When we were kids we were asked this question all the time. What did we think we wanted to do when we were our parents' ages? Who did we admire and aspire to be like? Our answers were likely pretty standard in line with our scope of the world. Fireman, teacher, doctor, cop.
But as we got a little older and our awareness of the world got bigger, our answers changed. Accountant, veterinarian, graphic designer, financial advisor. After high school, some of us went to college to become what we'd become and then people stopped asking us that question.
When I graduated from high school I went to college to be a writer. I graduated with a B.A. in Writing and then I went directly into a career in publishing in Manhattan for 10 years. I was on the advertising and manufacturing side of the business. Not the editorial side. I had stopped writing. Completely.
I loved my career. It was fast, fun and I made good money. But after I got married and had kids, I needed a change. Once that change came, it was in the form of becoming a stay-at-home parent. I had happiness from being with my children, but I experienced a deep loss of purpose. I had completely abandoned my dream of being a writer. In fact, it was so long forgotten, I fell into a deep depression and my marriage fell apart. In abandoning my purpose, I lost the dream.
People stopped asking me what I wanted to become but even worse, I stopped asking myself.
I believe that doing what you love, even if that changes on the fly, is imperative. If you decide you need to switch your career mid-life because you're finding that you aren't happy, you have to follow that feeling. Too many of us fall down the well of obligation and fear of change, and we end up drowning.
You don't have to know what you want to be when you grow up when you're 5. You don't have to know what you want to be when you grow up when you're 18. And you don't have to know what you want to be when you grow up when you're 40. You're a living breathing organism and like a plant changes position for the sun, what you're going to be drawn to as you grow is going to move and change.
Always be asking yourself that question and be prepared to give yourself permission to switch it up if you need. Put yourself in the right light. Give yourself enough space to move. Don't succumb to a drought of purpose. What you do is what fuels your self-worth and happiness, and those are the things that alter the quality of your life.