touched on the idea of right brain vs left brain.

This is a model that is very common in understanding human behaviour and yet we pay no attention to it when planning the way we learn, and there is little sign of it in the education system.

The model works like this:

The left brain is logical.  This half is responsible for our organisation, planning, goal orientation and logical analysis.  It is also responsible for the words in language, speaking and understanding.

The left brain is loaded with information through structured learning, sitting in classrooms or following courses or books.

The right brain however is creative.  This half is responsible for all creativeness, artistic output, inspiration, visual imagery and flexibility.  It also plays a part in understanding communication but is less interested in the words and more interested in the tones and gestures and feel of the communication.

The right brain is loaded with information through experience.

Now these descriptions do vary, after all this is a model and as discussed in my previous article 'It's not true', models are a tool for understanding not absolute truth.

But one thing is accepted by all experts that subscribe to the right vs left brain models:

Human beings operate at their best when the 2 halves of the brain are balanced.

The dangers of an unbalanced brain

In our fictional story, the first pilot was very left brain dominant.  His significant amount of structured learning but low experience meant that he was so goal orientated he stuck to his plans even when obstacles arose in his path.

Whilst our pilots may be somewhat exaggerated examples of these symptoms it is all too common to see these patterns in young adults leaving school, particularly from higher education.  They are often confident and capable in their understanding of the subjects that they have studied but when they enter the workplace and find themselves facing variations on the processes that they have studied, they start to struggle.

This is could also be the cause of many school dropouts, as many very capable individuals, when finding themselves left brain dominated, rebel against further structured learning until they have been out into the world and gained experience needed to strengthen their right brain to the same level.  This being done their interest in education often re-ignites and they go back to study at a later point.

The second pilot had more experience but not the structured learning to match, leaving him creative and flexible in the face of the storm but lacking the planning and structured thinking to ensure that he kept his eye on the goal whilst doing so.

This pattern we see in many artists and those in the creative industries and those who are not lucky enough to experience a formal education.  It is perhaps why we see children in third world countries where schooling is less available much more enthusiastic than kids in first world countries who are schooled from an early age.  With so much more experience than structured learning they long for a chance to bring their left brain to the same level as their right.

But what about the third plane?

As you may have guessed the pilot of the third plane had the happy passengers.  With a balance of goal orientation and flexibility he flew the aircraft around the storm but still landed at the right airport.

Why is this understanding important?

Personally, I have found that the most important lessons from this can be summarised as follows:

If you are struggling with a left brain activity, maybe you are lacking a plan or tend to get knocked off course a lot, then you likely need more structured learning.

If you are struggling with a right brain activity, for instance writers block or finding a unique idea to develop, then you likely need more experience.

So, what are you struggling with today?  What can you learn or experience that will bring the balance back to your brain?

Phil Valentine 



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