They often say that you cannot teach an old dog any new tricks. The strong belief is that bad habits will eventually phase out as we grow older. However, wisdom does not automatically cause our least likeable traits to fall by the verge. It becomes difficult with age to let go of a long-ingrained, reflexive behavior.
Why does that happen?
We form habits over several years that works on a dopamine-reward system. As time goes, our brains put up a lot of resistance to change a pattern that has become our default behavior. Research says that as early as the age of thirty, an individual’s character has set like plaster. Psychologists have broken down our core personality traits into five categories: openness, agreeableness, extraversion conscientiousness and neuroticism. As we grow, we are more confident about ourselves, less reliable on opinions and not willing to compromise on these core beliefs.
What is the way out?
Research stands proof that the ability of mammals to adapt to change fades with age. However, the positive side of the theory on an individual’s behavior is that it is not a product of a fixed blueprint. Age is a combination of experiences and there are a few ways of coping with a rigid brain.
- Form new yet simple good habits
If it is difficult to break the old ones, try forming new practices so you do not serve to further entrench the bad habit. It is true that we are more malleable when we are young. However, good habits can be formed at a later stage in life too with a conscious effort. It can be simple behavioral changes such as smiling, being polite and working on the art of listening.
- Go down the memory lane
Do some detective work on your own life. An inability to change your behavior may be related to increasing social isolation, career trajectories shift, or major life changes. If you have been suffering through that, being apathetic is common. The goal-directed actions are reduced to zero. It is important you feed your brain with the right motivation to control it and not the other way round.
- Strive for realistic achievements
A part of your brain refuses to accept where you stand in the current scenario and drives you back to the time when you were young and full of goals. It gives rise to stress and anxiety and gets you stuck in an uncomfortable zone between dreams and reality. Try to reason with yourself and strive for goals that have a high real-time achievable success ratio. Getting control over undesirable behaviors is absolutely essential at an older age. This will in turn force you to focus on the betterment of yourself.
- Find your unique age-specific motivator
At a young age, we strive for money, power and success and that changes with time greatly. A bad behavioral trait can be influenced largely by a good motivator. Ask yourself what is it that you desire at this point in life and understand the best strategies for motivating change.
- Get your body geared
When habits are majorly a brain’s game, physical fitness also has a large role to play in eliminating ill behavior. metabolism starts to slow down as you age and risk factors for certain conditions rise. Basic exercises are essential to keep your body healthy and happy. Inculcating a habit for fitness is a must because it only gets harder to neglect your body and get away with it as you grow old.
The best part about ageing is that you will finally find the time, maturity and general foresight to achieve what you have in mind. The only thing you need to do is take as many good and positive aspects as you can take to the brain and let it do its job then.