I am the granddaughter of a former Dominican monk. Anyone who has followed my development may have noticed how, year after year, I’ve moved closer to philosophical issues and away from pure career and management content. It became more or less boring. When I used to be a young woman, I read Freud, Adler, Jung, Fromm, Fried, Maslow, Alice Miller and Arthur Köstler. I loved Hermann Hesse and was very interested in overall understanding and psychological and philosophical questions. But then I decided to live the practical, commercial and entrepreneurial sides of my family, which also exists. The theme of ancestors and profession and strengths meets me again and again with my customers. At some point in your life, they had to deal with it even if it is often very painful. Maybe you have reached this point now? Wherever I look, it is the previous generations who set the pace and the themes that determine education and careers – and also the perception and emotional experience of strengths. How surprised was a group of science-based postdocs when they experienced my flexibility, spontaneity and fault tolerance. They wondered as they realized that my success pattern is totally different from theirs. In my world, experimentation has always been the basis of everything. If I´m interested in something, I try it and accept that I am the worst singer in the world (for example). It comes from me but also from my family. I decided not to follow the perfectionism line. In the world view of the postdocs, that “so-being” was not anchored so far. They saw detail-orientation as the “strength”, “doing always the best one can do” and never show your work before you are perfectly. But this view prevents them from trying out new things.
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If you discover the source of such perceptions – namely your own family, ancestors and peer group – then much has been achieved. It would also help to overcome dogmatic views. And to return to a driving thought: Important is development and growth – and not a position which is right or wrong or how to be or not be. The inclusion of the family background in parts – also rightly – condemned by the media. Educational opportunities must be the same, no question at all. But with this article I would like to put another emphasis on the topic and ask: Is the family’s history also a key to understanding one’s own strengths and identities? In my view it is of central importance to occupy oneself with occupational and self-discovery. Reorientation and the search for (more) life sense often means going back to the roots – or finally cutting them off. We are seeing many people at the age of 40 or 50 returning to their roots. They are looking for a home, also regionally. They search for a professional identity and realize that it is also family and cultural and even religious and spiritual. Many who have studied first in the family strive for simplicity, perhaps the craft. “It was so nice to watcch my grandfather work in his small company” – the sentence of a young social scientist echoes back to me. In Germany only one in a hundred working-age students do a doctorate, but ten out of a hundred academics. And if, at a later stage in life, this one might set aside his Ph.D. to work as a craftsman or mechanic, which is far below the level of education? Then it may be that it simply wants to go back to his roots. From the view of performance society we can´t understand such decisions. How can someone “throw away” his degree? But does the acquired education harm? Certainly not. You do not have to use what you have learned and experienced in your job. This will be more and more difficult in the future anyway. Up is not the only way. Career choice is one-sidedly related to competences and intellectual premises. But just because my gray cells go along, it does not give me any professional – and emotional – identity, the feeling of “that’s exactly my thing, I live my life.” This also has to do with the fact that we NEVER just live our lives. It is always shaped by others, but above all by those with whom we are and were most connected, emotionally, spiritually. The key question is what we consciously accept or do differently and what we unconsciously avoid or seek. Who am I and what is to be attributed to my ancestors? It is very enlightening to occupy oneself with the occupational history of the family in the career choice and vocational orientations at more mature age. I find that is a meaningful task even for self-reflected teams. Understanding why the colleague is different – it helps to look at its origin, of course, the ethnic, cultural, regional and even emotional. We are always part of our history, the history of family, region, society and and and. It is our decision to change but we cannot and never deny that we are shaped like a coin. Strengths are not only genetically but also epigenetically explainable. A look at the professional history of the ancestors also enables a deeper orientation towards strengths. Strengths arise through a gene-environment interaction. But the genes developed by family experiences over several generations. That means also in the genes is “environmental experience”. These are findings of epigenetics. Unfortunately, these have not yet arrived in everyday knowledge. Many consider the preoccupation with our ancestors to be spiritual nonsense. We were driven out to write parenting jobs in the resume. And rightly so, because decision-makers can not adequately reflect on these issues. Nevertheless, the life and work experiences of our ancestors are important to us today. Even though it is no longer in the CV, it is present in the mind. In each of us the experiences of our relatives are often literally “buried”. The “me” is never detached from his family, society, culture and even generation. It carries all that in itself.