Finding Your Focus

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” It is a simple question we ask of our children from the time they can talk and know what an astronaut is.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” We outline the possibility that they can be anything: a doctor, a space explorer, a dancer, a writer, a scientist, an artist. The possibilities seem absolutely boundless.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Do you want to pursue a passion for discovery, charting unknown territories of the deep sea, the human body, outer space? Do you want to create art, visual, auditory, or otherwise, that inspires, confounds, criticizes, or transcends? Do you want to work with others, helping them to achieve their goals and lifting them up out of difficult situations? Do you want to do one of the thousands upon thousands of different things that make up our world?

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” And yet, at some point, we just stop asking this question. We think that by the age of sixteen or seventeen, we should have it all figured out. By the age of 22, we’ll have accomplished what we need to in order to land a job that, while not our ultimate dream, is just fine in the long run. And we look at the people who accomplish great things, who go after their dreams with a net, and we think it’s just luck.

Now, a few disclaimers. 1) I don’t believe you should do what you wanted to do when you were five, unless it has stayed the same. If I had pursued the dreams of five year-old me, I would be an astronaut ballerina marine biologist, and none of those are things in which I am currently interested. 2) Sometimes it is luck. Being very successful is a bit like winning the lottery: you have to be in the right place at the right time, and even then it might not work. This article articulates the fact that luck and chance often play a big role in success. So if you have started your own online business and it hasn’t taken off to Facebook-like success, don’t be surprised.

However, my essential point remains the same. At some point in the course of our journey from childhood to adulthood, we stop asking the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We assume (naively, as it turns out) that we know what we want and we must already be doing it.

It is my firm belief that no one ever totally knows the answer to this question. Even if you are doing your dream job, I’m 99% certain there are things you want to do more of, things you want to do less of, task towards which you want to apply yourself. The answer to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” changes with time, just like the answer to the question “How old are you?” (if you are immortal, congratulations).

If you, like me, stopped asking yourself what you want to be when you grow up, I would like you to stop for a moment. That’s right, stop what you are doing. Think about the things in your life that you enjoy. Do you enjoy your job? What aspects of it do you like? What aspects do you dislike? Think about your strengths. Are you an excellent mathematician? Do you have a penchant for research and analysis? Are you particularly fond of design, implementation, and execution? What about your work and your life makes you happy? What do you want to be when you grow up?

I am not expecting you to answer that question now, or perhaps ever. I am simply offering you a new way to look at the pursuit of your passions. Let’s continue to ask that question, to grow and develop new skills and passions. Let’s thoroughly enjoy the process of finding focus in your job and career. Let’s not shy away from it just because it’s hard or takes time.

Let’s find out what we want to be when we grow up.


If you’re looking for career clarity this year, or thinking of making a career change, email us at We offer free initial consultations with our career counselors. Additionally, check out our Career Love giveaway  for an opportunity for you to win one of our career improvement packages.

By: Julia Pillard, Career Solutions Group.