A quick note before we begin:
This is a topic I’ve wanted to write about for sometime, it’s taken me nearly 8 months to finalise what you read now.
I’ve always been fascinated by human behaviour and exploring why we do the things we do. As a society, mental health issues have been on a scary increase over the last 10-15 years and particularly in my generation, the anointed ‘millennials’.
I believe that all of us in some way are dealing with the mechanics of a path and way of engaging with the world that we did not choose when we were infants, most likely thrust upon us by those who raised us.
As I’ve grown older, it’s become pretty clear to me that many of us struggle daily because some of the things we have been taught in the environment from our younger years don’t actually help us live a good life now.
This post is not me telling you what to do, rather it’s a bunch of thoughts and insights that I feel can help us all find some understanding in why we operate the way we do, whether that’s in how we think, feel or behave.
It’s ultimately about recognising that you have a choice in everything in life and we have the power to change anything.
This is an essay on understanding the effects of your parental blueprint and designing an operating system for a better life.
Do you ever wonder why you do the things you do? Say the things you say and more?
Does it sometimes feel like these aren’t reactions, habits or behaviours that feel deeply natural to you? You do these things, yet they feel like someone else?
Well maybe…. just maybe these are the thoughts, behaviours, habits of your parents and you’re still being driven by their blueprint.
The way we think and feel: Our thoughts are not our own
I’ve been a student of human behaviour for as long as I can remember.
I’ve always been fascinated by how people communicate and connect with each other and the world around them.
I’m no authority on these topics, yet I have plenty of experience from the way my own life has played out thus far, exploring my past and present through years of therapy, being super nerdy in my passion of reading everything that covers these topics and simply just watching how people interact with anything around them.
Let me unpack that first passage, provide some insight into what I’m talking about and take you on a tour that I hope will provoke some self-reflection.
We all have an Operating System
I like to describe the human mind as our own operating system or OS for short.
Just like computers, we run on our own OS which evolves over time through our experiences with the world around us. Our OS guides how we interact with the world, it is the place where we create the thoughts, feelings and behaviour patterns that drive us in life.
What I’ve come to find from all of my experiences and research is that many of us aren’t running on our own operating software.
We aren’t deploying the thought processes, feelings, habits, behaviours and more of our own design on the world around us.
This, in my opinion, is because many of us are still in fact running on an operating system built by others, in particular our parents or those who filled the parental role in our younger years.
From the day we are born, our behavioural patterns, thoughts and feeling processes are shaped by those who are constantly within our environment.
Much of this learning is obtained from your parents (or again whomever raised you), so for example if you have parents who tend to worry about every little thing, you will pick up on this and it’s highly likely you too will end up as a worrier.
However this isn’t what I would call a natural default choice.
You may not be a natural worrier, you could naturally be quite the opposite, yet as you’ve been exposed to an environment of constant worry, you learn to accept this as the norm and your brain adds this to your operating system as it presumes this is what people do constantly.
This is an example of what I’ve coined as the parental blueprint.
It is a behaviour of your parents that has been absorbed by your mind during the first build of your operating system, likely before the age of five and has become somewhat ingrained into your being.
Most people would tend to believe they are born worriers and it’s just something that is hardwired into their system, in some cases they might be correct. As I said earlier, I’m not an authority on this, just a guy with a bunch of experiences. Yet I believe the majority of those associated with this example are not natural worriers, rather they have been raised in an environment where a high level of this behaviour exists.
What is a parental blueprint?
Let’s breakdown my idea of the parental blueprint and see if you can relate this to your own life.
In the simplest terms, a parental blueprint is a collection of how your parents raised you, their behaviours, thoughts, feelings, habits, routines, reactions and general engagement with you and the world around you.
What you see, hear and feel around your parents, the environments they created and the experiences you go through together form a large basis of the very first version of your operating system, think iOS v1 or Android beta – it’s the learn and see how this works phase.
Much of our own operating system which contains the behaviours, feelings, thoughts and engagement with everything the world throws at us is first learnt from those who raised us.
Our parents provide us with the very first blueprint from which we build our own internal operating system. What they share with us is very important as it forms the foundation and ongoing development in how we operate with the world.
Some have stated that most of this creation of your first operating system with all of its elements is developed and hardwired before you are 5 years old.
If like me, you can remember nothing before the age of 5, it makes you wonder why are so many of us still so driven by things we cannot remember.
A number of leading voices in the world of human behaviour have suggested, as I’ve mentioned, that what you’ve learnt in these formative years is hardwired forever and cannot be changed.
However, I don’t personally believe this is entirely factual. Continuous research in the neuroscience field shows us how we can reprogram our OS, and that our brain can be in a flux of change from the new thoughts, feelings, behaviours and experiences we are constantly exposed to. (I’ll focus more on this later)
In summary, a parental blueprint is the first ever framework of thoughts, behaviours, feelings and engagement with anything and everything that you have encountered.
It is the resource from which you use to build the first version of your own operating system, which is used to develop all future versions throughout your life, it is not naturally you and is thrust upon you through no choice of your own.
Some of us will inherit great parental blueprints and some of us will not, but we will all experience conflict with this blueprint at different stages of life.
Conflict will inevitably arise because it’s not our blueprint, these are not our thoughts, feelings and behaviours, none of these are authentically us and when our parental blueprint is challenged by the emergence of our authentic voice, this is when we start to ask the big questions.
What is an authentic voice?
So far I’ve spoken a lot about how others affect your operating system, but now we are going to explore the most important element of our OS, the element that will cause conflict with the parental blueprint, your authentic voice.
Just like your parents blueprint, your authentic voice is a key influence on your operating system.
The concept of an authentic voice or self is nothing new, it’s been explored by many smarter people than I and heavily detailed in a variety of forms you can digest in the digital world through a quick Google search.
For me, your authentic voice represents who you really are.
It’s your own little true voice, a navigator that provides running commentary on a host of stuff that life throws your way.
Just like your parents blueprint, it is a collection of thoughts, feelings, behaviours and such, however they are uniquely your own, they have not been given or manufactured.
Your AV is everything that makes you, you.
You’ll no doubt have heard/felt it when making major life decisions.
You know that little feeling you get of do I really want this or do I just want to want this because of an external factor? Is this how I really feel? What do I want to do?
These are just small examples of when your AV has made itself known.
But it’s not confined to just major decisions in life, it flows through everything we do in every minute of the day.
Mine’s in full swing right now, in a classic example of conflict with my parental blueprint.
I’m writing this piece as I wish to share my experiences and insight with those who could make use of it, in helping others understand why they work the way they work and this makes me feel happy, fulfilled etc (my authentic voice).
I have another part of me that is worrying, it’s worried about what others will think? What would they say? Oh maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about, maybe people will call me out as a uneducated fool with stupid ideas, maybe I should just stop working on this and return to a life of “safety”.
As I’m sure you would have guessed this is not a natural process of mine, it is the voice of my parents blueprint.
You see they are natural worriers, champions of anxiety you could say and this narrative is something that my AV has continual conflict with.
By all accounts I am a naturally rebellious, a rule breaker or challenger of most things that are established in the world, you could say I’m the why guy, like why do I have to do it this way? Or why do I have to not like that sport, just because you don’t?.
So authentically I like to challenge the status quo, I like to push the boundaries of the norm and do things that maybe the majority won’t. And for the parental blueprint that I have, this is a fucking nightmare!
Again you can take this down to a micro scale too.
Let’s say you’re deciding what food you want to eat tonight. Your parental blueprint dictates that fish and chips are the ultimate cuisine as that’s what your parents would always tell you/make you consume.
Yet you have a yearning for something else, you feel like some italian food and the thought of warm spaghetti bolognese is just so alluring.
Now your operating system is going back and forward between the parts of your brain where your parental blueprint and your authentic voice live.
A tussle may or may not occur here dependent on if you have a strong connection with your AV that allows you to make the decisions based on what you really want or you are accepting of your parental blueprint but understand that the ultimate choice is based on you.
However, if this is not the case and your pathways are lit up with the behaviours of your parents and the feelings of your AV jumping between each other like a tennis ball, then you’re going to experience some form of decision fatigue where you’ll most likely default to the “usual option”.
If you default to the usual option of what will be fish and chips in this example, then you’re most likely still being run by the framework of your parents as you’ve gone with what you know (the realm of safety).
Instead of listening to the feelings of your AV where you could have embraced a new experience in which you decide for yourself whether it was enjoyable or not.
A long winded breakdown to what seems like an easy decision to make, but one we all face daily and is driven by these core factors, so you get what I mean……hopefully.
Wait, are you telling me that my decisions and interactions are pre-programmed by my parents?
To an extent, yes.
Again this all depends. It depends on how much reflection you’ve given to how you engage with the world over the years, it depends if you’ve been curious about why you do the things you do and thought is this really how I think and feel?
As I’ve outlined, our parents blueprint is the basis of your very first OS, which means that we will have been heavily influenced by the way our parents interacted with the world. You will have continued to incorporate these features with each evolution of your OS as your life has progressed.
I’m sure some of these thoughts, feelings and behaviours will have served you well at times, maybe they still do now too.
It’s important to recognise that not everything you have not created naturally is negative, as, of course, we all need guidance on how to think, act and react in different scenarios.
What is important, is to recgonise if these features work for you, align with your authentic voice and are how you wish to interact with the world around you.
Now if they don’t and it’s making you unhappy, then you have some work to do.
I find many people get frustrated and will beat themselves up because they don’t understand why they’ve done or said something. I tend to find that these people don’t naturally feel they should have behaved in such a way, but a sort of autopilot kicked in and performed the action for them.
Bottom line, if you don’t like some or all of the features that have been built into your OS from your parents blueprint, then you can do something about it.
How has this happened?
It all starts from the day we are born.
How many times have you heard someone say, please don’t say this or do that around the children as they will copy you?
We are like chameleons for much of our youthful years all the way up to the end of our teens. It’s like a case of monkey see, monkey do. We constantly pick up stuff from the environments we live in and the people that are part of these.
We’ll search for identity, trying to find what fits, what allows us to convey ourselves to the world but also protect us from harm. We look to the elders around us for guidance on navigating a number of routine events in life, we watch, learn and apply.
Our parents kick start this process for us as we spend large amounts of time with them, so of course they’re going to be the biggest source in which we learn from in the beginning.
However, as time goes on we are exposed to many more environments.
You’ll meet more people through schools, work and different forms of media which again you’ll learn from and some of what you’ve learnt may no doubt challenge what you first absorbed from your parents.
(As a side note, it will be very interesting to study the behaviours of children growing up today as constant access to the digital world and the connection to anyone we want, whenever we want, allows this generation to learn from many more people than just their parents in their formative years.)
But back to now and to wrap up this section.
Rest assured that this is all part of the ‘process’, which you had no choice in at the beginning. Yet now you can identify what doesn’t work for you and make those changes which allow you to be your authentic self if that’s what you seek.
It’s not your fault…… well not entirely
Just to be clear, we cannot choose the blueprint that is given to us.
We all need to make the best of what we’ve been given, we all have different blueprints which are the origin of our very first OS.
They can be good, bad or just meh, but regardless we do have a choice as we grow older to review the collection of behaviours, thoughts and feelings we have inherited. You have the opportunity to decide how you wish to operate, what works for you and you do this by embracing your authentic voice.
It’s not about erasing your parental blueprint, some of us may want to but I don’t believe we can dispose of it, however you can change the narrative, you can learn from it and develop the OS that you wish to live with.
Our parental blueprint is just the beginning of how we learn to operate with the world, it is finite and can be changed as we embrace new experiences to learn more.
You may have been dealt a great hand or a shitty hand, but you can struggle from both or succeed with both.
It’s about learning from what you’ve experienced and finding balance, along with always asking yourself is this how I want to lead my life? Are these the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that I wish to be sharing with others?
As we mature, we make more choices on who we choose to learn from and the thoughts, feelings and behaviours we choose to allow as part of our OS. Our parents are not completely at fault for what they shared with us, many do the best they can with what they know at the time.
However, you are at fault if you accept things that don’t align with your authentic voice and if you continue to choose to entertain and learn from those who you know are no good for you.
I’m not a self-help guru or life coach, so I can’t tell you what to do and nor would I.
I do invite you though, to examine how you operate now and ask if you’re happy with this? Are you being true to your AV, finding the balance between this and your parental blueprint or are you still being completely run by the OS your parents created?
There is no right or wrong answer here, there is only your answer and that’s the one which counts – if you’re happy then continue as you have been.
I want to break free……how you can establish your authentic voice and find peace with your parental blueprint.
If you’ve got this far, well done to you and hopefully you are not too spooked by the fact that your parents could still be responsible for your every action.
You might be thinking around about now that what you’ve heard is all great and you get it, the way you operate could be still run by the laws of your parents and not yourself. You might feel like a eureka moment has just fallen upon you (well at least I do), but now you ask the eternal question.
How do I change this?
One of my first responses to this will be – do you want to change it and why?
Not everyone wants to or has to challenge the parental blueprint they have. You maybe one of those outliers who came out unscathed and has a brilliant operating system in place that allows you to be an awesome human in the world.
However, chances are you’re like me and billions of others who are all just as screwed up as each other and would like to be a better person for a bunch of reasons.
If so, read on and I’ll do my best to guide you through the ways you can bring that authentic voice out, reprogramme your OS and find balance with your parent’s blueprint.
Recognising the effect of your parents blueprint
The first thing to recognise is how/if your parents blueprint is affecting the thoughts, feelings and behaviours in your life in a negative way as this won’t be the same for everyone.
Think of a few occasions when you’ve said or done something that didn’t sit right with you? Now think about why this didn’t turn out quite the way you wanted? Can you remember what happened? The thoughts and feelings that drove your behaviour?
Now review these examples and think about what your parents may have done in those situations. What were the behaviours you observed from them when you were younger when they were faced with a similar scenario?
Did they do exactly what you did in those situations? If so, then it’s highly likely your parents blueprint drove your thought process and thus meant that you went with what you’ve been taught rather than what you felt was right to do.
So, step #1 is recognising how and where your parents blueprint is affecting your operating system.
Take some time to review this, note down some examples and we’ll use these later when we explore how to change what you don’t like.
Challenging what you don’t like
As touched upon briefly in the previous section, you need to understand what are the thoughts, feelings, behaviours and such that you don’t like.
Reflect on those occasions when you wish you hadn’t reacted or behaved the way you did, the times when your thoughts were hijacked or when you felt uneasy about your own feelings towards something.
To develop new processes, thoughts and behavioural patterns, we first need to understand and challenge what we don’t like about the way we operate.
Not everything has to be negative, you might do some things that aren’t harmful to others but just really annoy you and you’d like to handle these differently.
Get your notepad out, write down everything that you wish to challenge within your operating system. Use this list to remind yourself and build the prompts to challenge these things when they next arise in a situation, the best way to start to make changes is to actually do the do and challenge what you don’t like.
Installing new processes
Now you’ve compiled a list of the things that you don’t feel like are authentically you and which you wish to challenge, we’ll look at how you can install these as new processes within your OS.
The easiest way to make this happen is by doing the do.
Basically you need to practice challenging your thoughts, feelings and behaviours in a live environment and choosing a new way in which you wish to handle the situation.
Let me provide a couple of examples:
#1- The social event
We’ve all been here before, we arrange to go out with a friend weeks in advance, the day is now fast approaching, your friend texts you to confirm that you’re still on for a couple of days time and you think – shit! I completely forgot and really don’t want to do this.
So what do you do? Ignore them, feign an illness, tell them your exhausted from work?
How does it make you feel if you choose any of these options instead of being honest and just saying this day isn’t the best for you? What would your parents have done? Would you agree with their actions? If not, challenge it, hell even if your parents didn’t do those and you still don’t like the actions you’ve used before, challenge them.
You have a choice, do what you’ve always done, which of course will reinforce that action or challenge it.
Be open, honest and find an adult way to deal with the situation. I get that it’s tempting to choose the easy option to help yourself and avoid potential friction with your friend, I’ve been there too. But if you want to change how you handle this type of situation, then you’ve got to put in the practice and make a different choice.
I get that it’s difficult when it comes to friends and family, yet if you can’t make the changes in these scenarios, then where will you make them?
#2 – The difficult colleague
Again I’m sure we can all identify with this one in some way.
How many times have you encountered a work colleague who just annoys the hell out of everyone? They are often rude, insensitive, shout the loudest in meetings because they believe it makes them look credible and loves to challenge anything that anyone says, even Alexa isn’t safe!
It is tempting for many of us to meet fire with fire, trust me I’ve tried that a few times, it doesn’t end well.
So what can we do? What have you done before? Did you feel good about how you handled the situation? If not, let’s unpack that once more and challenge it.
You’ve got a choice to make, react the way you always have, get all up in your feelings about it and get the same outcome or try something new. Breathe and analyse how you would like to handle this, by all accounts you can pursue whatever it is you want to do. If you want to be aggressive as you feel that’s what you want, then do it, I’m not here to judge, and if you want to take a softer, more logical, calm approach to make the person aware of their effect, then do it.
Again it’s not about what’s right or wrong, it’s about what you authentically want to do. Make the decisions based on you and your feelings, not on what someone else would do.
Finding the authentic voice
Now we are onto the golden elixir, how do we find that authentic voice and most importantly, how do we listen to it in the first instance.
In theory finding your AV shouldn’t be too hard as it’s you!
It’s our true thoughts, feelings and behaviours. It’s the voice, that feeling, the actions that feel natural to you, they’re the things you want to do but are generally discouraged to do because of external factors.
It’s actually less about finding your AV or self and more about allowing it to be heard, felt and acted on. The way to do this, is once more through practice in real life situations.
In my example earlier, I referenced making big decisions that cause many of our parental blueprints and authentic voices to come into conflict, these are the opportunities for you to connect with that AV and see where it can take you.
In anything we do, our AV flows through our decisions in how to operate with everything. We’ve just got to tune in a little more, connect with it and when we have those moments of doubt, listen to it.
Only through practice and actually doing can you unearth your authentic voice. For one to evolve, connect with themselves, find meaning, purpose and all that jazz, we need to be challenged.
In these challenges we will all find our authentic voice, it’s down to us whether to grant it the opportunity to be heard.
Creating and maintaining balance
As in all things with life, it’s all about balance, the yin and yang if you will.
I don’t believe we can fully get rid of the blueprint shared by our parents, it’s part of our being and it is neither good or bad, they are lessons to learn from.
As you’ve read so far, your authentic voice is what represents you. It is the thoughts, feelings and behaviours you wish to share with the world.
There can be conflict between the two as not everything will align as we can be naturally very different people from our parents. Many not all, reject the framework that has been forced upon us, but struggle with it’s continued existence as it is so ingrained as part of our being.
Think of it as a tattoo that you got when you were 17 and now at 31 it has no meaning or application to your life today, you don’t particularly like it, but you’ve still got to live with it, you coexist and find balance (unless you want to take the laser option of course).
Balance is the key with everything
There will be some things about your parental blueprint that you like, some you won’t and the same goes for your authentic voice, you might like some things and some not so much.
But, you work with what you’ve got and look to the areas you wish to change/challenge and make the opportunities to develop possible.
Balance will come with practice, listen to all sides in everything you do, but make sure the ultimate decision comes from you, otherwise you are just someones else’s puppet, living a life by their design and not your own.
How we could create a better parental blueprint for our children
Quite simply, don’t repeat the actions you’ve found conflict with.
Be mindful of the way you behave, how you communicate, how you display connection with the world and the environment you create along with the experiences you build within it.
Children are like sponges, they are human versions of entry level AI (artificial intelligence) – they will watch everything, store it in their little hard drive and test it out for themselves, because they’re creating the very first version of an OS.
What they see, hear, feel and experience will greatly shape the foundations of the people they grow into, so think about what you’d wish those around you had shared with you and work towards that.
Keep in mind – who would you like your children to be?
The best thing any of us can do is just be aware of what we are doing, is it true to ourselves and is it how we expect others to operate too?
Share these lessons with your children.
Go forth and embrace your AV
Ok, so we’ve reached the end of our little journey together and hopefully this has provided you with some stuff to think over.
Yet remember that I am just a human like you, this concept and these insights are from my own experiences, research and from the experiences of those that I’ve been fortunate to come into contact with.
I’m not an authority and I don’t have the answers, actually no one has the answers despite all those ‘snake oil’ posts you might read proclaiming they can fix your life.
Life is not meant to be fixed, it is meant to be lived, to flow, evolve and the best way it can do this, is in breaking free of any chains you find on yourself and embrace that authentic voice.
Maybe it’ll even lead you to those fleeting feelings of happiness, joy, success and such that we all crave.
Ultimately, if you don’t like something and it’s not making you happy, do something about it.
You have the power to change everything, nothing is set in stone, the choice is always yours my friend.
Before you go… 👋
If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.
You can join me every Tuesday morning for more tools, templates and insights for the modern L&D pro in my weekly newsletter.
You might also like
Ramblings on if it’s normality that we really all fear
An unorthodox guide to approaching challenges in life
Why don’t we talk like we used to? even with the shiny screens and pretty scenes.