There are lots of sayings that have become ingrained in our language. We have heard them countless times, and in turn, these thoughts start to subconsciously become our beliefs. Sometimes we may not even question the accuracy of these thoughts; they just seem true because we grew up hearing them from adults. But when I hear some of these sayings, especially in light of all that I have learned, they have become glaring falsehoods.
Once such saying is, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” How many times have you heard that one? And with that thought in mind, how many times have you questioned your own ability to change or someone else’s? Countering that statement with, “but haven’t you heard of neuroplasticity,” may not be what rolls off the tongue. But I’d love if it did.
Neuroplasticity is our brain’s ability to change shape over our lifetime; continually shaping as we take in new thoughts and stimuli and as we change our behaviors. We start to form new neural connections and form whole new elaborate neural networks. And not only do we make new neural connections, we continue to grow new neurons over our lifetime, a process called neurogenesis. We don’t just get to a point where our brain is like, “ok, cool this is what you have to work with.” The thought that we just stop having the ability to learn and change is simply wrong.
But of all the sayings that populate our language, the one that gets me the most – and more accurately breaks my heart- is “don’t get your hopes up.” That is terrible advice, to give yourself or others. You see, hope is the catalyst for change. Without hope we won’t even try to change. Without hope we stop seeing opportunity or possibility. Without hope we just throw our hands up and proclaim that this old dog is destined to a life of the same tricks. But in hope lies our power.
In change theory, when we are looking to change a habit or reach a goal, one powerful technique is to increase our hope. Consider a goal you are trying to meet; you may have broken it down in to smaller sub-goals. Why? Because your hope is higher that you can complete those smaller goals. And what do you do? You try to accomplish them, slowly ticking them off until you reach your larger goal. If we can increase our hope around goals or change, we highly increase our likelihood of accomplishing them. So my hope around your hope is that you can reframe that saying. Please get your hopes up – get them as high as possible. Let your hope power you to unlimited heights. The sky’s the limit. Or is it that just another saying we have told ourselves. Maybe the sky was never the limit…