master plan

What do you want to be when you grow up?  The standard elementary school question makes us think about the future so that we can start working toward our career goals.

But why all the emphasis on what we want to be?  Wouldn’t we be better off considering who we want to spend our days with, how we want to impact our community, where we want to live, and why we want one job more than another?

I recently read an article in the New York Times calling for a new definition of success – one that focuses less on tangible things like money and fame – and places more emphasis on things like personal satisfaction and enjoyment.  The author believes we need a new vocabulary for the way we talk about accomplishment, and says that “we should have an expression that captures the level of success you’ve achieved when you do exactly what you love every day.”

Would rounding out ‘what we are’ with information about ‘who we are,’ ‘where we are,’ and ‘how we are’ help create a more well-rounded definition of success?  It seems to me that you’re already successful if you’re doing what you love and remaining true to your values.

Maybe we’re not all going to end up astronauts or CEOs or surgeons, but we just might find ourselves working on enjoyable projects or pursuing something meaningful – and isn’t that a success in its own right?

15 thoughts on “master plan

  1. Very thought provoking. After chasing after what I wanted to be for so long, I decided I value having a family and having time to spend with that family over being “successful.” Chasing a dream career just wasn’t for me, and that’s ok. 🙂

  2. “Working on enjoyable projects and doing something meaningful” is the only way we should measure our success whether those projects make loads of money and come with proper titles or not. We Americans are lacking in finding out “who we are” and thinking about “how we are” as we are blinded by defining ourselves by what we are and what we have. Thanks for the reminder to keep choosing actions that let me be the happiest me I can be as defined by me.

  3. While I appreciate everyone working towards something, I also like to encourage people to being open to new opportunities. Just because you haven’t done something in the past, doesn’t mean you can’t do it in the future! I feel like the more we learn, the better off we are. And by learning I do not mean formal education or certification, I mean trying new things.

  4. Jennifer, this could not have come at a better time! I have been thinking hard about what I want to be when I “grow up” and have started to shift my attitude to cultivating who I want to be, especially since I have a less than fulfilling job. But, at the end of the day, if I have interacted with people I love, done something to feed my soul, and tested my mind, then I feel satisfied and fulfilled. What a great way to think about things!

  5. Yes! Yes yes yes. I was thinking about this in the context of getting to know new people — I’m always going to networking things — and one of the most common questions we ask is “What do you do?” But even if someone asked me something different (say, “Tell me about yourself”), I would be hard-pressed to figure out what to answer that didn’t start with what I do! The culture has practically made what you do synonymous with who you are. I’m frustrated by that, but I will have to think more about what we can do about it, if anything.

  6. I’m currently reading “The Desire Map” by Danielle LaPorte, and I have the sneaking suspicious that you will LOVE it. 🙂 It’s actually along similar lines to this post, but about goals – not about making goals to accomplish THINGS, but about making goals to accomplish FEELINGS. Very interesting. You’ll have to let me know if you grab it, because I would love to discuss!

  7. such a wonderful post. i am already grown-up {well, i guess technically…} and still trying to figure out what i want to do. it has given me quite a bit of stress and anxiety over the past year, but thanks for the reminder that we are so much more than our profession. it is SO easy to get caught up in the rat race, and doesn’t help that the standard question when you meet someone as an adult is “what do you do?” instead, we should ask “who are you? what makes you happy?” i love all of the positivity on your blog, such a happy and inspirational place 🙂

  8. I love the questions you raise here. After leaving my job to be home with my kids, I have been struggling with trying to figure out what I will do next when my kids start school. These thoughts often cause me to feel anxious and stressed. Perhaps I should worry less about what I will “do” and spend my energy on becoming the woman I want to “be”. Maybe when it’s time to go back to work, then, I will feel more confident and have a better idea of what type of work will be more fulfilling for me. Your posts are so inspiring. Thanks 🙂

  9. Girl, your daily topics blow my mind. How you come up with this stuff on the daily amazes me! I definitely want to focus more on who I want to be than what I want to be. 🙂

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