Why Students and Young Adults NEED Mental Training To Thrive in Today's World

We are not setting up our future leaders to see and experience properly.

We train our children and young adults to become proficient at a lot of things, hopefully some of them are engaging to them. We give them training to become better athletes. We put them in tutoring to do better on their college entrance exam. Each one of their classes tries to get them to a certain standard of knowledge to pass tests. When they get into the workplace, we teach them how to do specific tasks and handle a narrow set of projects.

Technical, tactical ability in these areas is NOT really where it's at, however. Our kids need to learn how experiences and bits of knowledge tie together and support one another. We need to look at helping these people learn how to process, reason, logic, question and communicate all of the information they get in different ways and utilize it in much more impactful ways. 

With workforces needing to be 'learning agile', it's imperative your child/student learn how to learn. How can that be done?

If you are a parent, I'm sure you are shaking your head and saying you can't even get your son to remember to do the simple things. How can he be trained how to connect information on a higher level? If you are a business leader or teacher, you wonder why they are so linear in the way they manage themselves and their tasks.

As young people's brains develop, they will always have bouts of linear thinking and forgetfulness; we adults do as well. However, we can't say it's not possible to set them on a connectoin path. Our society hasn't been set up to guuide the building of connections and processes to tie various pieces of information and experiences into more impactful knowledge and wisdom. We're still set in an assembly line, rote memory process that build specific skills.

You can help make it better for them. You can put them in a situation to take the needed steps to help them learn how to learn.

The teenage and young adult brain is capable of making connections between disparate inputs. Have you experienced how a child remembers things you didn't even perceive (like cards in the memory game)? The capabliities are there to start the process early. However, societal systems aren't set up to help them build that foundation which allows them to proactively make connections from all the experiences they get from school, activities, social relationships, etc.

Scaffolding as learning structure

We aren't helping them learn how it connects, why it's important and, eventually empowering them to proactively do it on their own.

OK, we see the issue. Now, how can it be addressed not just with young people, but in ourselves?

It's really not that different of a process than the tactical training our kids get all the time. Whether it be sports, school, family lessons, etc., we develop more proficiency and capabilities with repetition and practice. We practice making mental connections with various pieces of experience and knowledge. 

However, there is a different mindset for connecting experiences together than learning how to dribble a basketball, understanding calculus derivatives or handling conflict with your best friend. It's open ended, longer-term and thoughtful rather than assembly line or rote memorization.

One of the biggest differences in developing connection skills is that practice could or should happen at any time, if one is equipped with the foundation and processes. Each experience is an opportunity to see something different and connect it with existing knowledge, beliefs and processes. How does something learned in a philosophy class impact how you perceive things in your marketing class? How does handling conflict withing your softball team compare with conflict at home or with a friend?

In high school and college, I saw this process as a cubed scaffold framework in my head. I'd take something I experienced or learned and looked to connect it with the structure I already had. Did the experience connect nicely with my base of knowledge and values? If not, why and was the new information more valid that what I had known historically? This provided me with a stable, consistent, uniform structure on which to learn and grow.

neuron-synapse connections

As the years went by, I saw this process more like brain neurons and synapses. Scaffolding was too limiting for me as I became more aware. I saw dense areas of my brain that had a lot of knowledge and wisdom neurons. As I developed stronger and thicker synapses in between those knowledge and value bases, the more intertwined and connected these concept clusters became. Using this concept allowed me to realize and accept I had areas that were weak/less dense and with thinner connections - opportunities to learn, build and lean on others and their capabilities. It also allowed me to accept I didn't know everything, but I had the capability to understand and connect new ideas into my existing framework.

Neurons and synapses dedicated to reasoning, logic and connecting were strong and tied to specific knowledge because I regularly practiced the process. I could take what I didn't understand and meld it into who I was and reasonably apply it, possibly with the help of others.

The key to this journey is setting up a foundation to start asking such questions, establish processes to take connecting steps proactively, ingrain it in one's own 'culture' and then be able to make something with it that's valuable and additive. Having someone to guide this effort is helpful. Receiving reinforcing support from multiple sources enhances permanent learning and builds denser and stronger connections.

If you are a leader, caring enough for the future leaders to help them develop the skill of connecting experience and skills will pay itself so many times over - not only within their overall experience as a human being, but with the tactical training they engage in every day and their performance at work or at school. If you want to become a leader, look at how you can make this happen for you.

See the foundation and structure of learning as one intertwined system, not a group of silos that may or may not tie together. You will have done your greatest work when you set yourself and others on a path towards learning how to better learn, logic, question, reason and communicate on a much different level.


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