The roots of the family tree often run deep, carrying with them both negative and positive messages that can have an immense impact on your perceptions, decision, and behavior. I was talking to a client about when to make a career change. We talked about the pluses and minuses of moving in a new direction. As we talked, he realized it could be an opportunity for him to change his own behavior. You see, he literally had inherited several negative messages from his father that influenced his outlook on life, work and personal fulfillment.
“My father ran one of the biggest and most prosperous medical practices in my home town,” my client explained. “He typically had an incredibly long workday that started at 4 a.m. and lasted until around 8:30 p.m. When he wasn’t seeing patients, he was usually too worn out or preoccupied to join any family activities. Even on weekends, it was usually my mom, my sister, and myself who played together. My dad was either working or, at best, absent-minded.”
As we discussed his situation further, my client was able to accurately identify several factors that had impacted his life, career, and perception of success. These factors made it difficult for me client to know when to make a career change. Putting the need to succeed over self worth
“Whenever I received a “B” in school, rather than complimenting me on my achievement, my dad would comment that an “A” would have been better. Unfortunately, even receiving an “A” wasn’t good enough for my father. That achievement simply meant that ‘the test must have been too easy’.”
Utilizing another person’s definition of success and not your own
“As an adolescent I had a couple of very dominant hobbies that I was passionate about. However, in his desire to emphasize the importance of academic excellence, my father failed to acknowledge or further engage these passions. I think I have yet to get over my tendency of making my dad’s definition of success (good grades, money, material possessions, etc.) my own reality.”
Placing duty over personal desire
“I don’t believe my dad’s idea about the right thing to do accurately reflected what he truly wanted to do with his life. He always referred to his own work as something he had to do to pay the bills and put food on the table. He was the only son in his own family whose dad had not come back from WWII. As a result, his mom seemed to have put a lot of impossible-to-achieve expectations on him as the only male representative of the family. I think my mom also placed many unrealistic expectations on his shoulders. So, I think my dad, for most of his life, was performing for an imaginary audience with the need to present an image of success to the outside world.”
Never allowing yourself the freedom to fail
“Failure was definitely not an option for my dad. Had he failed, my mom would have divorced him and my grandmother would not have respected him. His two sisters did their fair share in pressuring him, as well.”
Automatically incorporating the dominant behaviors from a negative family role model into our own personal value system is easy to do. Although it may be impossible to ever eliminate them entirely, uprooting these barriers is an essential first to step towards adopting a new perspective or understanding that will allow you to create and fully experience true success in your life. As my client learned, it can be done.