Aside from “what’s your name” and “how old are you” the question that children get asked most often is probably “what do you want to be when you grow up?” When we ask children what they would like to be when they grow up what we are really asking is “what do you want to do to earn money when you get older?” I say this because we expect to hear answers like, “I want to be a teacher, a police officer or a doctor”. What we fail to realize is that these are all just titles that do not actually define who we are at our core as human beings.
Since leaving my conventional career, I have had time to reflect on this question and realize that the reason it is asked so often is related to our values as a society. From a young age we want children to think about the occupation that they will have in their adult life. I pondered on this question a lot growing up. This question is part of the reason that I was and we as a society are so obsessed with work.
The constant struggle for work-life balance will continue to be a struggle as long as work remains the central part of our lives. How many times have you had to skip out on something you really wanted to do because of work? Parents are reluctantly leaving their children in the care of others for extended periods of time because of work. Less and less people are using their vacation time to actually vacation and relax because they know how much work will await them when they return.
We’ve created happy hour and retirement with the hope of escaping from work and as the light at the end of the tunnel. We’re molded to believe that work is not supposed to be fun, not for the majority of us anyway and that the obedient employee always gets the furthest in life.
Times Have Changed
We’re no longer living in a time where if we do exactly as we are told we will find success. Sure, on the outside we may seem successful with the money, title and material possessions to go along with a seemingly comfortable life. However, in order to truly stand out today, to find fulfillment in the work we do, we need to feel empowered. We need to feel like the ideas and projects we are working on are truly ours, not just assignments given to us.
Doing as one is told and living a comfortable life worked for our parents because they didn’t have much to start with. Because most of us have started with so much, monetary wealth and material possessions can no longer fill the undeniable void we are trying to fill. Everyone has something special to give back to the world, something that will truly fulfill us, but the question is, are you willing to dig deep to discover what that special something is?
I think a lot about the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and how I want to raise my children to answer it. My hope is that when they’re older and faced with the question, their answers won’t be an occupation, but characteristics they currently hold or aspire to hold, i.e. “I want to be creative, caring, supportive, compassionate, genuine”, and more.
Afterall, if more of us began to focus on what we actually want or desire to be versus what we want to do or should do, we may just find ourselves living the lives our hearts had always desired instead of struggling to accept the lives that make us wonder what we’re really doing with all of our time.