Peter Kowalke


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Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

By on August 5, 2023

Every day I decide who I want to be. This seems like the most natural thing in the world, but apparently it is not. I think my approach is not typical because many people don’t know how to change themselves, and often they have a limiting belief that certain changes are not possible. It is the old nature vs. nurture debate.

I’m a work in progress. I always look like me, but I’m a dog who learns new tricks. My thinking changes, my habits change, even my seemingly basic and well-worn Peter-ness changes when I put in the effort.

This growth is exhilarating, and it makes my life better. When I want something, I can get it. When I discover a deeper truth, I can embrace it. When I must adapt to changing conditions, I can. When something is broken, it can be fixed.

Not everyone does this, however. And as a long-time growth coach, I think I know why. (I’m not selling anything, so keep reading.)

The first reason that I seem relatively atypical in my unconstrained growth is knowledge of HOW to make changes to the Peter Operating System. I think this comes from not having gone to school until college. Nobody “trained me up” or told me what to do, so I got good at guiding my own growth and evolution. I know how to make changes and grow in any direction I want without needing someone to guide me. I’ve been tinkering with myself since I was young.

But the bigger reason is belief. Most people limit themselves with the excuse that “this just is the way I am.” They see a well-worn habit or way of thinking and believe they can’t change it because they have done it this way for decades and there’s no sign they can change it. Maybe it even is part of their DNA, they think.

Changing the deep stuff does take time. If you don’t give it time and put in the effort, you do fall back and think it is impossible. Where I think I’m somewhat different is that I’ve experienced firsthand that I can change my seemingly “essential” habits and beliefs, and so I do. These things can be changed with enough time and effort, even seemingly immutable things like food preferences. I know this fact because I’ve done it.

I can change anything about myself that isn’t serving me. Knowing the path for changing myself helps a lot, but the fundamental thing that makes me able to change anything I want about myself is understanding that I can change it. I am not burdened by the limiting belief that these things are unchangeable.

So when you need to change, change it. Don’t get down or feel disempowered, because you have the power to change whatever you want. Life is wonderful when you are growing and your best self. Even when you are a work in progress.

Peter is a relationship coach, writer/producer, and R&D monastic. He splits his time between San Francisco and Asia. Read more about Peter.