Is it possible to teach an old dog new tricks?

Well that was an interesting morning – no children awake until almost midday.  Clearly jet lagged from our short and sweet trip to New York although I knew that when my son fell asleep whilst eating pizza the day before he refused to sleep for the entire 8 hour journey home.  So this morning I enjoyed peace and quiet at home without having to endure a mammoth race, or reorganisation struggle.  It’s as though I’m being prepared for teenage hood.

When my daughter awoke she asked me one of those pre-teen questions over the obligatory Friday pain au chocolate with a glass of milk:

“How are my brother and I different?”

There went a fascinating conversation that included the differences between:

– Reactive versus proactive
– Living for the moment versus over analysing
– Carrot versus stick

All of which led to the importance of balancing and an explanation of how our lives are based upon sub-consciously balancing things until we reach a point in life where our behaviour is pretty much stable.

We swing between being over analytical, questioning everything before doing to being somewhat selfish not considering anything before jumping in, as our own internal scales wobble to our own comfort level.

Imagine the three different scales swaying simultaneously as we encounter each of life’s new challenges.  This leads us to a state where we operate on what could be deemed ‘auto pilot’.  We just do what we do because it’s our own behaviour pattern.

I explained how we change the levels at which we behave as we grow and how our inner and outer circle can influence us.  It’s obvious that as we grow we are different people to that when we are younger – in our ways of being, and doing.  That whatever she feels might stop her from progressing now will be something that can encourage her as she grows, and vice versa.

Acknowledging that you may be someone who is a creature of habit makes you that way.  Yet recognising that you don’t have to be, means you can be a little more adventurous.  Someone who thinks they’re fussy with food can choose to eat new foods.  It’s purely mindset.  And personal choice.  That’s the beauty of our mind.  And our capabilities.

I then explained to her the meaning of the term ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ to which she reminded me that her Grandad (my Dad) taught himself how to play the piano at the age of 60.  What a fabulous example to completely eradicate that notion that you can’t learn something when you’re older.

This reminded me of an old job of mine where I was bought in to completely change the sales and marketing techniques in what was deemed a very stuffy old fashioned investment bank.  They didn’t believe it possible yet I knew it was.  I knew that with the right techniques even the most fixated individual would warm to new ways of working, especially if they knew the benefits to them.

So the purpose of this post is to remind you that even if you are sixty or ninety or older than that you can do something new.  The first step is knowing what you want to do and when you know that the rest is about setting a plan in to action and making it a reality.  It’s about returning to that youthful you and remembering that once you couldn’t read, or write, or even talk.  If you could master that then you can master the art of whatever it is new that you want to do.



By Michelle Stromgren
Chartered Marketer and Performance Coach with a postgraduate diploma in digital marketing. Over 25 years of corporate and individual marketing experience. A mother of two, organiser of many, blogger, budding photographer, and serial student.