The Pressure To Choose


At 8 years old, “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

At 13 years old, “You should start thinking about getting a part-time job.”

At 15 years old, “Are you taking College or University level courses in school?”

At 17 years old, “What Universities or Colleges are you looking at going to?”

At 19 years old, “What will that degree or diploma qualify you to be?” Are you sure?”

At 24 years old, “You changed your mind! What are you going to be?”

At 30 years old, “You’re changing careers?  Again? So what’s it going to be now?”

At 36 years old, “I’m sorry things aren’t working out. “What’ll make you happy?”

At 45 years old, “What are you going to do with your life? Such a disappointment.”

At 55 years old, “Had you made better choices, you’d be retired by now.”

At 60 years old, “So what are you going to do with the next 5 years of your life?”

At 65 years old, “It’s a shame really. Such potential and no life savings, poor dear.”

Maybe this sounds familiar in part or in whole. Interesting when you put the sequence of questions together though and look at them in their entirety. Can you spot the questions that are truly asked to seek information and separate them from the questions that really show others expectations and judgements?

When you’re the one asking out of genuine interest, the questions seem innocent enough. Perhaps you’re the grandparent or parent with an inquisitive nature; you want the best for your grandchild or child, and you see the world before them. They can be anything and anyone they choose to be; the possibilities are endless!

However, on the receiving end, you may well remember the angst you felt yourself when the question was turned to you. First of all it’s improbable as a child that you’d even know the majority of jobs that you could find rewarding. You’re limited to considering an occupation based on what you’ve been personally exposed to. As a very young child, many want to be a Doctor, Fire Fighter, Dentist or Teacher because these are within the limits of what they’ve seen or experienced.

By the time high school is underway, your already being told to choose university or college level courses, most often without any real idea of what either experience might be best for you personally. For many, a school official may have reasoned you were bright enough for university or you were intellectually challenged and university would prove far too difficult. Though well-meaning, you were encouraged to take the college level classes, or you were introduced to a trade as a viable alternative because you were good with your hands.

Yes, people feel a lot of pressure and anxiety when feeling they have to pick a career. Even in a job interview, employers often ask, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Or they might ask, “How does this position fit with your overall career goals?” Ever sat there and realized you have no idea whatsoever? You haven’t thought much beyond just getting this job and you’ve no career goals that come to mind?

Well if you’re fortunate enough to know what it is you want to do and you’re working the plan to get there, I say good for you! Excellent in fact! Well done! With a long-term goal you can get help mapping out the steps along the way you need to take to eventually arrive at your destination of choice. That’s commendable.

However, if you have no long-term goal in mind, or you’re torn between 4 things that you find appealing, you might be thinking, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just decide on something and be normal like everyone else? I’m such a loser!”

Well, you’re not a loser for starters, and no, not everyone else has it figured out. In fact, only a handful of people know what they want to be when they are children and years later emerge in life fully satisfied in the same profession they once only dreamed of. For the majority – the vast majority – as we grow up we meet people in different roles, and the more we see and interact with, the more we have new information to consider.

If you want an answer to that question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, that will be 100% right, tell them, “Older.”

Now depending on who is asking, realize that as parents and grandparents, they care about you. They are naturally curious to hear your thoughts. Even if you have no idea or you’re confused, it’s okay to say exactly that. It’s better than just saying, “I don’t know” and closing the door to your bedroom, shutting them out.

Good advice is to talk with people about their jobs. Gain some experience by doing some various things and pay attention to what you find pleasing and personally rewarding. Equally as valuable, pay attention to what you find unsatisfactory. You don’t have to choose one career and stick with it until you retire. That’s not the only success.

Success could be changing jobs several times over your lifetime, making full use of different skills as you acquire them, leading where you once followed, or taking on a new challenge to stretch yourself. You might head back to school and you might not. There’s no one formula for success.

Be true to yourself. Maybe – just maybe – that’s a good thing to be as you grow up.

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