Many of us have had our futures determined early in life by authority figures. Parents, teachers, coaches and others in authority often define, from their perspective, our strengths and weaknesses. On the other hand, some of those same authority figures fix the damage done earlier in childhood. This is my story.
I remember well my high school senior visit with my guidance counselor. He looked at my long hair and my attendance record and advised me that I had four choices in life: Army, Navy, Marines, or Air Force. My English teacher confirmed his analysis by pointing out my writing weaknesses that will never be at the college level. She suggested pushing a broom at the mill. Disappointed, I accepted their assessments of me and deemed myself not college worthy. Unfortunately the mill was not hiring so had to seek other opportunities. After a summer of working construction in the Rocky Mountains, I enlisted in U.S. Navy.
It was aboard a Destroyer in the middle of the Indian Ocean, where I received my first life coaching experience. As I began my daily run around the ship, the ship’s captain joined me. As we started chatting he asked me about my plans after the Navy. I explained that I was from a mill town so I would probably work at the local factory. He asked “why not college?” I explained that I was not smart enough for college, to which he responded, “How do you know that is true?” He was right - I really had no proof to support this “unhealthy thinking habit”. After all, I have passed many Navy tests and qualifications to become an E-5 rank. After this encounter the captain appointed me the ship’s “Educational Petty Officer”. In this role I began arranging for visiting professors to teach college classes on the ship and recruiting enlisted sailors to fill the classes. I passed 3 college level courses while out at sea.
Fast-forward 30 years. I have completed:
A Bachelors Degree in Comparative Politics
A Masters Degree in Counseling
Doctoral work in Adult Education.
Two decades of career and educational coaching
5 years teaching career decision-making classes to high school and college students
10 years running my own Coaching and Psychotherapy practice
The key take away is that no one has the right to ‘designate’ your potential. Furthermore, if find yourself with self-beliefs that that have no proof, find support from a trusted source.