In a world teeming with crappy clichés, few phrases irk me as much as "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." Everything about this phrase bothers me. As a coach, the implied limitation and defeatism that often accompanies it cut me to my core. Few things pain me more than hearing a client utter this phrase or phrases like it. Why?
Because buried in this age-old adage lies in its fatalistic outlook. It shouts an inability to learn new things as we age. In 20 years of coaching that has NEVER been true. The reality is, it's not about the age of the dog, but rather the willingness of the dog to learn.
It's not about how old we are, how long we've been in a job, or how much experience we claim to have. The real determining factor is our openness and readiness to acquire new knowledge, skills, and abilities.
People often use age, time spent in a job or hobby, or the accumulation of "experience" as excuses for why they can't venture into uncharted territory or pick up a new skill. It's a cop-out, a self-imposed limitation that restricts personal growth. The reality is, you can learn anything you want, whenever you decide to learn it. The only obstacle standing in your way is whether or not you believe you can.
The moment you utter the words, "I can't learn something new," you're placing unnecessary boundaries on your own potential. It's a self-sabotaging mindset that hinders progress and personal development. It's time to throw away this defeatist attitude and recognize that your ability to learn is not confined by external factors but by your own perception.
Bottom line: if you find yourself using age, time, or experience as an excuse for stagnation, in my eyes, you're behaving like a petulant child. It's a tantrum, a refusal to put in the effort required for growth. Excuses may provide temporary comfort, but they won't propel you forward. It's time to cast aside this victim mentality and take control of your narrative.
If you identify an aspect of your life that requires change, don't succumb to self-imposed limitations. Instead, make a conscious decision to alter the course. Acknowledge that you possess the capacity to learn and change anything you desire. The power to transform your life is in your hands.
Try this: the next time you catch yourself uttering phrases like "can't teach an old dog new tricks", smack your own hand. Seriously. Smack it. Then, shake off the limiting thought, and replace it with a mindset that welcomes growth and an attitude that you can achieve ANYTHING you set your mind to and are willing to work for.
You are not bound by the constraints of age, time, or experience. The only limit that exists is the one you impose upon yourself. Break free from the shackles of self-imposed limitations, and embrace the fact that you can, indeed, teach an "old dog" new tricks—provided that the dog is willing to learn.