As with all families, we have accumulated
several stories that go down in our history books as legendary. One of these is the story of how my mother,
who was a relatively new immigrant to Canada, was driving by a bus stop on a
cold winter's day when she saw a young teenager smoking a cigarette. Absolutely horrified, she pulled over, yanked
the cigarette out of his mouth, and boldly reprimanded him by telling him never
to smoke again. Coming from Egypt where
all adults are to be respected, in her mind, it was okay to step in on behalf
of all mothers everywhere and discipline accordingly. That story represents my mother in every way
- her strong conviction, her unwavering beliefs, and her lack of hesitation to
do what she thought was right. When she
was asked to explain how she could do such a thing, she explained very clearly
that if her own son had been smoking at that age, she would have appreciated
having another mother step in and do the very same thing.
A few nights ago (over 50 years after the
notorious cigarette incident), Allan and I were driving down the street to pick
up Brian (my youngest stepson) from a friend's house. It was 10:15 p.m. and we drove right by a
school yard where we saw a bunch of teenagers hanging out. There were easily a dozen teenagers, maybe
more. At first glance it looked like
they were rough housing and playing around, but within seconds we realized that
they were not playing at all. Instead
they were deeply engaged in a street fight and beating each other up. I saw one kid punch another kid in the eye and
without a moment's hesitation I rolled down the window and used the gruffest,
roughest, and most scary mom-voice that I could muster and yelled:
"HEY - STOP THAT RIGHT
NOW! I'M GONNA CALL THE POLICE!"
For a split second, they looked up to see
where the voice was coming from. They
moved apart from one another and began heading toward what seemed like our car.
I rolled up the window quickly to watch
as the fight broke up completely and the two distinct factions headed in
different directions. I stopped a fight
and I was proud.
Allan asked me if I had considered what I
would have done if the teenagers had decided to turn on us.
The truth is I really didn't give that a
moment's thought. I just used my
instincts and jumped in with whatever means I had - doing what I felt was
right. If my own kids were caught in a
fight with other teenagers, I would have appreciated another parent stepping in
to do the very same thing.
Funny - the apple doesn't fall too far from
Sometimes taking after your parents is a
very positive thing and evokes an instinct that calls forth a genetic greatness. Other times, however, taking after your
parents can wreak a whole lot of havoc - particularly when this genetic
predisposition triggers inexplicable fears and self-doubt that hold dominion
over your goals and aspirations. I have
had many clients who have been deeply affected by the beliefs of their
parents. For example, one of my clients
has lived his whole life believing that he would never amount to much because
he never completed his university education; at least that's what his parents
told him. Another was terrified to have
children because she was abandoned as a baby by her birth mother and felt that
it wasn't in her DNA to be a good mother - after all, her own mother did not
believe that she could be a good mother, so why should she?
Often, the actions of our parents, even if
they are innocent and meaningless, can deposit a set of beliefs that can have
deep-seated implications. For example, I
once had a client who felt that her older sister was the preferred child
because one time when she was seven years old, that sister was taken to see a
play at the local theatre while she was left at home with a babysitter. After
that incident, she kept collecting evidence to support her theory. While it may seem like an insignificant
event, it had a long-lasting effect on her relationship with her parents, her
sister, and even her own children. Of
course she wasn't aware of her beliefs until they were uncovered in the
This is an important element of Frame of
Mind Coaching - to milk the genetic inheritance that
builds greatness and to find and let go of the inherited beliefs that create
limitations and barriers to success, wellness and happiness.
It's fascinating to become conscious of the
beliefs that rule your life - in fact, it's transformational!