Our knowledge of brain science is rapidly evolving. Some things we now know:

Words matter. When you quit smoking, for example, did you tell people you were a non-smoker, or a smoker trying to quit? When you tried to change your leadership style, did you say things such as "I'm an autocrat trying to become more empowering," or "I'm a leader who empowers people?" The difference in verbiage between these approaches is not hair-splitting. Your brain hears things literally. So saying "I'm a smoker trying to quit" makes change difficult because your brain identifies you as a smoker.

Science is showing us that the brain is NEVER the finished product that we once believed it was. New behaviors and actions cannot only change skill types and LEVELS throughout your entire life, they can (and do) change your perspective on what's possible for you in compelling ways. In the not-to-distant past, science believed in the "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" theory of learning; that the brain was hard-wired by the age of ten (or even earlier), and the basics of your strengths, personality and character were likewise. Then came the discovery of neuroplasticity. Here's the short version of what we know about that, and its impact on learning:

Neuroplastic change in the brain can occur on a smaller scale, such as physical changes to individual neurons, or whole brain scales, such as cortical remapping, due to an injury. Regarding the latter example, most improvement will only occur if the injured person is a child. The former example, however, provides real hope to those of us who are either in the business of personal change or are attempting to change ourselves. In that case, behavior, environmental stimuli, thought and emotions can cause fundamental, neuroplastic change. That's good news regardless of your profession.

Scientists distinguish between synaptic plasticity, which refers to changes in how neurons connect to each other, and non-synaptic plasticity, which refers to changes on the neurons themselves. When you hear someone referring to the brain's capability to create new connections and pathways, they are referring to non-synaptic plasticity. Either way, we now know that old excuses like "I'm too old to change," or "my parents made me who I am, and I can't change," don't hold water – nor did they ever.

What are the implications for you?

• You can become fundamentally different than you are, even in later years. While change is easier when you are younger (You can teach an old dog new tricks, but it's tougher), you can still develop new skills and perspectives as you age. You may have been the creation of your parents, but you needn't be a permanent victim of earlier experiences, or limited by them, for your entire life.

• Outside-in change is more effective than inside-out change. Our experiences inform our beliefs, thoughts and feelings. You needn't have a spiritual epiphany to change.

When working with clients who are skeptical of their ability to change, I tell them not to worry about their beliefs or feelings. I encourage them to practice new actions and behaviors and to get feedback along the way. That way, they'll become incrementally more comfortable as they see the effectiveness of new behaviors. That success will rewire their brains.

• Self-talk matters. There was a time that I doubted the importance of positive self-talk. Science has shown us, however, that the messages we consciously repeat TO ourselves, ABOUT ourselves either stymie our growth or propel it. This is a fact and no longer a matter for legitimate debate among reasonable people. A personal example: I repeat the same five affirmations EVERY morning. Doing so over a long period of time has made a huge difference in how I view myself, and what I believe about my potential.

• Understanding, in a deep and specific way, how your early life experiences directly impacted your current beliefs, feelings and actions is a REALLY important part of your change journey. This isn't about blaming your parents for your life. It IS about understanding the REASONS that you became who you are without letting those reasons become EXCUSES. Reading material on this subject and reflecting on it is a good place to start. You may want to attend a workshop like the Landmark Forum (see landmarkworldwide.com) to develop deep understanding and craft change strategies.

• Developing the brain is like building muscle. It takes time and practice. We live in a world in which the pursuit of instant gratification coupled with short attention spans make this tough. We want answers and results quickly. Commitment, determination, focus and patience will yield positive results. Requiring results immediately will not.

• Effective techniques are available that will yield positive results. Mindfulness meditation, for example, can help you cultivate your ability to focus, to deal with pain, and to challenge preconceptions. Google Richie Davidson at the University of Wisconsin for more on this subject.

The bottom line: While a lot of people choose to be finished with their own development before they're thirty years old, they don't have to be. Do you want to be one of them?

Copyright 2016 Rand Golletz. All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Rand Golletz is the managing partner of Rand Golletz Performance Systems, a leadership development, executive coaching and consulting firm that works with senior corporate leaders and business owners on a wide range of issues, including interpersonal effectiveness, brand-building, sales management, strategy creation and implementation. For more information and to sign up for Rand's free newsletter, The Real Deal, visit http://www.randgolletz.com