Currently, my life is structured in such a way that I am (loosely) ‘in charge’ of 2 young people most weekday mornings, getting them up, dressed, breakfasted and out to school and nursery. On my return there is usually a 5-10 minute window where I catch 6 Music, Radio 2, or 5 Live (yes, I am strictly BBC) whilst making coffee before settling down to work.
This week there was a debate on Rachel Burden’s 5 Live ‘Your Call’ show about a school who were holding a ‘World of Work’ day. You may have heard the story. Children were invited to dress as if they were in a job they would like to do in the future, and encouraged to ‘use their imagination and … help express their ambitions for the future.’ All well and good, until the note to parents continued to say they were not allowing children to dress as professional sports people, pop stars or famous YouTubers, and instead children were asked to think of their ‘Plan B’ for future jobs.
An outcry subsequently followed, and (once I’d looked up and understood what a ‘famous YouTuber’ was) I considered the whole area of thinking big and making your dreams a reality – in short, what coaching is all about!
The main concern was that the message the school were giving actively dampened those children’s natural ambitions and put a limit on what they could achieve. What do we have if we don’t have hopes and dreams?
“Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t…You’re right.”Henry Ford
On the phone-in, a caller explained that her son, Edward, wanted to be Prime Minister – cue stifled giggling in the studio. Sure, goals should of course be realistic and achievable, but why shouldn’t Edward aspire to be PM? He may not achieve it, but if he has an interest in politics and pursues it, who knows where that could lead? Admittedly, there could well be genuine reasons why we are not able to achieve the goals we set – however, very often, the struggle is within ourselves. We hold limiting beliefs which stop us or give us excuses not to do what we really want to, or we may even listen to the views of other people who can discourage us if whatever we want to do doesn’t sit well with them, or fit their view of who they think we are.
I remember a careers meeting with a teacher at school when I was 16, and having realised I would not be a professional footballer, I wanted to be a sports journalist. Although well meaning, the teacher was not interested in sport, had no experience of that world whatsoever and therefore was limited in the advice he could give. My secondary school was a below average comprehensive with a poor reputation locally at the time. Despite this, from that school, so many individuals progressed to do amazing things. Paramedics, firefighters, a BBC editor, midwife, business owners; and personally, as football is my thing I will always be proud of working for The FA. The system/careers advice didn’t really help us to do this, it didn’t give us the self-belief – we had this within ourselves, we were motivated to get somewhere, progress, achieve, help people, make a difference. Perhaps we were the lucky ones, or we got that self-belief from other sources. I remember once saying to my dad – ‘I’m going to be the next Bryan Robson.’ He responded, ‘why not be the first Darren Lawrence?’
I am sure that things have changed significantly since my schooldays, but we need to be confident that those responsible for providing this kind of advice to young people are well placed to give it. Are they open minded enough to give sound, balanced guidance, or do they think back to their own experiences, which could have been 20 years ago or more? It is worth noting that this is not a new issue – in 1895, a Munich teacher famously wrote in Albert Einstein’s school report, ‘He will never amount to anything.’ And, Gary Lineker was once told that ‘you can’t make a living out of football.’ These early experiences can be motivating, but they can also be damaging.
Opportunities for young people now are everywhere. There are careers that exist today that were not available before (e.g. YouTuber). There will be many jobs in the future that do not actually exist right now. Who are we to restrict the motivation, drive, interests and dreams of the next generation?
I believe that having a ‘coaching’ type of conversation is more appropriate than relying on guidance and advice from people who may not share the same interests, experience, or mindset. Working with a coach allows you to set a goal and then look at what you can do to reach it. It raises your self awareness of a situation, generates creative options that you may not have thought of alone, and then it encourages you to commit to action. This way, your goal becomes a dream with a date.
In my opinion our outlook in society, of both ourselves and others, should be more open minded and aspirational rather than restrictive and closed. If young people are engaged in a more positive and encouraging conversation, creating possibilities rather than simply being told what to do from ‘people who know best’, how many more doors will this open, how many more dreams can become reality?
And the same is true of course for those of us a little longer in the tooth – it’s never too late to learn something new, set goals, follow and achieve your dreams.
‘Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars’Norman Vincent Peale
What are your thoughts on this blog? How do you/can you personally help friends, family, and young people to achieve their potential?
For yourself, what have you always wanted to do, and what’s stopping you from doing it right now? Who can help?
Darren Lawrence is a personal coach specialising in helping people to achieve their goals in sport, career and life. To book in for a 30 minute consultation please call 07703 359673, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at darren.lawrence.com