“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
A simple question, really. Something we ask children all of the time. One that is laden with open-ended possibilities, the promise of a bright future. Looking at this seemingly innocuous question, it would seem as though the questioner wants to find out something about the recipient’s mindset. Do they see themselves as intelligent? Are they ambitious? Do they have a strong sense of community? Have they been exposed to a variety of possibilities? But asking a child what they want to be when they grow up assumes two faulty premises – that “grown up” is a destination and that once we are that profession we stop our progression.
Ask an adult “What do you want to be when you grow up” and chances are, their answer will revolve less around the things they want to achieve professionally and more around the things they want to accomplish personally. No longer ascribing to the belief that adulthood is a destination but rather a process, we often fail to take the time to periodically answer that question for ourselves. Often afraid that the process of self-discovery will lead us down the path of the “midlife crisis”, we push the yearning to find out more about ourselves under the mattress and carry on with our day-to-day life. In reality, re-asking that age-old question can offer valuable insight into our innermost desires for our lives.
What do I want to be professionally?
While our careers may not entirely define who we are, they certainly play a vital role in our personal definitions of success. Measuring your job against where you want to be professionally creates one of three outcomes. Either you realize you are exactly where you want to be, you decide to stay where you are and create a plan for the future, or you make a complete career change. If you are where you want to be professionally, look for ways to hone your skills, learn new ones, or mentor others. If you find yourself on track for your professional ideal, examining your current job may move you to ask for a raise, seek out more responsibilities, or make a plan for your next move. For those that find themselves in the frightening position of seeking out a new career, don’t panic. Instead, make a plan for the switch including a timeline. Not only does this ease the transition from one career to the other, it also creates accountability for the time and money spent on education, training, and job-hunting.
What do I want to be in my personal life?
Surprisingly, asking what you want to be professionally is often the easiest question since decisions made in your personal life There were no Copyscape matches found. often require a series of collateral decisions. But before you make lists of the things that are wrong with your personal life, consider the things that are right. Once those have been thoroughly listed, then it is important to categorize areas that are askew into three areas – control, influence, and concern. In his classic book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, Steven R. Covey talks about three concentric circles, the circle of concern (the largest), the circle of influence (sitting inside the circle of concern) and the circle of control (the smallest). He posits that the happiest, most proactive people focus their efforts on their circles of control and their circles of influence. While it may not be possible to control when and how you meet the love of your life, you can certainly control your own physical and mental health and personal happiness.
What do I want to contribute to others?
Young children often consider how they will impact others in their response to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” One study found that children and toddlers where happiest when engaged in costly giving – giving something that would require sacrifice on their part. Somehow, in the process of actually “growing up”, we lose sight of the contribution we would like to make to our families, communities, and society at large. Revisit the idea that what you want to be when you grow up is actually a good citizen. Then examine how to make that happen in measurable, meaningful ways. Asking yourself what you want to be when you grow up doesn’t require the response, “an astronaut” or “a police officer” but rather a level of meaningful introspection. Rather than shying away from the process, embrace it. It is never too late to be the person your childhood self hoped you would be.