Monday, May 6, 2013

Leaving the Comfort Zone: Challenge leads to Learning

One thing that Coach Bill is well-known for amongst the families and individuals he works with is 'pushing the envelope.' In order to be sought out for my skill as a coach for kids and adults with Learning Disabilities, Executive Function Skill deficits, or Autism, rendering results on an on-going basis is essential.  That means that I have to be keen on identifying that fine and shifting line of just how far past a learner's comfort zone I should push them.  If we are doing muscular exercise, the ideal goal would be to do high-quality resistance training repetitions until muscle failure. The coach guides the learner to the right resistance and acceptable movement arcs so as to limit doing a large quantity of reps before the muscle begins to tremble and fail. When muscle failure is reached, it is in that moment we have left the comfort zone, and are breaking new ground.

As a life-long longboarder, while living on the North Shore of O'ahu, Hawaii, I sometimes surfed waves a bit too big for me. I recall surfing a break called 'Himalayas,' many times. You can get the idea of what kind of waves that break is known for. Very challenging break. It is hard to paddle out to wait for the waves, and one must be quick to exit the danger zone after surfing, or wiping out of a wave. Makes you wonder what one is doing out there when big waves are crashing on your back, holding you under water, separating you from your board, swarming you, wave after wave sometimes.  But then, your finally able to paddle out,  a set of waves comes, you take the 4th wave and before you know it you are on your feet, surfing and feeling a most incredible feeling. In fact, time seems to slow down while surfing, the mind is actively recording, the surfer is hyper-aware and in a state of bliss. This is all very, very challenging, but the surfer does not mind. There is a goal, a strong motive, and the whole process is fun.

Likewise,  role-playing, a powerful social/ emotional tool in Coach Bill's Executive Function skills tool bag,  is used in order to address pertinent issues for the learner. Taking them outside of their comfort zone in this case is more abstract, but still clearly identified.  With role-playing we are challenging ourselves to put on different perspectives, and this is a back-door approach to shifting one's attitude remarkably fast.  It makes for incredibly mentally flexible people when done in an on-going basis.

For instance, imagine a child of 10 years of age with undiagnosed executive function skill deficits in (auto correct) self-assessment, self-monitoring, impulse control, emotional control, and foresight (ability to predict/ anticipate).  Let's say the kid is normally calm, but has his moments were he just flips out, and may scream, hit, and storm around in a very upset, very elevated fashion. Left unchecked, this behavior can snowball into a sense of normalcy for the child, and stunt his emotional growth as a person.A parent or coach role-plays with the boy the right and wrong way to deal with things. Thinking outside the box of rules for what is allowed in "great" role-playing should be foremost, as well as using humor, silliness, and spontaneity.

In and of itself, the role-playing is usually way out of the way in which they learn how to make better decisions everyday. The rehearsal of different events, as well as the prompting, and guidance to self-manage themselves better is quickly integrated as a fun, valuable activity in their minds. This is all very challenging stuff, but when your perspective is open-minded, the heart (the mind) welcomes the challenge.

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