We’re all familiar with this question; people have been asking us this one since we were what? 5 years old? 4? 3?
‘Course back then it wasn’t a problem. You’d just belt out “Firefighter!” or “Doctor!” or “Clown!” And everyone said, “How cute!” and patted you on the head, and gave you a cookie.
But now you’re getting on towards where you’re going to have to make money for yourself. And so presumably you are “grown up” and need to know what you’re going to be. And you don’t feel significantly more organized or certain than when you were five.
I have a secret for you: You’re not broken. It’s just a stupid question.
It’s actually stupid on several levels. One is the assumption that there comes a point where you “grow up”, and after that point you’ll be the same forever.
One is the assumption that you’ll only have one job, one stream of income, one thing that you’ll do.
One is the assumption that your one job is what you’ll “be”, that you can be defined as a person by the job that you do.
And the biggest problem, the one that’s hardest to see because it’s such a prevalent assumption of our culture, is the assumption that what you do for a living should define what you do, rather than the other way ’round.
Reading through The Sales Bible by Jeffery Gitomer today, I came across a wonderful few pages on developing your own personal mission statement. I’ve been meaning for several years to write myself a mission statement, but I got stuck on the how of doing so. All the books I read just said, “Write a mission statement. It’s very important!”. Thanks, guys….
But Jeffrey actually explains a process, so I now have my very own mission statement (I don’t actually think you care, but I’m going to make a point at the bottom of this, so stick with me.)
I am a scanner, a learner, an organizer, and a healer
Define what you are dedicated to
I am dedicated to learning, to freedom/independence, and to helping others.
Define your service to others
I help others by healing their pain when possible, by helping them organize their thoughts, feelings and needs, and by teaching what I know to those who want to learn.
Define how you will strive to get better, learn new things, and grow
Any way I can! (This is not a problem for me)
Define your commitment to yourself
I will work every day to be better than I am now.
Define your commitment to others
I will never stop looking for ways I can use my talents to improve others’ lives.
In summary: I learn as much as I can about anything I can, and I use that knowledge to teach others how to improve their lives.
OK, I promised you a point, and here it is:
None of that mission was in any way tied to a job. I can fulfill it by becoming a math teacher. I can fulfill it by becoming a professional speaker. I can fulfill it by writing a blog. I can fulfill it by taking classes. I can fulfill it by helping a stranger on the street find their way to Macy’s.
What do I want to be when I grow up? I want to be all of that. A blogger, a teacher, a writer, a speaker, a brainstormer, a giver-of-directions-on-the-street. A founder of educational non-profits. An attender of conferences. Who says I have to pick one? It’s a stupid rule.
What do you want to do when you grow up? What do you wish you were doing right now?
That’s a sensible question with sensible answers.
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