Almost at birth humans begin classifying things. In watching my daughter grow from baby to toddler to her present age I realized that the first form of classification we are exposed to is the idea of having a mother and a father. My daughter learned through interaction how my wife and I behave and what to expect of a person who is classified as a mother or a father. My daughter then began to classify anything she saw three of by saying one was the mommy, one was the daddy, and one was the baby.
The human tendency towards classification, if improperly utilized, can skew the way you view the world, negatively impact how you react to problems, and limit your growth. We commit time and effort towards earning something — a certification, a title, a degree etc. We then view ourselves and the rest of the world through the prism of our certification, title, or degree and behave accordingly. Instead of thinking “I learned X in training I wonder if it is applicable to this situation?” we may try to bend the situation to fit our training. Instead of thinking “How should I respond?” we may think “How would a person with title X respond?”
If you cannot tell by my previous blog entries now I am a former Marine. I served as an 0311 Infantry Rifleman and an 0302 Infantry Officer. Since separating from the Marine Corps I have been told on many occasions that I don’t act like a former Marine particularly a former Infantry Marine. I always chuckle and ask the person what they expected. They usually reply “Not you.” In this situation the person I am talking to is guilty of classifying Marines as behaving a certain way and I am guilty of not fulfilling their expectations.
I work daily to ensure that my certifications, titles, and degrees etc do not limit me in any way. Does this mean I am 100% objective 100% of the time? Of course not. I sit in endless meetings wishing I could solve the issue at hand with a smash followed by a vertical butt stroke but unfortunately I cannot. 🙂
A useful drill is to make a list of every certification, title, and degree etc you have ever earned. Once you have this list think about how each one impacts your mindset and behavior in either a positive or negative way. Then take steps to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. (Credit to Johnny Mercer for that outstanding lyric published in 1944 CLICK.)
Actress of stage, screen television, poet, playwright and author Beah Richards CLICK once said “You are self-created!” I like this quote as a reminder to create myself everyday despite my background or societal expectations.