During a recent women’s leadership conference, I had the honor of hearing a very successful leader share her story. Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice is the current president of Morehouse School of Medicine. As the school’s first female president, and the first African-American female to serve as president of a medical school, Valerie shared her journey to success.
In listening to Valerie’s story I was struck by the brave choices she made along the way. More than once she changed the course of her life to follow what she instinctively knew was right for her. Also more than once people in her life questioned her choices and encouraged her to continue what she had started. For example during her senior year in college, Valerie made a decision to not complete her engineering degree and pursue medicine. Her family and school advisors encouraged her to complete her degree. And yet, she confidently moved forward, overcame obstacles, was accepted to Harvard Medical School and is now a part of history.
As she talked about her courage to pursue her dreams, Valerie attributed much of her success to her mother. One of several things her mother did—which left an impression on me—was that her mother nightly whispered in her ear, “Anything is possible.” And in listening to Valerie talk, it seemed clear to me that she embodied the mantra—that anything is possible! Wow, what an incredible example of how powerful messages can be!
Children receive messages from adults—especially their parents—that are intended to teach them how to act, how not to act, what to believe and what not to believe. These repeated messages impact the self-talk that children use to better understand themselves and their world. Self-talk is the inner voice that is heard in our heads, and for most of us this voice began in childhood. An example of this is from my own childhood. Whenever I faced a challenge or disappointment, my father always stated, “We’ll figure it out.” Not only did this message comfort me, it taught me that there was always a solution. Still today when faced with a challenge I hear my father’s message and truly believe “I’ll figure it out.”
My father continually reminding me that solutions were possible contributed to my everlasting resilience. The image of Valerie’s mother gently whispering a message in her daughter’s ear is beautiful; she took a loving approach to raise a girl into a courageous woman. The messages you choose to give to your children are life-changing—what will be the impact of your whispers?