Yes, You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks




I’ve been writing this column for a while now and I hope everyone that has read it has gained something from my expressed opinions. All I ever want is to be able to help people. It’s my job! And at 49 years old, I’ve been doing it for over two decades, so, I’m an “old dog”.


Well, this old dog learned a new trick of sorts. Or, rather, I was awakened to the realization that I’ve been overlooking one skill while prioritizing others. You see, I believe that the human body is capable of much more than we think as a collective society. No matter what your age, I believe that if you are given the tools and strategies to do so, you can do amazing things. I’ve seen it firsthand. It’s the one overriding philosophy that I use in my practice as a physical therapist.


But sometimes that philosophy clouds the need to support the human spirit as well as the body. I had a patient who I was driving really hard because I knew the potential he had to improve. We had worked hard in the past and his results were literally astounding…he was easily one of my top success stories.

I was prioritizing a physical program that I knew would work but I failed to support his spirit by giving him kudos for his hard work and encouraging him rather than talking about how slow the progress was coming along this time. It served to defeat him to a degree that I simply was not seeing. I was so focused on what I know is possible that I wasn’t serving to buoy his spirit to help him emotionally get there. It is a terrible feeling to learn this lesson, but I am glad that it was verbalized as it will make me better at what I do going forward.


There is a saying that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”. Well, I want you to learn from my experience that sometimes “the flesh is willing, but the spirit is weak”.


No matter the reason we are interacting with a person, we must try our best to see every interaction not only from your perspective but from THEIR perspective. I vow to do that better in my professional and personal lives everyday as I know it only helps me be more effective in both.


The human body is capable of amazing things when the right tools and strategies are in place, but the human spirit is what drives the belief and fights the normal sense that we have limitations. Nothing great has ever been accomplished without a healthy human spirit.


Old dogs can learn new tricks…my patients realize this because I ask them to work harder than they think is possible. My plans of care for my patients always include exercise, balance training, pain relief strategies, teaching etc. Those plans of care now automatically include what this old dog has learned, a need to fully support the human spirit.


Please be good and do good!

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