"After A Certain Age You Can't Change Anymore"Oct 03, 2023
"After a certain age you can't change anymore."
That's what someone said to me at a recent high school graduation anniversary. Someone I finished school with and is now in a leadership position in the chemical sector…a very seasoned leader with lots of experience.
So - I got curious I asked him WHY he would believe that.
I guess we all know what happens if we have a strong belief: WE GET IT CONFIRMED WHEREVER WE LOOK.
He told me a couple of stories where people reporting to him had great skills in their job but no "soft" skills and often had run-ins with their people. Despite being asked to change, they didn't. So far his "proof".
So it must be true, ey?
So now…here's the actual truth:
WE CAN CHANGE OUR THINKING AND BEHAVIOUR - AND EVEN OUR PERSONALITY AT ANY GIVEN STAGE IN LIFE.
Really?….how does that work - you might ask yourself.
First of all: most behaviour and habits we show are not part of our DNA - so we're not born with it, but have acquired or learned them during our lifetime.
What we can learn, we can also unlearn.
On top of that there is something that is called NEUROPLASTICITY - which is there throughout our lives. It means nothing else than the fact that our brain is capable of changing, of creating new pathways and connections until we die.
Externally that relates to behaviour, patterns and beliefs.
Tada - the scientific proof is there - we CAN change at any age.
It's all about choice
Now the far more important question is: DO WE CHOOSE TO CHANGE?
People in my experience only change for two reasons:
- To eliminate current or potential pain OR
- To create joy and pleasure
Too simple? That's what I thought …and still, it turns out to be true - check in with yourself and you'll notice the same.
People coming to me are in pain from situations they experience in their life/business (hardly ever is completely separated).
People come to me because they strive to succeed at the next level and require the skills and capacity for it.
And both scenarios are big motivators. The WHY is clear - so they put in the effort.
Here's an example from my own life:
Years ago, I used to take a lot of things people said or did around me, personally.
- People laughed next to me - they must laugh about me.
- People stopped talking when I approached - they must have gossiped about me.
- Someone criticised my work - they probably don't like me.
- Someone didn't keep their promise - I must not be important enough.
Which resulted in being offended, sad, hurt, unwanted, not appreciated - the list of unwanted emotions was long. In short - it made me feel miserable, I kept on wasting tons of time with overthinking and my relationships suffered as I blamed others for how I felt - there was my WHY I urgently wanted to change that.
On my path and during my coaching training I learned how to shift this behaviour - turned out it's not a part of me per se, but simply a pattern.
And my motivation? I simply didn’t want to feel those feelings anymore and craved freedom from other people’s behaviour and words and more of this inner peace (priceless!).
So - I got rid of those feelings - well, mostly. ;-)
NO! Of course not.
It required a process (see HOW to change) and ...practice. Lots of it.
So - coming back to change and age.
Yes, when we've practised a certain habit (i.e.taking things others say personally like me) for years or even decades, it looks like this is simply us.
Part of who we are.
And it seems impossible to change that.
The background: there are many & solid connections built between neurons the more we do the same things - a bit like a motorway and our brain (built for efficiency) automatically goes to the trained reaction eventually.
What fires together wires together.
HOW to change
IF this particular habit does not serve anybody, to change it, these steps need to happen:
- Awareness of the habit/pattern/behaviour
- Knowing your WHY you choose to change and getting to know what triggers the pattern
- Defining a potentially different behaviour
- Learning how to hit the brakes when the triggers hit
- Practice the new behaviour
That way new pathways are built in the brain and eventually the new behaviour becomes automated.
Voila - change achieved.
Yes - it might go wrong at first.
Like when learning how to ride a bicycle. Doesn't work the first time either (unless you're a unique talent). And maybe we even fall for the 10th time.
It takes practice and an eye on the price: what will be different when I achieve the change? How will my life/job be better then?
And then you've got a good chance of changing - whatever age.
So let's stop justifying shitty or harmful - for us or others - behaviour and thoughts with age.
You can change - and so can others. If we/they choose to.
PS: Want to change things that are harmful in your life and career and don't know HOW ...OR - you don't even know WHAT is in your way (the infamous blind spots)? I'm Claudia - an Executive and Personal Leadership Coach and Trainer and happy to check with you how you could get unstuck. Just get in touch HERE