‘Why’ Not ‘What’ The Key To What To Be?

There are all kinds of jobs in this world from the mundane to the adventurous, from the physically straining to the mentally stimulating. Some require stamina to do the same task day after day and some require imagination and innovation to create new possibilities through trial and error. The tools to perform jobs can range from swinging handheld items to operating massive machinery; from a simple pencil to a robotic arm. There are a myriad of jobs out there, be they in cities of stone and glass, forests of green or pastures of gold.

And for every job, there are people best suited to do them. Some of us are physically strong, others the thinkers, the visionaries, recorders of history, we’ve leaders and followers, labourers and intellectuals. When it comes to work, we as a species engage in all kinds of activities, in all kinds of working conditions, be it water, on or under the land, the air or even space.

Often what we do for work is largely determined or influenced by where in the world we are born and then raised, the status of our family, the inclination of those who care for and influence us to expose us to a few or many different kinds of experiences. When we are born, where we are born, to whom we are born; all factor in to the opportunities we have.

There are those of course who will tout that you can be anything you put your mind to, and they may be right – if of course you are born into a society where you have the freedom to choose and the opportunities are there to seize. This freedom to be anything, aspire to be everything we want – limited only by our imagination and our own determination is empowering! Yet, this seemingly limitless potential can also have an unexpected and adverse affect.

With so many choices of what we might do with the time we have, it can be debilitating and paralyzing. After all, what if we get it wrong? What if we choose one career and work towards it only to discover that it doesn’t bring us the fulfillment that we’d hoped. While it makes others happy we know, it doesn’t bring us the satisfaction they promised it would. We believed them when they said we’d find it gratifying and rewarding, but it hasn’t turned out that way. At least we tried it! Or what if we simply arrived at a crossroads having to choose between 2, 3 or 4 possible careers that seemed mutually exclusive – very different indeed – and being unable to commit to one ‘dream’ occupation for fear of turning our back on the others, we’ve simply found ourselves immobilized – and in a flash, years have rolled by and we’re still standing still undecided?

There’s this immense fear we’ll get it wrong. Of course, some would say, “Ah, but what if we get it right?!” We might be amazing in what we do and more importantly even if we’re just an average worker in what we’ve chosen, we could still be extremely happy and satisfied. But would we possibly wonder, “What if I’d chosen that other path in life? What might I have done?”

Of course we aren’t limited to one career.  Think on that… Up until we’re in our late teens, we don’t have to be anything largely but a student – well, again – depending on where we are born in the world. In our early 20’s we begin to ‘be’ something. We who are older know this isn’t a life-long obligation; we’ll change jobs and careers during our life and some of these new choices will be in the same field and at times into a new one. After maybe 40 years of work, we might plan on ceasing to ‘work’ for pay and then work for play. Well, that’s some people’s plan.

Talk with enough people and you’ll find competent, skilled people performing their jobs without the least bit of enthusiasm for the job. Good enough to keep doing what they do, benefitting the companies and the people they work on behalf of, but no longer stimulated and in love with the job. They’ve become comfortable, their income and lives stable, and so they live out their lives.

There are those too who take chances; who quit jobs for fear they’ll become stale in them, who seek fresh challenges, new opportunities, gamble on trends and being out front as frontiers. They need not explore new lands, but they reinvent themselves, never-ceasing to learn and place themselves in the process to seize upon possibilities.

We’re all so different, so uniquely, ‘us’.  What one finds pleasurable, rewarding, stimulating and satisfying might do for another or not. The key is perhaps to find out not what job we want to do, but why it is we want to do it. Toddlers may have it right when they ask incessantly, “Why?”

When we discover the, ‘why’ in why we want to do something, we are closer to discovering the ‘what’. How peculiar it might be if instead of, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” which locks us into a single profession, we asked, “What motivates you? What inspires or stimulates you?” These are the what’s that get to the why’s.  Then we might discover there are many jobs that would equally stimulate us by fulfilling our ‘why’s’. That perhaps, is very wise indeed.

What You’ll Grow Up To Be

Older. That’s pretty much it as far as a guarantee goes. It’s also a great answer when all those well-meaning people ask you what it is you want to be when you grow up. Other than older, which barring your untimely death is going to happen with great certainty, little else can be guaranteed; certainly not the occupation you end up with.

Did you catch the error in the concluding sentence of that previous paragraph? Read it again and now that you know there’s one there, see how easy or difficult you find locating it. Go ahead, I’ll wait a minute for you to catch up.

The error in the first paragraph is in the singular version of the 5th last word; occupation. You see it really should be pluralized to read, “..the occupations you end up with.” By the time your life is winding down, you will no doubt look back on a working life that has a combination of jobs and careers rather than a single occupation to fill out your adult life. So it’s interesting that adults who themselves have had many different jobs and careers would still ask of those just entering the world of employment, what they want to be when they grow up.

Doesn’t the question itself beg a singular title? “When I grow up I want to be a Teacher.” Surely that is the kind of response most people are expecting when the young person they ask is answering. What would happen however if you overheard a different answer; an answer that actually reflected the reality the person was going to experience? “At this point I think I’ll be a Journalist, but I’ll tire of that in 6 years and turn to conducting market research. After a period of disillusionment, I’ll work in retail sales for a year, return to school and complete a program in Heavy Equipment Operations, work my way up to a site Foreman’s position, then I expect my spouse will accept a job in another part of the country necessitating a relocation and I’ll open a consulting business.”

I think the eyebrows might rise on the listener, the mouth gape a little waiting for the brain to catch up and figure out what to say next. And that’s when the irony of the situation becomes funny; most young people don’t know how to answer the ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ question, and most who ask the question wouldn’t know how to respond to the answer.

Truth of the matter of course is that the future is so unknown, the options so wide open, the possibilities are limitless. The only limits really are the ones we place upon ourselves. Of course our finances, family encouragement, geography, education all play significant roles in how we develop and the opportunities we might have. The single biggest hurdle or source of  motivation however comes from within ourselves.

In addition to being older, I think you’ll grow up to be whatever you want bad enough. If you don’t think about occupations seriously enough and what will likely make you happy, you may just move from job to job – some of them quite good fits, and some poor ones. You can be very successful and earn a living or living to earn.

If in another perspective, you give considerable thought to your long-term happiness and fulfillment, you might either alone or with the help of someone else, come to settle on a longer-term career goal that based on what you have found out, would appear to offer you the job satisfaction that you personally would find fulfilling.

Either way, I would suggest you give yourself permission to change your mind down the road. Sure it would be great to have such conviction that you get it right the first time and you have a very linear path to your ultimate goal and it’s exactly like you imagined it would be. However, it is also the case that some people find that what they imagined at 17 or 18 was good then, but at 26 and 27 they have had a change in perspective, learned about jobs and occupations they hadn’t ever known in their teens, and what was a good fit then is not right now.

It takes courage of course to change your course. It could mean the tuition you’ve paid has left you with debt and you incur more debt to change your field of education. It could mean too that sharing your change of heart means potentially upsetting others; your parents, family and spouse. But courage to change might be far better if done sooner rather than letting what was expected of you have you end up living someone else’s plan for you instead of your own.

So what will you be when you grow up? Difficult to answer whether you are 14, 34 or 55. If there is something stirring inside that says you are due for a change, it’s a good idea to listen and identify what is driving that inner voice. You may be all grown up at 55, but that voice pulling you to look at other things that would make you ultimately happier is a voice worth listening to.

It may be safe to do the usual; what is expected of you. Safe isn’t bad nor good, it’s just – safe. Doing what really motivates you and enriches your life – that’s living.

What Is Inherent Value And It’s Relevance To You?

Suppose for a moment that every single job on this planet paid the same salary. It wouldn’t matter whether you were a Sanitation Worker picking up litter after a parade, or you were the Mayor of the City, drove an ambulance or worked in a steel mill; everyone received the identical compensation. With money and the status it brings out-of-the-way and a non-factor, what would you want to do as an occupation?

Think about it and stretch your imagination for a moment; if all jobs had equal compensation attached to them, you could no longer be denied – or afford as the case may be – that red-hot sports car you may have always wanted. IF the compensation was the same, no house would be more out of reach for you than anyone else you knew. What it would really come down to then was what do you want to spend your money on?

The job you would choose to pursue, and the things you would choose to acquire; you’d pursue and acquire because they hold some value to them that you attach. So not everyone would want that log cabin by the lake with the gravel and sand country road leading to it at the end of the day. Nor by contrast would others choose a condominium on the 28th floor of a densely populated metropolis. Some might choose to still rent, while others would choose to own outright. Behind those choices there are values and ideals being expressed by those that make those decisions.

So pertaining to work, why would some choose to operate an ice-cream truck while others would choose to go after a job teaching? The answer lies in that individual again attaching perceived value in the work being done. So while the Ice-Cream Operator might value the autonomy, the popularity, and making children happy while working independently, a person choosing teaching might value the imparting of wisdom and seeing children grow. The Teacher might also feel they have a knack for delivery, and the ability to connect with students that gives him or her satisfaction.

Inherent Value therefore is some measure of importance we assign as individuals to work being done, and by association, the people doing it. This is why when we meet someone new, we will within the first few questions ask, “So what do you do for a living?”. Based on our own values and those of our society, if the person responds with a trade, job or career that we attach a strong value too, then our estimation of the person rises. By contrast, if the person responds with a trade, job or career that we and our society at large attach less value to, we often by association, see the person doing the work as somehow of less value.

Now whether you personally care about what others think of you and what you do for a living or not, that really isn’t the point of discussion here. What is of significance however is what is it that you yourself find value in doing? What do you take comfort in, happiness in, satisfaction in doing? You may find you can answer this question with a several occupations, jobs or trades. The next thing to do is to look at your own skills, qualifications, motivation and interests and determine what is the distance between where you stand today and how near or far those occupations are from you.

So if I find the work of a Truck Driver of value to me and I have the qualifications to drive a rig, it may be an occupation that I could achieve relatively quickly, and derive satisfaction from doing. Conversely, I might also see the value in the work of an Astronaut, and by doing some research learn that the job of just training to make the shortlist of candidates would take more years than I want to devote to that endeavour. In this case, I can admire and respect those in the field, but I personally might choose to get on with other things and not really divert any energy to really moving toward that goal. My best shot might be then to buy my way onto a space trip as a tourist. (Yes you really can start to do this).

Knowing what you value with respect to work is one key to overall happiness with your chosen occupation. So when someone down the road says, “Good job”, it validates our own belief that we are valued and performing at a desired level by our peers. And when a customer or client expresses their satisfaction with our performance and it improves their lives in some way, so too do we feel good because it validates our work and the choice we made to do it.

Now in our world, we don’t receive identical compensation for work performed, but should that really have as much of an impact on what we decide to do with our time? Yes money buys the things that we want in life, and they have value to us like a cottage or a holiday. However, you will spend 7 or 8 hours a day, 140 hours a week, 6,720 hours (4 weeks vacation thrown in) doing work of some kind in any given year; shouldn’t it be something YOU value?

Something to think about.