I don’t know about you, but I always struggled to answer: “what do you want to be when you grow up?”.
Isn’t this odd though?
It’s a question every person must answer, but the only common advice you hear is ‘follow your passions’. Great if you know what those are (and can make a living from them), however for the rest of us who still find ourselves lost and confused, what are we supposed to do? It’s like the expectation is we will eventually stumble upon the answer. Surely there’s a better way than leaving it to blind luck?
What if there was a method to answer this question? A process you could draw on anytime you feel lost in your career to gain clarity?
The Theory: Starting with Why
Simon Sinek’s TED Talk led me to realise why so many of us struggle for clarity. In the talk he introduces the Golden Circle and how we as humans are driven by ‘why’.
I realised to have clarity on ‘what’, I needed to define ‘why’. My issue was I’d never been taught how to define ‘why’ based on what brought me fulfilment.
My formal education concentrated on teaching me the knowledge and skills to succeed in a career - on the ‘how’. Once again a system great for anyone who knows what they want to do, less so if they don't. For me it led to education becoming a series of expensive experiments to see what I was passionate about. It led me to studying a ‘broad degree’, to keep my ‘options open’. The assumption was I’d eventually find something that brought me fulfilment.
The problem is this logic is inherently flawed. A passion stems from the craft of something, on the ‘how’. By choosing a career based on this, your ‘why’ becomes because you enjoy it.
However, I’ve never met anyone who loves every minute of their work even if they are passionate about it. I experienced this first hand when I was a superhero at kids parties. I loved playing musical statues and having balloon sword fights with the kids but after two parties in one weekend I’d have no desire to do anymore. My ‘why’ would go from the intrinsic motivation of joy, to the extrinsic one of how much I was being paid.
To find fulfilment in these moments there needs to be an intrinsic motivation that doesn’t change.
The Methodology: Identify A Deeply Held Belief
Jordan Peterson in Maps of Meaning states: "The purpose of life is to find a mode of being that is so meaningful, that the fact life is suffering is no longer relevant". The challenge is identifying that ‘mode of being that is so meaningful’ to you.
The secret is aligning the work you do with a deeply held belief. This belief is a change you desire to see in the world.
In our society creating change is what you’re paid for. A business in its simplest form is an entity that creates change. Supermarkets changed the process for shoppers from one where they need to go to specialist shops for each item (or grow it themselves) to one where they go to one place. The key is aligning the change the business creates with a change you care about.
To play this method out for myself: I have a belief that the world would be a better place if everyone lived a life of fulfillment. It’s a belief that gives me reason to continue work when I no longer find joy in it. My sense of purpose comes from fighting for this belief.
You’ll notice this change isn’t a goal, something that can measured and easily attained. Rather it’s a mission, something that underpins all that I do.
Once you identify this change, next is ‘how’. This is where you draw upon your passions.
How do I strive to help people live a life of fulfilment?
I have a passion for creating transformational experiences in the form of coaching and running workshops.
From these two statements you’re able to define ‘what’ and answer the riddle: “what do you want to be when you grow up?”. For me it is to: Empower aspirational change-makers to find their Zest.
You can use the follow framework to create your own answer:
How you help:_________ (My example: empower)
Psychographics of target audience:_________ (My example: aspirational)
What they achieve:_______ (My example: change-makers)
The outcome for the target audience:_________ (My example: Zest)
What do you want to be?
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