You can teach an old dog new tricks

Dec 5, 2020 | Mental Wellbeing | 0 comments

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Think again, says Life Coach, Dan Piler. In this article Dan explains why we should be ‘always learning’ as we age.


Right now, even as you read this, you are ageing. It’s a gradual, continuous process of natural change that begins pretty much as soon as we can remember.

It is true that we’re not getting any younger……..but we can get better! So, if you’ve been putting off that change in your career or y putting off that online course you were looking at because you think you’re too old to learn something new, it’s time to think again.

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” – oh don’t believe a word of it, and neuroscience confirms this.

It really doesn’t matter how old you are, the flexible nature of your brain means that it continues to change for the better, as long as you continue learning.

That means you can learn a new language, take up pilates, or change career if that is what you really want to do! It’s all about choice.

To draw a parallel with our physical fitness, we’ve all become more aware of the benefits of being physically active. When I was a child, the 50-60 year old people that I knew certainly didn’t look like my peers do today!

We know that although we may not be able to run long distances like we could in our 20s (or train as intensively in the gym or play competitive sport like we used to) we can still maintain a level of fitness and flexibility through “midlife” and well into old age.

Learn. Grow. Evolve.

And the same is true for our mental fitness. Your brain has a flexibility to it, this “neuroplasticity” allows it to change and develop through growth and reorganisation.

What this means for you is that, far from shrivelling up and withering away as we get older, your brain thrives on new information and craves new activities and skills to continue its steady and sustained development.

So here’s where the neuroscience comes in – the way your brain grows and develops is by creating new neural connections, and this happens when we engage in something new.

These new connections become stronger over time because we develop a coating (Myelin) around them, protecting them and allowing for swift and efficient transmission of signals.

The more we use these connections, the thicker and stronger this Myelin becomes, and as a result the quicker and easier we can perform the related task or activity.

This process is called Myelination, and research tells us that myelination continues as we get older so there is no excuse for not doing that thing that you always wanted to do………but told yourself you couldn’t!

In 2020 we have all been forced to adapt to a completely new environment, we have learnt new skills, adapted to working from home, home schooled our kids, changed from face to face meetings and communication to online video connections.

We have developed in ways that we wouldn’t have dreamed of this time last year.

My Mum has just turned 79 (and she won’t be overjoyed with me publicly stating that…..sorry Mum!). As with many others during lockdown, she had to face the prospect of self-isolation on her own in her flat, and for someone who is normally active and working as a craniosacral therapist, that wasn’t easy. Her response was to take up painting. Never picked up a brush before, she now has a portfolio of work hung in “galleries” including her home, grandchildren’s bedrooms and friends’ living rooms.

Not to mention numerous requests for commissions from Facebook viewers responding to her paintings appearing online! Apart from me being very proud of her, it highlights the reality that we truly can continue to learn throughout our life and into old age, the only thing we need is the desire to do so.

With modern technology we now have the tools to watch a brain change, and neuroscientific research shows us that significant structural development occurs in adults who are learning. We all have a huge and continuing capacity for learning, for growing, for evolving.

So, it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks, and know you this, what is it that you told yourself you couldn’t do before, that you now know you can?



More about Dan Piler

Dan Piler works across the whole spectrum of coaching through to therapy to help you make profound changes that will positively impact you in your career, personal life and emotional world.

Dan offers 1-1 and group sessions.




Enjoyed You can teach an old dog new tricks? Read Great advice for my younger self HERE





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