Be Wary of Certainty and Your Brain — Big Weekend Idea

Big and Helpful Ideas on the Weekend

Hopefully on Fridays moving forward I will be discussing a “Big Idea”.  Something that is useful and helpful for you in your life and in your education and that of your children.  This is the first of the series:


The Brain and Certainty

We’ve all heard the old adage that the only constant is change, and that’s true.  Things never stay exactly the same and that’s why we love photos because they can capture time in a sense.  Another thing to be aware of about ourselves as humans is that we have a tendency to want to figure everything out, to find the best way and then not think about it anymore.  We like certainty.  We like knowing the best/ true/ right/ one way to do things.  It is natural.


Our brains are machines that are constantly looking for connections and ways to streamline our experiences.  We do tons of things automatically without ever thinking about it.  In addition to breathing, pumping blood, cleaning and repairing cells, things we learn also become streamlined. For example, typing, walking, playing a musical instrument, driving– these are all things we had to learn step by step, but once learned become automatic.  The brain does this with other situations also, and that includes lumping past experiences and events into quick categories that we then take and make often automatic judgments.  The brain is awesome– this power is often very useful and we should be grateful for it.


Exercise That Brain

However, the brain can also be wrong in making judgments too quickly, and that is where we have to be careful.  What may seem like the obvious best answer may not actually be the best answer.  It is good practice to question ourselves and our ideas periodically to see if we are really seeing things as clearly as we think.  This is the part that takes a little more work, because our brains are constantly trying to consolidate and streamline our attention.  It takes work and effort to stop and focus or be intentional about a certain thing.  It takes work and effort to interrupt our patterns.  This is why doing new things, traveling and having new experiences are so good for us.  This is why chess and other games are actually good brain food- they keep us from getting lazy, and they even can postpone or prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

This is another reason we learn more from pictures and stories than from a simple lecture or a book unless it is presented very well with stories and images.


So Be Wary of Certainty

Of course there are certain codes of conduct and morality that are most always right, such as honesty, integrity, perseverance, kindness,  and compassion, and the converse of those being most always wrong such as dishonesty, lying, cheating, laziness, meanness, and hatred.  But we can always find situations or circumstances where things are not so clear-  cut and dry, such as in war or in defending yourself.  The right thing to do may be to be “mean” in order to establish a boundary, or in the case of law enforcement, they may have to use tactics that include lying in order to get critical information.

Our brains don’t like this– these kinds of situations require us to think a bit harder and make decisions without knowing for sure that what we are doing is the absolute best choice.  But in all reality that’s life.  We have to make judgments.  We have to make decisions and choices.  And sometimes we have to decide between two good things.  How do I want to spend my time?  What outcome do I want or hope to have?  What will happen if I choose this versus that? And so forth…


This definitely applies to homeschooling/ education also.  We have to make choices and judgements and the answers aren’t always super clear.  If we can learn to be OK with uncertainty, be OK with change and growing and finding that what worked before doesn’t work anymore, we will be able to go with the flow a little easier and maybe not get quite so stuck in any belief or system.  This will help in all aspects of our lives– dropping the old, what doesn’t work anymore and being open to something new and highly beneficial!

Happy Learning!


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