As worried, sad, and matronly-mortified as I was as I sent my first born off to college 2,733 miles away from me (but who’s counting), I got to thinking how different his experience will be from mine.
OK, not the ‘torturing our mother’ part…
I came to the US to study 32 years ago, with my Spanish-English Dictionary in hand. I was raised in Ecuador by parents who struggled to send me to grade school. As much as they believed in education, it was a huge challenge for them to support me to graduate from high school, let alone go to college.
Despite the obstacles I faced in going to university, I believed that if I studied and worked hard enough, I would achieve the American dream.
And work hard, I did.
During college, I worked two jobs during the day and went to school at night. Each day began at 6:30 am and ended at 10:30 pm. I managed to squeeze in one marriage and a divorce, quicker than I got my diploma. It took me seven years to finish a four-year degree.
Eek is right. Fingers-crossed my son will have my husband’s DNA and finish in four.
I graduated and eventually got a job on Wall Street. So what if I wasn’t happy, HATED numbers, and was lonely?! I was making good money and firmly believed, as my parents did, and their parents did, and their parents did, that struggle is par for the course. That fighting for the American dream was just that…a fight. It came with hardship, sacrifice, and struggle.
Did you nod?
Truth is, I might have been living the American dream, but I wasn’t living my dream.
Enter The Handel Method® and one of its mouthpieces — my new executive life coach. And guess what she came after, first and foremost? My dreams. And not just my dreams, my limiting beliefs, negative thoughts, and the theories I had (or that had me) that were informing my ENTIRE reality.
Not only did I believe that I had to work extremely hard to get what I wanted, I also believed, understandably, that things were harder for me as an immigrant.
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And, well, what we believe, we prove, right?
No wonder my life felt exponentially difficult. Some “things” (i.e. college) took an arduously long time and other “things” (i.e. marriage) took a tumultuous, although short, time.
Maybe (cough, cough) I was my own problema.
With the help of my coach, I began to not only hear my negative beliefs, but invent some new, positive beliefs to replace my old ones with. For example:
I replaced, “Only by working REALLY hard can I get the results I want…”
…and “Things are harder for me as an immigrant…”
…with “MY OPPORTUNITIES FIND ME!”
As simple as this may sound, you’d have to try it to believe it, and believe it as you try it.
I then, and this is KEY, went looking for evidence for my new belief, identifying brave, successful, Hispanic leaders who had already paved the way.
Sure enough, MAJOR shifts began to happen. I was so blown away by my coach and the method she was teaching me, and who I was becoming (or finally being), I started working for Handel Group.
I know. Wild, right?
And from there, my career as an executive life coach took off. Not to mention, so did my love life. Hard to believe (NOT), I had some crappy beliefs about marriage being…uh…hard, too.
With the help of my coach, I also shifted my old belief about my new husband from “I don’t know what is wrong with my husband” to “Maybe I have something to do with how our marriage is going,” which allowed us to design the (now 21-year) relationship of our dreams.
But let me tell you, graduating from my long-held (and inherited!) beliefs is no easy A.
My old way of thinking still crept in. When the opportunity came to coach celebrities and high-level executives, my knee-jerk reaction was to belittle myself, trying to get away with theories like, “Other coaches with different backgrounds could relate better to these clients.”
Nice try, right?
And when the opportunity came to coach at one of the country’s largest employers, and impact thousands of humans with The Handel Method, I suggested that my boss, Beth, would do a better job than me.
That went as well as you can imagine!
With the help of my coach, I swiftly invented a new theory for myself: “There is nobody better than me!”
And proved it.
The challenges I experienced growing up made me a better coach for my high-performing clients. It also turned out that my big corporate client was not only one of the country’s largest employers, it was also the country’s most diverse employer.
Who better to help them than an immigrant like me!?!
This week, colleges across the country are observing the National First-Generation College Celebration. Students, including my son, have been inspired by hearing stories of immigrants who have triumphed and achieved their dreams. While I was heartbroken when he left for college, I also know he has the experience of a mom who changed her old limiting beliefs to allow him to not have to look far for a source of inspiration.
While (therapeutically!) cleaning his room after I dropped him off at college, I found an old high school essay he wrote. In it (yes, I snooped), he said: “My mom has been my hero, no matter how hard the task in front of her is, she never gives up and always comes through, NO matter what.”
How’s that for a mother of a legacy for my son?!
Mic drop. Or better yet, limiting belief drop.