I Don’t Know What I Want To Be When I Grow Up!
Perhaps you think you’re the only one who says, “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.” Actually, it’s more common than you think. I even heard the phrase from 50-somethings!
In fact, I think we say this to ourselves at several points in our lives, knowing the answers we discover will change throughout our journey. Perhaps a similar question for you at this stage is, “What do I want my life to look like NOW?” Identity and purpose are universal life issues.
If you are asking deep questions about who you are, what you’re good at, or what you REALLY want to do (or be), you’re not alone.
We all desire to know who we are and what work will be fun and fulfilling. Some people don’t know because they’ve focused on others, like their kids, parents, and jobs. Some have let life push them instead of them pushing life. Some have spent all their energy working for a paycheck, or have perhaps never given themselves permission to ask, “What would I really like to do?”
This initiative is not about giving you formulas or steps. There are enough websites, books, and motivational speakers out there with 5 or 10 simple steps to success. But I think life is more complex, so here you will find no magic bullets, secret recipes, or easy plans.
We all travel our personal journey and can use some inspiration and tips from time to time.
Here are some principles that have brightened my journey:
- Look for patterns
- Know thyself
- Inform thyself
- Motivate thyself
- Connect thyself
- Submit thyself
Look for patterns
Think about what you’ve enjoyed doing throughout your life.
What were the projects or initiatives that were really fun, fulfilling, made you feel good about yourself, and gave you the sense that you made a difference?
Take some time alone to reflect on this question. Go for a walk. Get quiet. Get out some paper and make a list. You may be surprised at what you unveil.
When I look back on my life, I see patterns. I love communication. I like to write. I love to influence people. I adore teaching, and I realized that everything I do has a teaching motivation, whether it’s speaking, writing, or producing a video. I’m a news junkie, and I love to tell stories. I love the challenge of trying to live and articulate a life of justice and peace.
It was only as I began to create this initiative, formerly known as Get Control Of Your Life, that I remembered some things I loved and did as a child. Wow, I found patterns!
As a little blonde girl of maybe 8 or 9, I decided to publish a newspaper. I wrote some stories and glued the tiny comic from bubble gum for the comic section of my “paper.” I then posted the “paper” on the light pole in front of our house.
Years later, as an adult, I edited a daily post for a hospital ship called The Anastasis. With a typewriter and a lousy photocopier, I “published” The Daily Plan-It, a takeoff on The Daily Planet, the newspaper where Clark Kent (Superman) and Lois Lane worked. It was great fun, and I loved informing my shipmates of key announcements and putting a smile on their faces with little anecdotes and jokes.
Another thing I did as a kid was pretending to be a news anchor, reading the news to my parents and grandparents. As a communication grad student in the late 1980s, I worked on a weekly newscast on The Family Channel and got to be an actual news anchor. In the 1990s I worked for two news stations in Dallas.
Now I’m a communication teacher, blogger, and podcaster. I write, tell stories, and interview really interesting people. Do you see the patterns?
What patterns and connections do you see in your life?
Take some personality tests to get to know yourself.
The most researched and written-about profile is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. I use this test in my college interpersonal communication class because it helps students not only understand themselves better, but also those around them, with the goal of developing healthier relationships.
The test is normally given by trained and certified MBTI professionals. However, you can take a free version of the test here: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp
The MBTI looks at the 4 dimensions:
- Introvert or Extravert
- Sensing or Intuitive
- Thinking or Feeling
- Judging or Perceptive
You can read more about the MBTI here:
StrengthsFinder can give you another great profile. You buy the book and get a code in the back to take the test online. This particular profile evaluates you on 34 dimensions and tells you what your top five are. The philosophy is that you develop a sense of your strengths and then put your energy into making them even better. Improving your strengths instead of focusing on your weaknesses has proven to be a much better strategy.
If you’ve never done this profile, I encourage you to get the book and do it! (Be careful not to get a used book as the code for taking the online test has probably been used.)
I think one of the most helpful tools is the Enneagram. This is a somewhat different “personality” test as it has much potential to help you grow. You are one of nine types that tend to dominate how you do life, techniques you’ve tried throughout your life that you found to work for you. Take a free test online, then get a book like this one to learn more about yourself.
Read books and credible websites. Listen to podcasts. Be curious. Be a learner.
You’ve heard me quote from the famous American basketball coach John Wooden: “Five years from now, you’re the same person except for the people you’ve met and the books you’ve read.”
Timing is essential. There is nothing better than the right resource at the right time. You have to find the ones that are right for you.
I have especially appreciated Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr. This Franciscan monk is a deeply spiritual and articulate man who describes the two halves of life as 1) Building your box, as in figuring out who you are and how you’re going to support yourself, and 2) Living out of your box in the 2nd half of life.
The other book that was timely for me was Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job & Your Dream Job by Jon Acuff. Acuff is encouraging about helping you turn your passion into your profession, by doing it in the right way and at the right time.
Some other recommended books I’ve encountered recently are:
Read and listen to resources that will take you to the next level.
It’s easy to get down in the dumps, lose hope, and feel stuck. Spend time around people who are positive and encouraging. There are people who are a joy to be around. Hang out with them.
Watch videos and read content that lifts your spirit. Research shows that exposure to too much social media has a negative effect on our lives as we tend to compare ourselves to others. So use some discipline and don’t be afraid to ask yourself (on a regular basis): Is this good for me? Is this really what I want to be doing right now? Remind yourself of your REAL goals, not your short-term, feel-good-in-the-moment desires.
I found that getting a life coach was one of the best things I ever did. Unlike counseling (that focuses on the past), life coaching is all about the future. A good coach is one who asks questions and listens, but does not tell you what to do; rather they help guide you into the future. As a client, you set the agenda, you determine what areas of your life you want to work on, and you set measurable goals.
Also, connect yourself to others by networking. Hang out with people who have the life you wish you had. Be with people to possess qualities you wish you had. Network with people on a similar journey.
Submit yourself to reality and truth. Shit happens and we rarely see the whole picture. There are areas of our lives we are blind to, things we just don’t see. While we think we have an accurate picture of ourselves, we actually have an extremely limited perspective.
Listen to others and notice how they respond to you. Ask the universe for insight, inspiration, and Ah-Ha moments!
Get advice from people you trust; they likely have some helpful insight to offer when they know it would be welcomed.
Life’s too short not to be doing what you love and are good at. Turn your “Thank God it’s Friday” into “Thank God it’s Monday” because you can’t wait to get back to what you love.
- Look for patterns: Reflect on times in your life when you felt alive. What patterns do you see?
- Know thyself: Take some personality tests. You may be surprised by what you learn about yourself.
- Inform thyself: Read, listen and learn.
- Motivate thyself: Hang out with positive and encouraging people. Listen to motivational voices.
- Connect thyself: Find a life coach. Connect with others who are doing what you want to do or who are on a similar journey.
- Submit thyself: Seek Ah-Ha! moments from others you trust.