Reality Check: When I Grow Up

“I’m still trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up.” You’d expect that from children, teenagers, and young adults. Yet I hear it from folks who are well into their working lives or even in retirement.

If that’s you, there’s no need to perceive your uncertainty as aimlessness or indecision. Far from it. You are in good company—with people who have jobs, homes, families, and activities. From the outside, they appear to know exactly what they want to do and they’re doing it. Inside, they wonder, “What is my ideal purpose? How can I best be of service? What, really, do I want to be?”

Not everyone wonders about such questions. If you’re one who does, though, you know it would be satisfying to be able to say, “That’s it, I’ve got it!”

So, how do you get there?

A good start is to ask, “What does success look like to me?” Picture yourself living the life that means that you have “made it.” Imagine knowing that you are doing exactly what you have been put on this earth to do. What does that look like? Where would you be? How would you know you’ve succeeded?

Creative occupations often pop up in response to those questions.

The questions are just to get you thinking, though. For as great as it is to follow your passion and live your dreams, please don’t discount the value of everyday, seemingly mundane occupations.

At first blush, some work seems inherently creative; others not. However, whether your job is designing jewellery, taping drywall or baking bread, opportunities for creativity and artistry abound.

There’s value-added, creative work happening all around us. People are constructing roads, writing computer programs, providing electricity, building tires, and growing apples. Creativity, innovation, and success aren’t determined by the career you choose; they are determined by the attitude that you bring.

Look for clues in what you have been doing in your life so far. What activities are satisfying for you? What have you demonstrated as strengths? Weaknesses? Your life has likely already provided some very strong indicators—either of satisfaction or dissatisfaction.

It’s also worth considering the strength of your need for recognition. How much recognition do you need to feel satisfied? Where do you want it to come from? Your work? Your family? Your community? Your country? Yourself?

If you have many interests and talents, you also have many options. Eliminating options can be difficult. Remember that every interest need not become a full-fledged career. Want to be a musician? Try a weekend band. Want fame? Try producing YouTube cat videos…

Sometimes unfulfilled dreams are connected with regret and resentment. “I had to support the family and couldn’t follow my dream.” It’s true that some lives have been easier than others; some parents encouraged their children while others did not.

However, here and now, what is most effective? To continue to resent those choices from the past? Or to look at the choices available to you now?

If you have retired and are thinking, “I wish I had pursued…” then my suggestion is, “Now’s the time!”

I believe it’s worthwhile to take time to consider “when I grow up.” Do you?

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