I’m 24 years old and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I wonder if I’ll still be asking myself the same question when I’m 50. The trouble is, what you want is always changing and it’s impossible to know if what you think you want is actually what you want until you try it. So more recently, I’ve stopped asking myself where I want to go, and started tuning in to what is right for me, now.
They told us ‘choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’, as if it was that easy. As if we’re born with some sticker stuck to our forehead that says something like, ‘Passion: Sports, Purpose: PE Teacher. But of course it’s not that straightforward, because you’re more intricate than a simple walking machine with a passion and a purpose. I always believed in solving problems and helping people. I wanted to give my life to a cause and I felt compelled by a strong sense of duty to use my gifts to make the world a better place. But building the skills and experience takes time. So how do you figure out what you enjoy doing enough to dedicate a large chunk of your life to? For me, the important thing I have learned is not to think about where I want to be, but to look at the opportunities that are around me and consider what I would enjoy. That means identifying my strengths, interests, and values, and aligning those core attributes with the mission of a company and the job role it offers. When you are clear on your values, and you’re looking for work, you can then ask yourself, “OK, does this match up?” And if it does, why not go for it? The trick is not to think too far ahead about where you might end up, but to ask yourself what is right for you now. If you are able to align your strengths and interests with something society values, you are already in a good place.
I think it’s half arsed advice to say to someone “Do what you love” because often we find ourselves bewildered with having too many interests or none at all. Passion and purpose crystallises over time as it begins to surface as the silver thread entangled within the vines of your life experience. You have to watch your own life evolve carefully before you can pull it out and run with it. In the meantime, perhaps what we should be asking ourselves is, “What is important to me?”, and then see what opportunities exist to tick our boxes. For me, it’s about being able to use my strengths, build experience and be part of a team that values me for me. You might even find you’re already ticking more of your boxes than you realise. So, we also need to ask ourselves, “what needs to change, and what actions must I take to fulfil the necessary transformation?”
With time, your own pattern of interests will become clear as you continue to follow what speaks to you now. So keep moving with these questions and answer truthfully. What are my strengths? What do I enjoy doing? What values does society hold that I can contribute towards? What is important to me? And do I need to make changes in my life to align my values and interests with what I am actually doing day to day?
But also remember to make the most of time outside of work to be with family and friends, travel and play, learn and grow, or whatever it is that brings you most joy. Because your life is not a duty, it is a celebration of what and who you are. I hope you find everything you are looking for and more.