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Hitesh Porwal

Certified Executive Coach

30 September2019

You must have heard about Mr. Paulo Coelho, right? He’s definitely one of the more successful writers alive today, having sold millions (or may be more) of books worldwide. The man who wrote the soul-stirring (and an international bestseller) The Alchemist; Paulo Coelho doesn’t just write, he inspires. The world is surely a better place today, thanks to the man and his body of work.

Now flashback to when Paulo Coelho was in his teens and his parents – Mr. and Mrs. Coelho – had the young man committed to an asylum. Not once, not twice, but on three different occasions.

Why, you ask? That’s because Paulo Coelho wanted to write.

Thankfully, the then young Paulo, successfully staved off his parents’ incessant attempts at dictating (and diverting) his career choice. Surely, the literary world would’ve been half as dazzling, had the gifted writer succumbed to his parents’ diktat and tuned out to be a people-pleaser.


Why do your parents object to your career decisions?

When parents exhibit a lack of enthusiasm towards the career decisions that you take (or offer staunch resistance, for that matter), I believe it is likely because of the following four reasons:


 ·        They want you protected at all times

The loftier your aspirations are, the bigger a potential for disappointment. When your parents are unwilling to accept your career choices, understand that their resistance stems from an inherent need to protect you at all times. Parents want to see you excel at everything; more importantly, they don’t want you to go through the pangs of disappointment and failure – should things not go the way you have planned.

But life seldom works out that way. I believe that the greatest reward lies in you going all out to pursue your dream. In that journey, chances are you’d feel more alive and empowered than ever before.


 ·        They are not up to speed on the latest trends (and therefore consider them sham)

Remember that what your parents suggest is actually just an extension of their understanding of life. The advice they have on offer is steeped in personal life experiences that unfolded in a particular way. Now, they don’t want you to deviate from the established norms and conventions (of what should constitute your career).

All in all, their unwillingness to accept your career choice results from a need to abide by familiarity. They don’t necessarily reject your opinion, but ardently want you to see your life through the prism that they once had. A prism that probably was useful during their prime, but is certainly outdated and foggy today.


·        They fear change (and would strongly resist it)

Humans are wired to dislike change. Well, at least most of us are. Left to ourselves, we would try to resist change up to a considerable degree. That’s because a change is a leap into the unknown, a future that isn’t certain and doesn’t guarantee a positive shift in fortunes.

Your parents could be offering strong opposition to your growth plans and beliefs, only because they don’t want you to take a wild departure from the reality they’ve created all this while. That’s because it would mean a different reality, one where you don’t play by the textbook and act predictably all the time.

Reality is that everything changes. We either adapt, or we perish. That is the bottom-line staring right at our face.


·        They need you to be with them

Should you be the only child or your parents’ sole support system, heading off to chase your biggest dreams while leaving your parents to fend for themselves wouldn’t be the ideal step to take. That is understandable, and one should respect that.

But here is a catch. Have your guards up in such a situation, as there have been examples of doting sons and daughters brandishing this as an excuse to not pursue their aspirations. Make sure this isn’t a phony excuse to relax in the known comforts of your existing job, house, or city.


What can you do about it?

If you have already decided to listen to your heart, despite your parents’ disapproving eyes (and the hundreds of Doubting Thomas’es out there), here are a few tips you can consider:


  • Firstly, don’t confuse respect with obedience and compliance. You need not be subservient to your parents just because you want to show oodles of respect. That only points to the fact that you could be passive and submissive. Your parents are worthy of your respect, and will always be that way. Not being pliable doesn’t amount to disrespect. Be clear about this.


  • Talk to your parents about your career choice and take them on your stride. Make sure to do your homework so that you’re ready for the conversation in time. A simple talk can lead them to recognize your commitment and passion for your trade.


  • As you grow through life, you’d have to decide whom you choose to disappoint. You can either disappoint your parents, or yourself and then blame your parents through the remainder of your life. When you disappoint someone for the sake of your vision, see that as something courageous rather than being rude. It’s your dream. You got to protect it.


"And then the day came, when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."         - Anais Nin


  • Remember, your parents want you to succeed. So should you choose and excel at a trade that is in keeping with your aptitude and preference, your parents would also be the happiest people around.


Sample this

After eking a successful career out of financial services for more than two decades, I decided to become an executive coach. When I informed my father (who had been a businessman all his life) about it, he didn’t sound encouraging at all; simply (and obviously!) because he didn’t understand Executive Coaching and why I'd do that and start all over again.

Given the struggles he went through in his life, he wanted me to play safe, and thereby, expected me to continue what I was doing. However, I was absolutely clear about the new calling and the opportunities -- both in terms of self-fulfillment and the exciting challenge of building something from scratch-- that lay ahead of me.

So what did I do? Before quitting my job, I spent some time planning out the transition.

I got in touch with a professional coach and worked with him to ensure that my core strengths (that I identified using Clifton Strengths Finder), my interests (that 'I'd been writing down on loose sheets of paper and refining it over the weekends) and lifestyle goals were well aligned with my new career dream. Interestingly, discussions with my coach only made me more resolute and steadfast at what I wanted to do.

After spending a couple of sleepless nights pondering over my father's concerns and how I could have better enrolled him into my vision, I saw a clear choice in front of me - take the plunge or regret the missed opportunity all my life. I took the plunge.


"Trust your instincts. No one knows you better that you."


In conclusion

If you want to honor the people you love, you will have to take a few decisions that might initially seem to go against their ideals. You might end up causing a little resentment here and there; but at the end of the day, it is you who will have to live with a decision as vital as a career choice, all your life.

It is your job to sell your vision to your loved ones. That is the way you would be able to make your old folks proud of you.

And remember, help is just around the corner.