As little kids, we were frequently asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” No one took us seriously, and we didn’t fear any negative feedback.
What’s our current answer?
Now it’s tougher. We’re trying to leave a job or switch careers or in some way pivot from one professional identity to another. We feel silly that we can’t clearly articulate our ambition.
I’m now in this boat. Or, I guess, maybe two boats.
I have no plans to give up my current business. But I’ve recently done some soul-searching.
How, exactly, will I set myself apart from millions of others around the globe who call themselves a “coach”?
I felt like I was the only person on the planet who hadn’t read the adult manual on What You Want to Be When You Grow Up.
I asked myself if I want to be a:
- business coach
- executive coach
- writing coach
- course designer coach
- virtual content creator coach
- something-else coach?
If you’ve followed me for the last few decades, you know I could be — and enjoy being — any or all of those.
But my question of what I wanted to be when I grow up is still unresolved.
Is there a better question?
I felt an enormous sense of relief when author and podcaster Jon Acuff interviewed author and speaker Victoria Labalme. She said she had gone through the same thing, and suggested that we all ask ourselves one very different question:
What is it you don’t want to be?
I’m fairly clear about what I don’t want to be. For example, I don’t want to mess with helping people to make their spreadsheets, analyze their expenses, or create their Facebook ads.
So, ask yourself: What don’t you want to do?
Don’t beat yourself up for saying out loud that there are roles you simply don’t enjoy. Similarly, don’t berate yourself because you’ve mastered some skills, but you don’t enjoy doing them. Be at peace knowing that someone else possesses those skills and enjoys doing them!
How can we move forward?
First, stop feeling badly about yourself if you can’t clearly articulate what you want to be when you grow up.
To the contrary, if you find yourself rambling with a very long-winded answer to that question, be happy!
I’ve never heard any guru say this, nor have I read it in any study. But I surmise that people who are multi-talented have the toughest time figuring out what they want to do next.
Ditto for the people who are curious about everything and want to learn everything.
So where do you start? Here are a few suggestions.
Focus less on the answer to what it is you want to be.
Continue asking yourself questions about what you don’t want to be. Your first step? Read Victoria Labalme’s new book, Risk Forward.
Consider taking one or more psychological assessments. I have taken several including:
These assessments aren’t the be-all and end-all but you’re cheating yourself if you don’t try at least one of them.
When I was in a high-level nursing administration job at a huge medical center, I knew I didn’t want to be in that role for the rest of my life. On the advice of a trusted friend, I took the MBTI.
As a result, I resigned, got a job as a clinical nurse specialist, and lived happily ever after! (I also got certified to administer the MBTI.)
Meanwhile, consider reading at least one book which could help you determine what you want to be when you grow up.
- Gifts Differing by Isabel Briggs Myers with Peter Myers (my #1 choice)
- The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile (my #2 choice)
- Soar with your Strengths by Donald O. Clifton and Paula Nelson
- Pivot by Jennie Blake
Whatever you do, don’t just sit.
In the comments below, satisfy my curiosity please. What is it you don’t want to be when you grow up?