Thursday, May 24, 2007

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

Yesterday I received the following email.

Do you do requests? Here's a topic that I think you might be able to speak about that I'm struggling with. What do I want to be when I grow up? I've been here 12 years and am realizing fully that this wasn't what I wanted to do when I grew up. I feel as though I'm continuously discovering things I don't want to do, but have no idea how to figure out what I want to make my life's work. I look at friends who seemed to have laser sharp focus on what they wanted to be when they were young, and are now happy and successful doing that. I'm still searching. Is that weird?

No, I do not think it is weird that you feel like you don't know what you want to be when you grow up. I am fifty six years old and I feel the same way. In all honesty, I think we are part of the majority rather than the minority. I find it interesting that your first question is "What do I want to BE when I grow up". This question is followed by the statement "this isn't what I wanted to DO when I grew up". I believe that our society places too much importance on what a person does to earn a living. In most social settings a person is more likely to be asked what they do rather than who they are. The reality is that most people are not doing what they love or dreamed about in their youth. Who of us hasn't had great dreams about how we would spend our lives before the babies came, we signed a 30 year mortgage, the water bill was due, or the car just stopped running? As John Lennon said, "Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.". How many waiters in LA restaurants really want to be actors? I am not saying to give up your dreams. However, you are not the first to get side tracked in a career or job that has turned out to be unfulfilling. Everything I have just said is the obvious. Now that this realization is weighing heavy on your mind and heart, what do you do about it in practical terms? What are you passionate about? I had a book once called Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow. Unfortunately I can't find the book so I can't give you the authors name. The title says it all. I think the mistake most of us make is that we work for money. Some of you are going, "Duh!" If money is the only thing that motivates you, you will never find happiness in work. You have to be passionate about more than money. Another thing I recommend is learning more about yourself in terms of your temperament and personality. Certain careers are more suited for some personalities than others. I know without a doubt that I am not suited to be a nuclear physicist. When the right person is matched with the right career and work, it is no longer work. A wise man once said, "Find work that you love and you will never work another day in your life." Have I followed all of my own advice? Am I perfectly fulfilled and happy in the work I do to earn my daily bread? Do you honestly think I stayed up all night in my youth dreaming of the day when I would be a claims supervisor in a large corporate setting? Are you kidding? In all honesty there are things I must do on a regular basis that give me little personal satisfaction. Am I doomed to a life of unhappiness? The answer is no. Sooner or later who we are will shine through. I find the greatest satisfaction in the things I do that are not part of my job. Do you think I get paid extra to write these daily thoughts? Am I on commission for the compassion I always try to practice with my co-workers? What about the counseling or spiritual direction I give those who seek it? None of these things are in my job description but doing them is part of who I am and what I bring to the workplace. Perhaps your work is only a background for you to be who you are as well. Make yourself your life's work wherever you are.

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