How Navy SEALs and 4th Graders Alike Train Their Brains

We can all use neuroplasticity to train our brains.

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Navy SEALs epitomize discipline.
Navy SEALs epitomize discipline.

What is Neuroplasticity?

I am a newbie to neuroplasticity, but John Kennedy, president of explains it as the ability of the brain to form and reorganize connections, especially in response to learning or experience. 

Neuroplasticity is used for a lot of purposes, and for a lot of fields like the military, sports, executive positions, and students.

When change/too much stimuli happens, there’s too just too much data to process all of it effectively.  Things fall through the cracks. We forget to do things. So we get overwhelmed.  But when we process data efficiently, the stress goes down and the frustration goes down.  And so do the mistakes.

I really wanted to hear from John to learn if neuroplasticity could help the legal profession, and from what he said, it seems like it could increase your focus and ability to multi- switch (more on this in a bit).

It’s based on repetition. As John says “neurons that fire together, wire together.” When they “wire together”, you can see enhanced performance.

Everyone in the legal profession (or outside of it) can probably benefit from enhanced performance, right?

Multi Task vs Multi Switch

It’s kind of a myth that we can multitask. We suck at it. But what we can learn to do well is multi switch.

John explains that neuroplasticity helps to focus the brain so we can process real-time information more rapidly.  The adult human brain, rather than being fixed or hard-wired, can change itself.  John says we can be trained to change our brain.

How? Well, a simplistic explanation is that we start by giving our brains simple tasks that keep getting progressively harder.

Lifting weights makes your muscles stronger.  The brain is the same way.  But to speed up the brain, the exercises are tied in to speed somehow, and it always relates to real world stuff. In this way, we get better at multi-switching, jumping from one thing to the next but with focus, not distraction.

Digital v Analog: Find that Torn Map You Threw In the Trunk

Digital tools aren’t bad — we rely on all these different digital devices to make life easier and smoother. At the same time though, there can be too much of a good thing.

Digital only affects a narrow part of the brain.  A screen is easy and it’s fast but it doesn’t build the complex connections that the brain needs.

John uses the example of a hard copy book versus reading something on a Kindle. Can’t remember the name of a character when using the Kindle? Start the search function and let the Kindle do its thing.  Hard copy search? That happens by hand, and it’s more active than passive. That type of active search leads to deeper relationships to the material.

I silently groaned when John gave his next example of using an actual map once in a while (I have emotional baggage tied to backseat map reading, ok?)

“Teach your kids to read a map,” he said—don’t let them use a GPS.  Planning on a map involves shape recognition.  It involves analysis, synthesis, categorization, classification, directional orientation.  It involves core cognitive skills that with enough practice become a subconscious habit.  That applies to anything where you have to find your way around, whether it’s in a physical sense or an emotional one.

As the CEO of a legal wellness company, anything that can help our overall wellbeing is interesting to me, and I’m betting a lot of you will find the concept intriguing too. The concept of increased focus (aka more free time) is appealing. If any of you are interested in starting a pilot group to see how this all works, contact us at [email protected]

In the meantime, I am headed to my car to find that tattered map of Northeast Ohio I thought I would never see again.

If you want to check out the podcast, find it at or Sweatours Legal Wellbeing Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen.

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