The longer you neglect your talents and special skills that were developed over the years, the harder it is to restore them and the less likely you'll be able to bring them back to their old levels of excellence. Once you've reached the point of no return, you probably won't even make the effort.
The deterioration of our abilities occurs due to disuse, and this law applies equally to both your mental and physical abilities...to chess as well as to tennis.
Why We Lose It
Much of the decline in strength and stamina that we blame on age is actually due to the disuse cycle. Slow down, and it gets harder to pick up the pace again...so the natural tendency is to slow down even more.
Activities as diverse as shooting pool, playing the piano, speaking a foreign language or responding sexually are coordinated by complex interactions of nerve cells in the brain.
When you practice, these neurons actually grow microscopic filaments to connect to one another. Its process is known as arborization. When you stop practicing, these connections wither away.
Every time you learn new skills or master fresh areas of knowledge, neurons secrete growth hormones that foster arborization thus stimulating their own growth and the growth of their neighbors.
Part of the brain is devoted to learning, striving to meet challenges and dealing with frustration, while another part takes care of establishing habits and routines. Atrophy, and its functions are taken over by the areas that are used more.
When you stop challenging yourself and expanding your skills, that part of your brain goes quiet and brain activity shifts to its humdrum mode. The more you let yourself become stodgy and fail to challenge yourself, the harder it is to reactivate that part of your brain.
Motivation is often a major victim of this process. Once you let your skills decay, it's harder to feel excited.
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