As I continued with my coaching and guiding work, the conviction to help others and the sense of purpose behind that has grown. A regular reader of my writings will noticed that I often write about education as much as I pen commentary on the culture we live within. It is probably because our education forms a very significant influence in our lives and moulds a lot of our foundational thinking and approach to conducting ourselves in society and life. And all of these make their way into the challenges we encounter as we join the workforce – which is where my coaching practice comes into play.
The goal of my coaching work is ultimately to promote self-reliance. I’m not trying to coach you so that you can rely on me to deal with your problems whether it is with discovering your aspirations, charting a career or just securing a job. I run alongside you to cope with the challenges you face because ultimately, I hope that you are able to retune your internal compass to get it to point your direction again; and for you to develop that awareness and sensitivity towards yourself in order to move forward in all the situations in life. The ability to rely on oneself is going to be central to mental health and the well-being of our society as a whole over the next few decades.
Our parents or even grandparents lived through messy times. There was war, strife, riots, slums and disorganised markets. There was adversity and children mostly did not even complete schooling. In the ‘school of life’, the learnt and they grew, developing self-reliance. Today, our efforts to plan just about everything and desire to get things organised rather than allow kids to grow organically means occupying our children with structure sort of learning of all forms. In part, it is also because parents actually have more financial, mental and physical capacity to manage the children’s childhood and experience. As a consequence, we are indulging in our children, spending ever more resources to help them get a headstart in all forms of socially-recognised credentials, and also on new toys, tools and entertainment for them.
In part, as we see other parents do that for their children, we think we fall short if we do not. And when our children makes mistakes, we feel responsible. When we judge them to be inadequate, we blame ourselves. What is the easiest way then, to avoid all of these? That is to control our kids; control their time, ensure they are ‘kept occupied’ through all kinds of programmes, helicopter parenting, lining up all things in life for them. Doing your best for your children then becomes simply making them extensions of your aspirations, dreams and your life.
To a some extent, that was what quite a lot of us who are now in the early years of our career have been subjected to. And that is also what we are doing to our children. What happens thereafter is that children lose their self-reliance. They prefer to live under the direction of someone else. They learn the rules of the game, the authority that they need to comply with, the things they should do, to be elevated socially. Once they have to be truly on their own, they are lost. The consequence has huge social implications to our mental health and resilience.
Because we are so used to taking directions and hearing from the society, we become less sensitive to our inner motivations and compass, relying more on extrinsic motivations. I started my coaching practice to help young adults and youths build up that mental resilience and also to develop greater self-reliance. It helps to be more aware of how one’s internal narratives are shaping our motivation, and to develop the ability to rewrite these stories. That does mean life will get messier, more complex, ridden with what we normally think of as ‘uncertainty’. What we do not recognise is that sense of loss we feel – when we reach the career point we had been working for and realise it wasn’t what we thought it would be, or when things are turning out dramatically different from what you expected for the first couple of times in life – is exactly the reminder that the certainty we think we have had is often false.