“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” ― John Lennon
What did you want to be when you grew up? Are you that now?
Often, advice for finding work that you love is to think about what you wanted to be as a kid.
I believe that whatever we wanted to be as kids is sometimes a useful bit of information, but really not the whole story.
See, whatever we chose as kids is uninhibited – our imaginations run free, and most kids don’t worry about disappointing others or paying the bills.
It’s a pure, creative expression of who we are.
But it’s also limited by the professions and ideas we know about.
Kids don’t usually grow up saying they want to be an executive headhunter or a residential appraiser.
And it doesn’t account for the learning and growing that takes place as we grow up and learn more about ourselves and the world.
So while it’s sometimes a good insight into a more creative and uninhibited version of ourselves, it’s not the most useful advice for actually finding work you’d love to do today.
Be Blindingly Happy
John Lennon’s mom had it right.
You really have to start from the other end – not thinking about what you want to be, but thinking about what you want to feel.
Of course, the ultimate goal is to be happy. Really, is anything else more important?
If your body is failing and you have weeks to live, but you are truly, deeply happy, it’s probably a better situation than being deeply unhappy and completely healthy.
If we start by seeking happiness, then the question transforms from “what do you want to do for work?” to “what work will make you truly, deeply, blindingly happy?”
There are several components inherent in the answer.
The first, and most obvious is that we enjoy the work.
More than enjoy it; we feel we are meant for it.
The second, though, is something that I often hear raised as an objection for doing work you love.
People say to me, “Yeah, I’d love that but I’ve got BILLS.”
But you cannot be blindingly happy unless all of your conditions for work are met.
If one of your conditions is that your work must pay the rent and feed your family, (and it probably is), then that has to be a piece of the puzzle.
If a condition is that it must allow you enough time away from work, then your for your work to make you blindingly happy, it must be that, too.
So in the search for work that you love, remember that it’s not all about finding work that involves tasks you want to do.
Your work must balance and support other areas of your life to contribute to your overall happiness.
Doing what you love can’t mean giving up something important, like a steady pay check or work/life balance – or you wouldn’t love it.
So now that you are grown up, you can fill in the blank: “when I grow up I want to be. . .”
Only this time you are much wiser.
And when you listen to that voice that talks about what you really, really want to do, you can use all your skills and powers as an adult to come up with a solution that meets all your needs.