When It All Just "Clicks Into Place"

We recently got a new can opener and I have never been so frustrated.  My husband was so excited because instead of opening the lid from around the inside of the rim, where the edges are super sharp, this ingenious invention opens from the outside - where you get a smooth surface and no chance of injury! I should have been thrilled but for the life of me, I couldn’t get it to work……until I did.  It just clicked perfectly into place and now I can’t imagine using any other can opener.  It’s awesome. 

I remember having a similar experience with geometry in high school and organic chemistry in college. One minute, I’m extremely frustrated/can’t get it and the next minute it all becomes crystal clear.  And each time it happened, I thought about “what is it that happens in that magical moment”.

I wish I could answer that question. This is why I would choose neuroscience or cognitive science as my major if I went back to college. And this is why I listen to programs like “The Hidden Brain”.

I know enough to know that it is just as much about what happens leading up to that moment and how it is approached that leads to the “click”. If someone is more open to the process, they are less apt to get frustrated at the “failed” attempts and be able to absorb what they’ve learned and build on that. It also depends on the brain itself and its level of development and in what areas. For example, teenage brains are less fully developed in the area of decision-making than they are in terms of evaluating pain and pleasure, which explains why they’re more apt to choose staying out late with friends the night before a big test as well as plethora of other “teenage” choices and behaviors!

With all of this in mind, let’s look at a few things that are important to remember about the moments before and after it all “just clicks into place”.

One person’s can opener is another person’s geometry.  

We are all “wired” differently. That’s just brain science.   While there is a general foundation or structure of steps involved in a particular process, the WAY and the TIMING of how they’re learned and applied is different for everyone. Remind your teen if they’re not “getting it” one way, to think about things they do get and what works best for them.  Emotions play a role in our ability to learn and remember so going from frustrated or critical to more accepting and creative goes a long way in helping things “click”.

The “click” happens because of all that precedes it

It doesn’t just happen in an instant, everything you’ve done or tried or heard or learned up to that moment goes into the “click”.  Remind them that anything they’ve learned has come about as the result of a combination of small steps that led to the big “moment” and that it’s not necessarily the same each time. Research continues to show that the “learning styles” theory that has dominated for many years is actually more of a combination of styles based on the task or situation. Recognizing the times they’ve applied the skills and tools they’ve learned in previous situations reinforces their grit and resilience, which continues to build confidence which lead to future “clicks”.

I recently had the absolute pleasure of hearing Maria Furtado, the Executive Director of Colleges that Change Lives speak to a room full of parents and students about college planning.  One of the things she spoke about was how there are over 3,000 colleges out there and the importance of being open to the adventure of exploring places where “a students’ very own talents and gifts will be respected, appreciated and celebrated”. Taking time to do that is a process which will include moments of “not getting it”, as well as the magical moments when it “clicks into place”.  Both are an important part of the journey, remembering that the timing of how and when it all comes together is as unique as each teen’s talents and gifts.