Mental Challenge and Growth

At RDIconnect, we believe that mental growth only happens when a learner is mentally challenged.

Mental challenge is especially important for development of Dynamic Intelligence – the mental ability that enables humans to successfully navigate the world and our relationships.

Take a look at the infographic below to learn more about different types of challenge and why it is so critical for growth.

Click to enlarge.


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For a deeper look at Mental Challenge & Growth, click below.

Go Deeper!

Scientists believe that children are born with an innate drive for neural and mental growth. Beginning in the latter part of their first year the brains of typically-developing infants begin to engage in the process of developing the capacity for more complex information processing, through initiating opportunistic programs that reinforce the infant’s seeking out and engaging with growth-promoting, mentally challenging situations.

We experience mental challenge within a mid-range of personal difficulty, expecting that the challenge will require that we stretch our mental processing beyond our typically functioning, but still believing that we can prevail.

Extensive research demonstrates that, while our drive for growth is inborn, our brains will only initiate neural growth-promoting programs under three specific conditions:

1) When learners perceive their environment as sufficiently safe and supportive.

2) When surplus physiologic & neural resources are available and that are not required for maintaining homeostatic life maintenance. If homeostatic demands are too great, then all of the brains resources will have to be devoted to maintaining the regulatory functioning of the organism.

3) When learners are provided with opportunities to engage with productive mental challenges, with the expectation that trusted guides will ensure that challenges do not become overwhelming.

One of the things that distinguishes us from what others do is our focus on neural rehabilitation, instead of social skills training. Since mental challenges are the ways that the brain develops increased neural mental complexity, our programs train parents to facilitate opportunities to allow students to safely explore and experiment with the mental challenges; the problems, concepts and ideas that are one step ahead of the current level of understanding.

What is Dynamic Intelligence? In a nutshell, it is the mental ability that enables humans to successfully navigate the world and our relationships. Because life is full of dramatic upheavals, immense volatility and a LOT of uncertainty, we need a flexible set of skills that allow us to navigate these things.

Challenge & Dynamic Intelligence

Dynamic Intelligence is tightly connected with the concept of ‘challenge’. The mental resources that make up Dynamic Intelligence are specifically designed to aid us when facing, or anticipating mental and emotional challenges. Plus, it is through challenge, that Dynamic Intelligence is developed.

But what do we mean by challenge? This can be tricky because a challenge can’t be defined by any universally challenging task, goal or set of environmental conditions. Mental and emotional challenge may invoke feelings of excitement for the future. It can creates opportunity for personal growth and may cause feelings of inadequacy and frustration.

Challenge is in fact, unique to each individual person because each person’s brains respond differently to any given situation. But, while we cannot define challenge by any objective factors, we all share a common experience of what it is like to feel mentally and emotionally challenged.

  • When mentally challenged, we feel like our mental resources are operating at their limits.
  • We may be facing situations where we encounter important information that does not fit our existing knowledge base, or that cannot be easily assimilated with our prior experience.
  • We may be facing decisions containing so many possible connected variables that they temporarily leave our head spinning.
  • We may experience our current coping mechanisms as being taxed to their limit
  • We may be facing a challenge to our personal identity, or our self esteem, such as when we experience a significant career setback.
  • We may be in the midst of an emotional challenge associated with a relationship, as when considering whether to leave or change the nature of an important relationship.

Regardless of the type of situation, we feel that our emotional coping resources are being taxed, are close to an ‘edge’ and require some type of bolstering.

Facing Challenge in a Safe Environment

Through the Guiding Relationship, children learn how to face challenge in a safe environment. Wth the skillful help of a competent guide, they learn to discern the dual nature of every situation, preventing the feeling of being overwhelmed and the desire to shut down in the face of what seems like an impossible problem.

Examples of the two sides of every challenging situation:

  • On the one hand, it feels as if we are venturing into new, unknown territory…on the other hand we experience a core of familiarity – some degree of equivalence with situations we have encountered in the past.
  • On the one hand, we do not possess any immediate solutions or ways of effectively managing the situation…on the other hand we feel confident that we will ultimately prevail.

Mental Exercises to Grow Dynamic Intelligence

Slowly Adding Challenge

The Challenge of Failure

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