A Good Time to Teach Old Dogs New Tricks

There’s an old English proverb that I had always taken for granted.

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks

In my experience, this had always been a universal truth because people I’ve met the world over aren’t much different from each other when it comes to resisting change.

The older I got, the more I learned. The more I learned, the more I thought I knew. The more I thought I knew, the more complacent and set in my ways I became. When I was set in my ways, the less I felt I needed to learn or change.

Some corollary old world phrases:

  • “Been there, done that”
  • It’s the same old same old”
  • “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”
  • “A leopard cannot change its spots”
  • “Old habits die hard”
  • “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

All phrases I also use to take for granted. Many of these phrases originated at a time when daily life was governed by a conventional set of societal rules and expectations that remained stagnant over time.

I’m grateful for the development of an agile or growth mindset that has enabled me to question the truth of these proverbs, idioms and other phrases. I no longer take these phrases for granted.

But what about other people?

They continued to take all these phrases for granted, until now.

The new world reality of the pandemic has turned old world convention, rules and expectations on their head. At least until a vaccine is available.

For those of us engaged in change initiatives, a fortuitous side-effect of the pandemic is a pause in the perceived truth of these phrases.

Resistance to change evaporates or subsides.

Change is expected, needed and welcome.

A case for change has never been clearer or more accepted.

Here’s what those old phrases could look like now.

  • Old dogs become eager to learn new tricks.
  • Haven’t ever been here, never done that.
  • Nothing old stays the same, it’s all new.
  • Horses are leading us to water, lapping it up and inviting us to join in.
  • A leopard can be anything it needs to be.
  • Old habits can’t survive.
  • Everything is broken.

No one knows where this pandemic will take us next. In the meantime, change agents can benefit from this pause in some universal age-old resistance to change.

Let’s take this serendipitous opportunity to “make hay” in the lives of those we serve.

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