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“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”.

My 15-year-old car recently had to be admitted to the car hospital to infuse anything possible into its worn body as somewhat of a “Hail Mary” to extend its life. After getting her admitted I am not going to lie when I say I was a little gitty when the service provider pointed me toward a shinny new hybrid sedan as her temporary replacement.

I got myself situated in the driver seat and just soaked in the new car smell for a moment before feeling a little out of sorts. A million thoughts running through my head. First things first. Get the seat and mirrors adjusted. Check. Ok, now push the little button. But wait, that is supposed to be the place that holds my key so I don’t lose it. Ugh. Yes the “key”. Do I put it in my purse or in the cup holder? How do I make sure I don’t lose it? Nevermind, I will worry about that later. Let’s put this thing in drive. Wait, I don’t hear anything. Did I forget to start the car? This is going to be a long few days…..

Needless to say, I was more than happy to return that weird spaceshippy thing and get my old faithful back.  As I pulled out of the parking lot, I thought to myself, this thing must live forever.

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Yes, the tech era has been no friend of mine. Computers have always intimidated me. That said, I was late to the party on just about everything. I had a flip phone until probably 2011 or 12. My first tablet (which was a gift because I didn’t see the point), around 2013ish and an e-reader after that. Again, it was a gift because well-meaning people thought I was quite “deprived”.

Yes, I am definitely not a tech person.

That said, my behaviors quite clearly align with this belief.

On the other hand, I have friends my age who love “tech”. They are the first to the party with every new shiny piece of “tech” and seem to have mastered it in a couple of hours. I, on the other hand, after 7 days of practice, can’t confidently operate a hybrid car the short distance to and from work…….

Here is the key difference. My “tech friends” are eager to change and grow when it comes to new technology. I, on the other hand, am not (eager to learn new tech) .  And the older I get, the more I want to dig in my heels when something new comes out that would seemingly make life easier.

I am hard-pressed to find a lonely person who doesn’t want friends, someone who is broke and doesn’t want wealth, or a person dealing with a health challenge who doesn’t want “health”.

That said, change is hard. Improving our circumstances (in whatever area we believe we are not where we want to be), is hard.

Unlike my aversion to “tech,” I am somewhat addicted to “self-improvement.” Not because I think there is some magic pot of gold at the end of the rainbow but because I really enjoy getting better at things. I want to be a better servant to my creator, friend, therapist, business owner, and family member.  That said, I get excited when I do the work that moves the needle in any of these areas.

But Houston we have a problem… I have a tendency to exhibit some lazy and undisciplined behaviors.

Case and point, I have a love/hate relationship with writing this weekly article. I love helping people improve their physical and mental well-being. I love storytelling and mentally working out the incongruencies within the human experience. But sometimes, I don’t love the process.

That said, when it comes time to write, I see the worst version of me show its ugly head. For example, this morning I planned to write.  However, getting to this point of sitting in front of a word document was no easy task. I spent the previous 2 hours on Youtube learning about how to save money for retirement, “10 steps to building a successful business”, and the pros and cons of life in Japan. Unfortunately, zero input that will contribute to the output of being helpful to you. Unless you want my opinion on life in Japan. 😊 But I digress.  The point is, starting was hard.

I start most physical therapy sessions with the same questions. This includes “How are you feeling about your progress and how are your home exercises going”? The answers run the gamut.

The ones that always peak my curiosity are

“I was lazy”


“I know I didn’t do what I should”

My immediate thought is…. compared to who or what? Followed by why?

“Lazy” refers to someone who “is not willing to work or be energetic”.

Should” implies “moral obligation”.

That said,

Why is it that some people believe their behaviors mean they aren’t “willing to work”?

Why would someone feel a sense of “moral obligation” to perform a task? Especially when that task is seemingly about improving their health or finances.

It is interesting to me that when I am “pressured” into learning new tech, and I refuse, I never perceive my behaviors as “lazy.”  Or when I am completely unwilling to learn how to drive a new car, arguably more reliable, I am indifferent to my decision. Maybe an informative insight….. At the moment, my car does the intended job of getting me from point A to point B. Learning a new piece of “tech” seems like a waste of time and unnecessary. But there will come a day when my car will fail me and I will not be able to leave my house….. At that point, my motivation to “learn” might change…….TBD.

On the other hand, I desire to be a better communicator of ideas and information in an effort to help others for the short time we have on this earth. When I fall short of my own standards in this area, I call the behavior “laziness”.

In psychology, there is something called the self perception theory which makes the argument that people become aware of certain attitudes by observing their own behaviors.

If this theory holds true, it is logical to think you might feel lazy because of your most recent memories on a certain behavior.

“It is thought that since we cannot know certain things about ourselves for certain, we look to our own behaviors to tell us what our beliefs and attitudes are (Bem, 1972)” (Source)

When I start my day by getting on Youtube, the act of starting to write becomes much harder. When I start my day by opening a blank word document, I am more motivated to start typing.

A commonly held assumption is that attitude leads to behavior. Self-perception theory flips this script on its head. The theory presents the idea that behavior leads to attitude. In other words, starting will give you the necessary motivation to continue.

Although this is debated, some psychologists use the “foot in the door (FITD)” technique as an example of how self-perception theory works in practice. FITD is a compliance tactic that aims to getting a person to agree to a large request by first having them agree to modest requests.

An example is when a salesperson asks to show you a product. By you agreeing to this request, you are more likely to agree to their next request. For example, a petite little Asian woman offers to show you a juicy piece of “meat” on the end of a toothpick.  You voluntarily agree to look at the piece of said meat. Next, she offers you a free sample. You voluntarily take the offer. Next, you are sitting on a hard plastic chair in a noisy food court, staring at a plate of chicken chow mein.

Or…..a mechanic shop attached to a car dealership might offer a “free rental car” while they “tune up” your old, hanging by a thread, car……. 🤔

Yes, slimy in sales. However, potentially game changing when it comes to making the necessary changes to improve one’s relationships, finances, business endeavors and/or health.

If self-perception theory is true, and I believe it is, the road to eating healthier may start with throwing away the suboptimal foods in your home. Your memory of this recent behavior will lead you not to buy unhealthy foods the next time you go to the grocery store.

If self perception theory is true, and I believe it is, the road to consistently exercising might start with making a commitment to put your workout shoes on every morning. The next optimal decision would be to go for a walk.  (credit to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits). Side note, whether you actually go for the walk or not, you still win because you accomplished the standard you set for yourself which was to just put on your shoes. Win!

If self perception theory is true, and I believe it is, the road to normalizing your movement patterns (Ie: walking reaching, grasping..etc) starts by setting up a physical therapy session, or watching a Youtube video (at Rehab HQ 🫠). Your next optimal decision my be that you choose to try one of the exercises.

If applied consistently, over time, getting to the gym won’t seem like such a task. Getting through your repetitive, often times boring, movement retraining won’t be such a mountain. Changing suboptimal eating habits won’t be so overwhelming.

But more importantly, maybe you CAN teach an old dog new tricks. Maybe life gets better with age. YOU get better with age. You exhibit self-discipline and the motivation to do hard things. Maybe your health crisis, financial crisis, family crisis was intended as a catalyst toward a better version of you and of life (read my recent article on post traumatic growth).

And maybe, just maybe…..

You already are self-discplined, motivated, and a person of good health and well-being that is eager to be revealed.