I’ve been teaching 4 classes a week for 15 years. With time being so precious, and with so many busy friends in one zone, I’ve always taken the responsibility very seriously. For the most part, classes run fairly smoothly.
On Wednesday, life decided to have a little fun with me. I arrived at the studio with all my ducks in a row, so I thought. Just as the music was to start, a number of things went awry in the span of 5 minutes…I realized my carefully crafted playlist failed to upload, my mic’s newly replaced microphone batteries were dead, and then my uniquely trusty iPod was coming in and out of frequency…AARGH!!
As a struggling perfectionist, it was a cringe-worthy moment for me. Having to quickly put out several fires, and then get my brain in gear to teach a memory-intense class made me question myself and why the heck I do what I do…Until I looked around and saw so many sweaty, encouraging faces patiently Mojo-ing, laughing, and whooping it up like any other day. When I apologized to everyone afterward, a couple of friends shouted enthusiastically in return, “It was perfect!”.
While the ride was a bumpy one, we all got what we came for – a heart-pumping, muscle-toning, de-stressing workout with a supportive crew of low-key FUN women.
Just as our Mojo workout requires our brain to make split-second decisions and our bodies to re-build, adapt, and recover during and after our “chaotic” experience, perfectly imperfect experiences can actually be rewarding ones if we can learn to embrace, recover, and learn from it.
As a therapeutic reminder for myself and for anyone who fears dipping their sneaker out of their comfort zone, here are some reasons why challenging experiences (aka HIIT dance fitness workouts) can be a boon for our brain and for our lives overall:
1. Building Cognitive Flexibility: When things don’t go according to plan, our brains are forced to shift gears. We have to think on our feet, analyze new information, and adapt our strategies. This constant mental workout strengthens our cognitive flexibility, making us better at switching between tasks, thinking creatively, and finding solutions to unforeseen problems.
2. Boosting Emotional Regulation: Dealing with unexpected setbacks inevitably triggers emotions like frustration and disappointment. But by navigating these emotions, we learn to regulate them more effectively. We develop coping mechanisms, practice self-soothing techniques, and build resilience in the face of emotional challenges. This improved emotional regulation equips us to handle future stressful situations with greater calm and composure.
3. Strengthening Neural Pathways: Every new experience, positive or negative, creates new neural pathways in our brains. By dealing with mistakes and unexpected events, we forge new connections and strengthen existing ones. This expanded neural network improves our overall brain function, making us more adept at learning, problem-solving, and adapting to change.
4. Encouraging Growth Mindset: When we embrace the inevitability of mistakes and unforeseen events, we cultivate a growth mindset. We see challenges not as roadblocks, but as opportunities for learning and improvement. This optimistic outlook fosters a sense of perseverance and allows us to bounce back from setbacks stronger and more resourceful.
5. Building Grit and Determination: Overcoming unexpected hurdles builds grit and determination. We learn to push through difficulties, find workarounds, and never give up on our goals. This strengthened resolve serves us well in all aspects of life, making us more likely to persevere and achieve our objectives even in the face of adversity.