The Best Answer to "What Are You Going to Do With Your Life?"

My daughter was so stressed out in high school. Not because the coursework was too hard or because the peer pressure was too much, but because no sooner did she say, “i’m a Freshman,” that invariably the next question out of someone’s mouth would be, “So have you started thinking about where you want to go to college?” Now she’s a freshman in college, and everywhere she goes, someone asks, “So what do you want to do when you graduate?”

Did YOU know what you wanted to do when you were a freshman in college?

There’s a lot of people who have stories about being in kindergarten and knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that they wanted to be a doctor or a teacher. They grew up and did the thing they dreamed of doing all their lives. But people like that are rare. And some of them found out AFTER going to college (after internships and clinicals and student teaching) that those careers weren’t right for them after all.

I can almost see my daughter’s jaw tense and shoulders slump when someone asks her this question. I totally get it because even as a 45 year old, I hate it when people ask me what I want to do. (I should know by now, right?)

Luckily, my husband has come up with a great answer:

“You know, I really don’t know what I want to do yet. I’m trying to focus on the person I want to become, so I’m taking classes in leadership and business as I prepare for what’s next.”

Don’t you just love that? Wouldn’t it be great if we all could focus more on the person we want to become rather than the thing we want to do?

On my way to where I am today, I worked as a trainer in a gym, a receptionist for a Chiropractor, the Member Services Director for a trade association, a consultant for for a developer, a researcher for an author, and dozens of volunteer positions in schools, hospices, churches, homeless shelters and other nonprofits. I’ve built my own nonprofit from scratch, written a children’s book, led book clubs and adventure clubs, and been a room parent and a team parent and all those things prepared me not only for what I’m doing now but for who I am becoming.

I feel like I’ve spent my whole life trying to prove that my work mattered. I’m tired of proving myself. I’ll never lead a Fortune 500 company or be a board room dynamo. No one is going to nominate me for a prestigious alumnae award, but I’m proud of the life I’ve built. It has to be enough—even when it doesn’t feel like it.

The next time someone asks me what I do, I’m going to say, “I study and write about character and leadership as I prepare for what’s next.”

And what’s that?

I don’t know yet, but I love the adventure of becoming me.

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