Celebrating the Late Bloomer

By Mick Darby

A friend told me an inspiring story this week. As a child, his son had been accepted into the academy system of an English Premiership football team. However, things didn’t go as expected.

His son didn’t develop like the other kids; he remained physically small while his peers progressed within the academy and his confidence dropped, which affected the way he played. He left and moved from club to club, feeling further and further from his goal of becoming a professional footballer.

There came a point when my friend and his wife quietly took their son’s coach to one side to discuss if he should ‘hang up his boots’. The coach listened sympathetically and  replied “I wouldn’t write him off. He might be a late bloomer.”

They walked away from that conversation with a realisation that as a parent they can’t do very much to change their son’s past struggles or his rate of physical development, but they can give him the emotional support he needs to grow from difficult experiences, rather than continue suffering from them.

Moving past ‘Career Paralysis’

As a coach I meet people who are suffering – rather than growing – as they consider their next career move. They come for coaching because they feel stuck and unsure of their next move. If you find yourself in this position, you’re possibly experiencing a period of career paralysis.

Many people at mid- or late-career feel an urge to embark on a new direction but are held back by thoughts like “I’m too old and tired to change”, “I don’t have the transferrable skills”, or “I’m not brave enough”.

In short, they keep writing themselves off.

Why “sorting my thinking out” doesn’t work

 Often when we feel psychologically stuck, our immediate response is to try to “change my thinking”. We might read books or try some motivational, confidence-building courses to remove the anxiety  that inevitably arises when we feel stuck.

But have you noticed that “change my thinking” tends to make your issues bigger rather than smaller?

You are not alone.

Don’t write yourself off: You might be a late bloomer

If you’ve felt stuck for too long, you might find it useful to reflect upon the idea that you have a highly-evolved and efficient human mind, which has been working overtime to protect you from a threat that may not even be out there.

Adopting a more compassionate understanding about how and why you feel stuck can be more helpful.

Try to engage openly (and kindly) with the thoughts and fears that have held you back, rather than changing them. Once you understand your ‘stuckness’ you should find it easier to support yourself psychologically as you make the career choices that matter to you.

Through coaching, you can discover how to grow, rather than suffer, from your fears.

So, what about my friend’s son?

Today, my friend’s son is in his twenties. He was spotted by a talent scout and is now planning his move to the USA this summer on a highly sought-after soccer scholarship with a leading American college. He will train under and be nurtured by some of the country’s finest coaches at an age that many people would have written him off.

More importantly, my friend tells me his son has grown to be kind to himself, regardless of whether he makes it as a professional footballer . In my opinion, this kind of change is something all of us can achieve; regardless of our age, career history, or even if we have been held back by thoughts such as “I’m too old and tired to change”.

 When will you decide to bloom?

Perhaps, instead of writing yourself off, you could try asking yourself this question “When will I be ready to bloom?” and if the response is “Today!”, why not take the first step.

Career Change, Getting Unstuck coaching