Understanding 4: The Brain Grows in the Manner it is Exercised

More complex challenges only lead to higher cognitive activity when they are taken on by the learner for their own sake, not coerced by rewards or punishments. We are either exercising our capacity for self-directed inquiry and growth, or we are exercising our capacity to obtain rewards and avoid punishments.

“If your child has been courageous enough to stand up for someone else, don’t reward them, thank them and talk to them about what they did, how they think the victim felt, how they felt themselves, and what more they can do.” –Barbara Coloroso

  1. Cultural Inventions to Help Us Hold Tension Creatively by Parker Palmer
  2. Neuroplasticity at learninginfo.org
  3. Neuroplasticity at Brightstar


An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”