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Old dog tricks

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Who says? Everybody? This kind of thinking holds us back. It’s a persistent cultural belief (at least in some cultures) that your ability to learn new things deteriorates as you get older. This smacks of logical fallaciousness to me. Perhaps we observe older people and their apparent lack of willingness to change or learn. So we jump to the conclusion that when people get older they cannot change or learn.

We’ve known for quite a while about Neuroplasticity and its benefits throughout our lifetime. Yes, certain physical brain functions do deteriorate over time, but the ability to learn doesn’t.

The problem is not our physiology – it’s our thinking. We’ve evolved to develop shortcuts for common actions. Once we’ve developed shortcuts, they’re difficult to change. Think about how tricky it is to change habits. Lots of conscious effort needs to be expended to move neurons along new pathways and for them to stay moving along those new pathways.

But yet we continue to reinforce these outdated beliefs with the things we say, the idioms that continue to be used to this day, regardless of the new research that has proven them wrong. Perhaps if we change the things we say, eventually the new ideas will become believable to us and we’ll force those new pathways.

Imagine what tricks the old dogs will be able to learn then!

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