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What is Your Unwanted Inheritance?

By Ken and Lee Estridge

We are not talking about the money you did or didn't inherit from your family. We are talking about some of the values, ways of being, life style, diet and more that you inherited from your family when you were a child and unable to be selective about what you allowed in that is invisible to you today and that doesn't serve you today.

There is a story told about a woman who cuts off the two ends of the ham before putting it into the oven to bake. One day her daughter asked her, "Why do we always cut off the two ends of the ham before putting it into the oven". Her Mom replied, "My Mother always did it that way, so I assumed that was the right way to cook a ham". The daughter, being curious, called her Grandmother only to find out that the Grandmother said, "My mother always did it that way". Fortunately, the Great Grandmother was still alive and now in her 90's. The inquisitive young girl called her Great Grandmother and asked, "Why do we cut off the two ends of the ham before putting it in the oven to bake". Her Great Grandmother replied, "We were poor and my baking dish was too small to fit the whole ham, so I would cut off the two ends of the ham to make it fit in my pan"!

Most people have rules or rituals they live with today and have always lived with without questioning. Are you aware of your unwanted automatic behaviors? Are you impatient because one of your parents was impatient and that seemed OK to you. Are you anxious or fearful because one of your parents was overly anxious or fearful and that was normal in your home? Are you overly aggressive or submissive? Are you overweight and have always eaten foods that are bad for your health? Are you unable to access your feelings because your heart is frozen? Do you lack empathy for others? Do you endlessly give to others but are needless yourself or don't know what you need? Do you feel that you are not good enough, regardless of what you accomplish? Are you always seeking perfection and always finding the black spot on the white wall? Are you driven by external symbols of success and unable to affirm yourself when you don't win? Do you have a hard time trusting people? Do you always need to be in control?

These and many more personal attributes are programmed into us at a very early age. They become part of who we are and how we see the world. They are our view of what is normal because it was normal in our family. Some of these attributes helped us to survive as children and some of them still protect and guide us. However, some of the things we learned as children don't serve us as adults and negatively impact our personal and professional lives, yet they are invisible to us. This is our unwanted inheritance!

How do you figure out what parts of your inheritance are unwanted and what do you do about it? Undoing any of your early behaviors requires vigorous self-examination, openness to feedback from others, a concerted effort to change and external support. Executive coaches are often helpful in this process because they can be objective observers of your behavior and can solicit feedback from others that people may be uncomfortable delivering directly to you. They can help you identify the automatic behaviors that don't serve you and then help you develop a plan for working on yourself and provide support and encouragement for your efforts.