When you were a kid, what did you say that you wanted to be when you grew up? If you’re anything like the kids of today, your dreams started off a little unrealistic (think superhero or panda bear) and smoothed out over time, leaning toward things like doctor, teacher, or police officer.
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So, now that we’re all grown up, what can we learn from looking back on our childhood career aspirations? Actually, reflecting on the subject might be more valuable than you think. Here are a few ideas to consider.
1. You probably still love the things you loved as a child…
We are who we are. Sure, we grow and change and our interests mature over time, but there is still a fundamental part of our character and personality that we’ve always carried with us. Think about what you liked to do as a kid. Did you enjoy time outside, sports, reading, writing, drawing, or some other activity? Chances are that the way you enjoyed spending free time as a young person still rings true, in some way, today. Remembering what you loved to do as a child could help you tap into your passion and learn more about what you should be doing professionally as an adult.
Also, lean on some of these childhood leisure activities again during your free time. Too often we go to technology these days to help us relax. Remembering what we did as kids can help us recall other alternatives. Unfortunately, today’s kids might not be so lucky.
2. Did your goals and dreams really change, or did you just start to doubt yourself?
When we’re young, anything seems possible, so we dream big. We do outgrow some of our childhood dreams, though. For example, maybe you wanted to be a famous singer when you were a kid, but over time you realized that fame wasn’t actually something you wanted; this was just a fun idea to play with during childhood. However, if you wanted to be a singer when you grew up because you really loved singing – well, that’s a different story. You don’t have to be wildly successful to professionally pursue your interests and passions. In the scenario we’re playing with here, you could go on to be a music teacher or work at a radio station, for example. Think about those dreams and goals that you had as a kid. Did you surrender them because you lost faith and confidence in yourself? If so, rethink that. Once again, thinking back on your childhood dreams could help lead you to your passion today.
3. Think about it a little abstractly.
Recently, Steve Schiff of Fatherly, a website that provides parenting resources for men, published a piece about what famous people said when they were kids about what they wanted to be when they grew up. The answers were pretty telling, in a kind of abstract way. For example, Warren Buffet said that he wanted to be a stockbroker, and Mitt Romney wanted to be “rich and famous.” Martha Stewart said she wanted to be a teacher, and she is kind of into teaching others what she knows, isn’t she?
The point is, maybe we can garner some kernel of insight from examining our childhood dreams and ambitions. Even if we didn’t follow that track exactly, there may be some abstract way in which our vision is indicative of our character and our talents.
Spending a little time considering how you answered the age-old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” when you were a child, could be an interesting exercise. The world molds and shapes and changes us. Tapping back into a more innocent version of ourselves could help peel back the layers and remind us of a part of ourselves that we’d forgotten. And, that could help lead us toward identifying and pursuing our passions.
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