There it is, the question we all know so well. One that we’ve been asked since we were kids, one that ignites excitement and curiosity, yet at the same time, can invoke anxiety from this added pressure that leads to expectations, that we should have it all figured out. Or at the very least, we should be able to answer that question. If you can’t answer it as a kid, surely you can as an adult. ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’
Some people know in their early years exactly what they want to do, and therefore have the advantage of working towards it, while the rest of us are still ‘figuring it out.’ To those people who found their passion early and went for it, I commend you. What a gift to have the clarity and profound understanding of your interests, strengths and ambitions from a young age. I believe that this inner knowing is invaluable and sits as one of the greatest superpowers anyone can have. Not just for your job and future career, but across all areas of life. Such as your relationships, health, hobbies, your habits, mindset and so on. When we are clear, we get to follow our own instincts towards what matters most to us, instead of following the crowd, or just standing still.
To me, this clarity (at any age) is the Holy Grail – a compass, or tool to help us navigate the world and our place in it. So why don’t we better understand how to tap into it? Trial and Error is a great solution to work out your interests and talents, but your talents might not necessarily correlate with your passions. Like choosing a University major in High School for example – talk about daunting. You’re 17, just got your driver’s license, still underage, you can’t vote, and yet you are expected to know what type of degree you want to graduate with, in 4 years time.
Personally, I felt like I didn’t have the appropriate support in High School to make that kind of call. I had no idea what to pick, so I just went with my highest grades, which at the time was English and Social Sciences. A part from having the undeniable advantage of adding a degree to my resume, I haven’t really used any of those University teachings in my day-to-day jobs. Isn’t that kind of wasteful? Surely, it could be done better? Which poses my next question. Is this a common occurrence for students, or is it rarity? Could it be that we aren’t given the proper tools to thrive in University, or is our maturity to blame? Maybe it’s both.
Admittedly, none of my jobs have brought me a deep sense of satisfaction. It’s true that I enjoy work, and being on furlough has showed me just how much. However, I have yet to find a vocation that fuels me to the core, where I feel like I’m contributing to something important and meaningful. I’ve known for a while now that this is the missing piece, hence my interests in naming the cause, so I can find a solution.
Perhaps, if I better understood my strengths and ambitions when I was younger, or had more tailored guidance, then I might have made more informed decisions around my education and career path. Or perhaps, I would have found myself here any way.
The point is, I’ve never been clear on what I wanted to ‘be’ from a traditional sense. My resume and lifestyle is an honest reflection of that. I’ve dipped my toes into Promotional Marketing, Human Resources, Brand Marketing, Freelance Writing and most recently, Office Administration. I chase adventure and novelty. I’ve lived in Sydney and London, starting from scratch in both places. I took an 18-month sabbatical to travel. I love some routine, yet I tire of too much of it. I get antsy when my life becomes too predictable. I daydream often of the places I could go, and things I could do. I get excited about change and new opportunities. I feel most alive when my senses are sparked by the sights, smells and sounds around me. While I might not be able to join anyone in the passionate career campsite, I can say that I’ve lived passionately.
It is very possible that my life unfolded the way it has due to lack of direction and purpose. Equally, it could be just the opposite. It is possible that the direction was there all along, but I just didn’t know how to identify it. Somehow, it was my inner knowing that led me to living this colourful life of diving in oceans, climbing mountains, sailing around islands and biking through rice fields. Coincidence or not, my life motto has seemingly been based on the idea that – defining success is a personal matter, one that doesn’t need to be approved by societal standards to be valuable.
I’m not throwing in the towel with finding more passion in my career. I know that it’s important. But passion can be found in more ways than one. So, I’ll roll with that for now and smile gently at myself. And if you can relate to any of this, I encourage you to do the same.
With absolute certainty, I know that my ultimate freedom is to move through life with as much flow as possible. By flow, I mean that sweet spot, where you find balance that is wholeheartedly suited to who you are. Where you’re neither anxious, nor bored, but rather completely engaged in what you’re doing. Not just in your job, but across the board. That’s where the magic is my friends, and I intend to move towards it.
If we can take a step of inspired action each day, perhaps that glorious balance, that sweet spot, is more reachable than we think. As mentioned, everyone has a different view on how to measure success. Like me, you might not know exactly what you want to ‘be,’ even now as an adult. But in my opinion, if you can take an honest reflection of your life and say, ‘mostly, in my day-to-day, I’m having fun, feeling inspired and being kind,’ then to me, that is great success.
As Susan Cain wrote in her best selling book Quiet, ‘The Secret of life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamp-lit desk. Use your natural powers – of persistence, concentration and insight – to do the work you love and work that matters. Solve problems, make art and think deeply.’
Thanks for reading!