How the origins could influence the future of someone

I would like in this dissertation to explore the potential link between coaching and the notion of the “origins” of the clients
Inspiring is the book of the sociologist Gérald Bronner, published in 2023 (edition Flammarion / Les grands mots (autrement))
It covers the thematic through the origins about the identities and one’s future
The main question is “are we the sum of of our biological and social determinants we inherited? or, if the identity is built through over the years, what is the role of work and merit?
In the coaching philosophy I understood, it is all about unlocking potential and decreasing negative interferences. Some clients could think that they are captured in a social pattern they can not escape, especially in a period where medias are supporting this idea, and reinforced in France by the Literature Nobel Prize 2022 of Annie Ernaux who built her literary work which delves into intimate and poignant explorations of memory, identity, and societal changes, while emphasizing the role of social determinants that shape individuals’ lives.
A successful coaching process could for some clients allow them to quit a victim position in order to give them more chances to take the drive of their life without the load of their origins.

A paradox : optimism bias .. 70% of the people think they are better drivers than the average .. 94% of university professors believe they are better than their colleagues, a majority of people think they are more modest than the average population .. what about the origins ?

As long as we are not facing other social class, we could think that we are above the average. But today with social networks (parasocial interactions = feeling to be close to public peoples) or after joining a new social class (schools or work) we can have a shock by realizing that the reality is other. It can be violent.

The key question is how the destination will dominate the origins?

Or another question from the last book of Frédéric Beigbeider (Confession d’un hétérosexuel légèrement dépassé, Albin Michel, 2023) : what is better between to be an ancient victim or a professional victim ?

As coaching is about present and future, how to help clients to change their orientation, their believes in order to neutralize this paralyzing past ?

I believe here, the coach’s role is to support such clients to believe in their strengths and potential and to lead their future. But there is a challenge as the narrative matrix’s today are more in favor of the victims which can encourage people to stay in this status in order to get some compensation’s .. at least an easy storytelling or a moral compensation. It is easiest to explain our problems, errors, weaknesses taking some original excuses.

Then our brain can represent the world with limits that restraint the  power of its imagination. Every thing finds its determination in the past. Our brain is always in a narrative mode about the environment. The production is a mixed of reality and fiction, but this fiction, opposed to the one we like to watch on a screen, is sometime perceived as a prolongation of the reality. We want to find in the past the rational of the present, the reasons of our limits. We can then, like a procurer, look for the reasons but more importantly the actors responsible: starting with our family, our initial social environment, some initial traumas, sometime wrong memories, psychoanalytic fantasies, cultural supports (super hero’s and over representation of orphans) …  less ourself.

The consequence of such narrative drives some people to exempt them from many of their responsibilities. Could be name as “self-serving bias” : our success are due to our qualities, our defeats to the malice of others.

Another extreme is the social value of suffering, of pain due to the origins. Encouraging to stay in a status of victim ..from what social networks are an amplification room when it is a collective form

And it is not over, even when there is a positive evolution in term of social class (in French Transclasse which refers to the movement or transition between social classes), the narrative mode could include a shame mode (of the origins), a feeling of betraying their original social class.

Another reason to feel uncomfortable for some “transclasses” is the lack of family history, nothing to tell about the past. No holiday house. No notable ancestor. No coherent story to share in comparison to what it is perceived from the others.

If I have to share my story, I have to admit that I suffered also from my original conditions : no grand-parents in comparison to the others, living in a very industrial region in the eastern part of France, very popular, when the rest of my family was in Paris, my cousins going to the more prestigious lycées, having access to the best cultural offers. No holiday abroad except one trip to Yugoslavia. The first to get the baccalaureate in my family story (in a period when baccalaureate had still a significant value). I believe that it pushed me to leave this region as soon as possible, to do everything to loose the regional accent. Perhaps also to consider that an original situation does not have to be prolonged too long. (Looking for a new job, for a new company … always more and better … to demonstrate that my value is higher to the the value directly inherited from my origins.) The unreasonable attention to the dress style, the symbols of some brand (symbolic capital) in order to reassure myself was/is coming from this original shame. The way people could perceive me was more important that the alignment of my values, my intimate desires with what I was…Joining my actual company, at 40 years old, I experienced another class distinction as I was the only one, applying for a GM position without a tittle of med doctor or pharmacist (or something equivalent). On top no Pharma experience at all.

All along my life, my Jewish name was itself a marker of a (possible) origin perceived and taken into account sometime by the environment.

In any case, my parents have shown love and confidence in my ability to achieve ambitious goals, and I will never thank them enough!

I imagine that for other people I was also in privileged situation (Mother having a bookshop, holiday in South of France..).

What I was able to reach is also, partially, the consequence of these origins.

Today the shame is still there but changed its nature. I am ashamed of the shame I felt. But I feel much better.

Like an aspiring coach, I believe, today, that I will have a particular intention about the motivation of the clients to see if their goals are really intrinsic, or, extrinsic under the injunctions of a desired social class.

As a citizen, I will do everything I can to ensure that everyone can access opportunities without their backgrounds having an influence.

One must ensure that the inequality of opportunities does not transform, which would result in a double penalty, into inequality of hopes.

There is a scale of motivation stemming from one’s origins that ranges from liberating (when every success is an achievement), to an intimidating feeling not to disappoint, up to inhibitory when one doesn’t want to aim higher after having already achieved a minimum. There are varying degrees of motivation individuals may experience based on their origins or background. It describes how this motivation can range from empowering and liberating when each success is seen as a significant accomplishment, to feeling intimidated by the pressure not to disappoint others, and eventually becoming inhibitory when one becomes complacent and does not strive for greater achievements even after reaching a minimum level of success.

Frustration could be define also as the “gap” between the level of aspiration and the level of satisfaction. (Cf Ted Gurr)

A good level of frustration is an efficient driver. Too much frustration will generate an amount of negative emotions which will limit the potential of performance.

We can observe also how many people are tempted to join collective movements to express their frustration (gilets jaunes in France; protests against reforms…). Without to be an active participation, it can be by participating into social network discussions. It is not a way to escape sometime the personal responsibility in front of the personal life? To get a status in a “virtual” world. (The promise of the coming meta world ?)

In a coaching process, when facing people who complain about their origins, it can be useful to identify the resources they mobilized to reach some objectives, to list the skills they developed giving them some strong differentiation advantages, to see how the experiences demonstrate the value of taking risks

Having no place is also being a social nomad, with lot of flexibility, a certain distance (freedom) to the environment, with a higher conscience. The ability to perceive some nuances, to decrease the wrong illusions, and then, a reinforced ability for creativity. (Claire Marin – “être à sa place” – Éditions de l’Observatoire, 2022)

With a positive vision of the development, we can tackle the common risk of self-fulfilling prophecies  : to break the link of the determinism of the origins and the imagined future that follows. As this concept of self-fulfilling is fascinating for me, (Many years ago I red an article about an experience of 2 statistically identical group of Asian women in USA going through a mathematic test but with 2 different preconditioning : a negative one saying that women are less performant in mathematic than men, a positive saying that Asian people are better in mathematic. The result was significant : the second group got much better results than the first one!), I will develop a little bit this concept here in the dimension of coaching:

Here is my understanding, a perspective, some information about self-fulfilling prophecies and coaching.

A self-fulfilling prophecy is a concept in psychology where a belief or expectation about a person or situation influences their behavior in such a way that it causes the belief or expectation to come true. In other words, when someone believes something will happen, their actions and attitudes can actually lead to that belief becoming a reality.

For example, if a coach believes that a particular athlete is not very talented and won’t perform well in a competition, they might unintentionally treat the athlete differently, provide less support or encouragement, and this may negatively impact the athlete’s confidence and performance, thus confirming the coach’s initial belief.

Coaching and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies:

Coaching plays a significant role in managing self-fulfilling prophecies, both positively and negatively. A skilled coach understands the power of their beliefs and expectations and strives to create a positive and supportive environment for their clients or athletes.

Positive Coaching: A coach who believes in their clients’ potential and fosters a growth mindset can positively influence their performance. By providing encouragement, constructive feedback, and setting challenging yet attainable goals, a coach can inspire their clients to achieve beyond their perceived limitations.

In coaching, it’s essential for coaches to be aware of their own beliefs and biases and to work towards building a positive and empowering coaching relationship. By instilling confidence, promoting a growth mindset, and maintaining high expectations, coaches can help their clients reach their full potential and avoid the negative impact of self-fulfilling prophecies.

I experienced something similar with one of my son. In France he was in a very big lycée with 35 people per class, and I believe with a pedagogic team having issues to manage this complexity. Having relatively bad results at school, his professors encouraged him to change his educational objectives as they said “he will never be able to get his baccalaureate”. Then he took the opportunity to come to leave in Austria where I was working. He joined the “Lycée français” having a much favorable situation: less people per class, a more engaged pedagogic team, the right mindset … my son then got a rebound … and few years after left the university with master 2 in business from HEC Geneva School. Today he has a brilliant career in the Swiss Bank System. It demonstrates how much how the environment can influence the life development, only sometime based on the power of the prophecies, the impact of the storytelling.

To conclude and based on that book, as a coach the ambition is to move away such clients from a victim mentality or passive narrative and transition towards a merit-based approach. Exploring how to grow the desire to change the way of thinking and communicating from focusing on being a victim or adopting a passive attitude to emphasizing merit and taking a more proactive and constructive approach.

While equality of rights is important, it may not guarantee equal opportunities for everyone. Therefore, individuals have a greater responsibility to take charge of their own future and make the most of the opportunities available to them. The coaching is a way to help them.

It is also important to ensure that the desired success is acknowledged and not the target of sore losers. It implies the need to remain focused on one’s goals and achievements without being deterred by the negative attitudes of others. (Some losers could convoke some conspiracy theories, based on wrong/false intentions, explaining the success of some others).  This phenomena can be interpreted also by the fact that in our “modern” world, due to the high level of technology, globalization and the division of the work, if in a collective way we are managing better uncertainty, on a individual way it is the opposite .. it is less and less. As mastery is one of the 3 key pilar’s of motivation (with autonomy and purpose), we can easily imagine the impact of such feeling.

One point of vigilance is to avoid, ideally, that the success based on merit will be associated with a lack of humility. Which could worsen the future chances of success for other goals as the environment could have a negative conditioning toward the client. Always a key word : nuance!

Another point of vigilance is to see how the development of new technologies (like AI’s) could weaken a hard won position.  Same with all the strong changes in the environment we are going through nowadays.

We speak about genetic, epigenetics … why not to consider the post-genetic or the genetic of responsibility? To consider today as a new start and the future as an opportunity to express all our potential and to achieve the dreams, the goals we have .. for ourself and for the society. To be an adult, and not anymore a child complaining about the past parent’s education and environment. The post-genetic should be as rich as possible by the quality of the environment in term of people, experiences and as the  neuroplasticity seems to demonstrate, to get a life long learning philosophy in order to grow our brain, our neuronal capital.

Important is to keep a reasonable distance with the politic world, the medias (esp Social), the temptation to put the social construction as the main driver of our destiny. If the influence can exist, it is not sufficient to accept it and to be passive, or a victim. The complexity is huge, and many thesis demonstrate one thing and the opposite. The temptation is nowadays to react more than to think, to act. That’s why let’s promote the sense of the action, pro-activity in order to transform any moments of our (always too short) life into something which create value, with and for others. Let us continue to allow the human genius, which has no equal so far, to break through the wall of appearances and open up the field of possibilities. (Étienne Klein – Courts-Circuits – Gallimard 2023). This sentence emphasizes the belief in the remarkable capabilities of human ingenuity and creativity to overcome obstacles and discover new possibilities. It encourages embracing innovation and exploration, trusting in the potential of human intelligence to go beyond surface limitations and expand the horizons of what is possible. Instead of spending too much time on the foundational myths of our personality, we must remain open to the complexity of the world, with ethics and intellectual dignity, taking responsibility for ourselves and for others of today and tomorrow. The permanent curiosity is the better way to move from preservation or transmission (origins, diploma) to growth, increase of the possible (Étienne Klein – Courts-Circuits – Gallimard 2023).

As a future coach, we have to be aware about how the origins can represent a brake for our clients: I hope that short dissertation inspired by the book of Gerald Bronner can give food for thoughts and help to become a better coach.

In any case, and as Heraclitus suggests, “I have searched for myself” a little more in this exercise of reflection, a sort of constant change and self-awareness .. auto-coaching ?

The Author

Spread the Word: Share This Article on Linkedin

You might also enjoy