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?
When was the last time you felt like anything was possible? Childhood dreams have been on my mind lately, and, more specifically, how the dreams of our childhood shift and change as we grow older. According to the Washington Post, the top 5 childhood career goals for children are the following:
1. Professional or Olympic athlete
2. Scientist or Pilot (tie for 2nd)
4. Singer or Nurse/Doctor (tie for 4th)
How many people accomplish their childhood dreams? Decide to pursue a goal at a young age, and then, slowly but surely, take steps to make their vision a reality? Do you think that they are tempted and swayed by other opportunities as they proceed? Do they feel fulfilled when they accomplish their dreams, or do they reminisce about missed opportunities?
And then, just as interesting and worthy of discussion, are the group of people who, either by choice or circumstance, leave their childhood dreams behind as they grow older. Perhaps natural talents lead them toward a new dream, or they pursue something else that comes.. well.. easier. Are these people content with the choices they made, or do they wish they’d pursued their dreams just a little bit longer?
The important thing, I suppose, is not about accomplishing our dreams, but about living a life that we find fulfilling. With any luck, we are able to channel what impressed us about our childhood dreams (ie: teacher helping others, scientist making great discoveries) into our daily life. In the end, it’s not about perfectly following the path you planned, but arriving somewhere you feel content and fulfilled.
As for me, I grew up wanting to be the Ambassador to Italy. Not a joke. My eight year-old self told my father that I didn’t want to be the President, but I might like being the President’s helper. My dad told me that the Ambassador to Italy ate lots of pizza and helped Italians and Americans become friends.
The case was solved, the issue closed — I would become the Ambassador to Italy (I was also influenced by my dad’s assertion that Shirley Temple was an ambassador). Until, of course, I realized I would much rather write stories than engage in politics.
Anyway, dear Readers, I was thinking about all this yesterday when I had some sort of divine inspiration for a fall dessert. I love frozen yogurt enough to become the Ambassador of FroYo, and when I had a near perfect swirl of pumpkin pie and roasted marshmallow, I knew what I had to do : I invented pumpkin-pie filled chocolate-covered marshmallows. Can you say that three times fast?