A recent social media post from Adam Grant said: “Why do we ask kids what they want to be when they grow up? It encourages them to define themselves in terms of work. It also perpetuates the myth that you can only have one career. We can serve them better by asking what they want to do—and what kind of person they hope to be.”
This resonates with me. It also reminds me of the interesting range of career aspirations I had at different points in time—teacher, nurse, doctor, actress, anthropologist, English professor, journalist, PR professional, marketing and communications director, consultancy business owner—and the constant: I always said I wanted to be a writer in addition to whatever job I had in mind at the moment.
Let’s encourage kids and adults alike to think about what they want to do in terms of what they love to do, what they want to learn, and what they want to share. Let’s talk and think about what they hope to be as people, not titles.
Let’s go even further and encourage them to think about the type of life they want to lead and what they want their days to look and feel like. We all deserve the chance to have that important conversation about lifestyle in a proactive way. Maybe less people will feel shame when they want to change course. Maybe more people will take risks to make changes sooner. Maybe there would be better fits, more happiness and fewer impossible juggling acts. Balance, harmony, and fulfillment to spare.
Hopefully more people would embrace the winding road to get to where they’re going and enjoy the ride. I like to think more kids’ dreams would become adult realities too. Not because we cultivate the desire to chase after glamorous childhood answers to “what do you want to be when you grow up?” That’s not the aim here. But imagine if we could preserve the authentic, unafraid answers and foster more hope.
Imagine if we could preserve our childhood sincerity in answering to that oh-so-popular question. What kind of adults could we be?