“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Such a well-intentioned, but extremely flawed inquiry. Asking a young individual with a vast imagination of possibilities to commit to one future identity can be cruel.
There are so many individuals who committed to their childhood answer and followed the pathway to become what they professed they wanted to “be” for many years to find out they didn’t want to “be” that any longer, or realized they never did.
But that’s ok because now that individual can say with a new and profound sense of excitement, “Yeah, I get to try something totally different!”, right? Sadly, as we know, it runs something closer to, “Oh hell, what was I thinking? All that time and now my life is in ruins.”
Why do we end up in the trap of self-proclaimed failure simply because we had an epiphany about what we truly wanted our life to “be” like? When, why and how were we led to believe that there can only be one right professional path for everyone? In this age of continuous growth and change, society may benefit from innovative professionals like Emilie Wapnick. Wapnick coined the term, Multipotentiality as an answer for the “What are you going to be when you grow up?” question. Her 2015 TEDx-Bend Talk1 explains that Multipotentialites take the stance that there may be no ideal job for them and therefore continually pursue different learning and work opportunities that fulfill their interest. What if we rephrased the question to, “What are all the things you want to try, do and be as you grow up?” How different would your answer have been? How would you answer it if I asked you right now?
But that brings us to the problem at large and the general population’s present view and definition of a career. For many in our society, career is synonymous with job. Starting at a very young age, we map out a path of education and experiences to land us the “right job”. For some, the process is even directed by outside input and opinions about what the “right job” is. It is no wonder that many feel a sense of disbelief and emotional and even gut-wrenching sadness when they arrive at the carefully planned job destination only to want to book the next metaphorical flight out immediately.
What if we considered the definition of career as written by OneLife Tools Inc? According to this Professional Career Development Center, a career can be defined as:
The full expression of who you are and how you want to be in the world, which keeps on expanding as it naturally goes through cycles of stability and change.2
Here’s my analysis of this definition part, by part.
Full expression of who you are….
This is your LIFE! Your one shot to show up and “be” seen and embraced for who you truly are in the depths of your soul. Your personal stage to engage in what you love, embrace what makes your soul sing and essential-self rejoice. Your desires, strengths, natural interests, and experiences-- which includes, but is not limited to, education/training and professional background. It also includes hobbies, volunteer work, personal relationships, dreams, goals and more. Everything that makes you uniquely, YOU.
…and how you want to be in the world…
Ali Breen, Community Growth Manager for OneLife Tools Inc, shares in a blog3 that, “Most people know what they don’t want and can get stuck in the trap of only focusing on that.” Considering what you “don’t want to be in the world” can help you clearly identify what it is that you truly do want to invite into your life. For example, “I don’t want to work in an office of cubicles where no one knows who I am.” can become, “I want to be a part of an organization that understands the value of interconnectedness and interpersonal engagement.” This part of the definition also invites you to think BIG and put those otherwise secret hopes and dreams out there. Being a physician is a fine profession, but it will cause you your own poor health if you pursue it for the reason of, “Well everyone in my family has been a doctor so I felt that it was important to keep up the tradition,” instead of stating, “In my heart I know that I am an artist who is meant to capture the natural world on canvass in order to inspire humanity.”
…which keeps on expanding as it goes naturally goes through cycles of stability and change.
And this folks is the most exciting part. If you have drawn out your life in a straight line of birth, school, work, death, then I am here to free you from this narrow and linear existence. Your life should resemble that of a wave – it has amplitude consisting of highs and lows and frequency of various wavelengths. Remember that on a heart monitor a flat line is the sign of death! You are not dead – you should embrace every up and down and left and right. Each opportunity for “Well that didn’t go the way I planned,” so that you can embrace the excitement of a whole new plan. Nothing is ever wasted. Even if you did follow that carefully planned course that you mapped out in high school to land the “right job” to have it not come to fulfillment, or better yet, come to the realization that fulfillment would be the death of you. Upon reflection, you would notice that the experience is filled with moments that shaped and grew you so that you could be the person who finally listened to their inner voice to discover what true fulfillment could be.
In summary and as depicted in the cartoon, no one should have to reach the point of “giving up” on the long-pursued falsehood of “the job” so that they can become who they were truly meant to be in their life.
As a professional growth and development coach and certified OneLife Tools facilitator, I can help you identify and fulfill the many ways you want to be in this world. Contact me today: firstname.lastname@example.org or 970.481.3528.
Nikki Stansfield is trained as a professional coach and loves to support anyone who wants to intentionally create something meaningful within their professional lives.