What do you want to be when you grow up? We’ve been asked this question countless times, but do you have an answer? Here’s how you figure it out.
Unlike our ancestors who only had a few options and a very practical approach to careers and lifestyle, we have bazillions of options, from career paths to relationships. Today, we can have a career just by watching thousands of movies or testing beauty products. When it comes to relationships, there’s gay marriage and polyamory and co-parenting, and the list goes on.
While too many options can liberate us and lead us to our true calling, it can also paralyze us. Or even worse, it can turn us into career and relationship hoppers—always exploring, but never excelling or committing.
Life questions you need to ask yourself
To help you envision the kind of life you really want and achieve it once and for all, ask yourself the following questions.
#1 What do you want to contribute to the world? Doctors save lives, artists inspire, and comedians entertain. We gain dignity by what we contribute to society. Imagine waking up to 50 people lining up your door. What do you want to offer them? Why would people go to you? List at least three things.
#2 What are the things you’re good at? If you’re having a hard time with the first question, it’s probably because you’re so focused on the things you want to be, and not on what you already are. It’s great to follow your passion, but it’s also great to offer what you’re already good at. So maybe you’re really good at writing but you want to be a musician. You can work as a copywriter by day and have gigs on the weekend. Don’t be paralyzed by thinking you’re only meant to do what you’re passionate about. [Confession: I don’t know what to do with my life]
#3 Who are your role models? Studying the career paths and personal lives of the people you admire the most can inspire you. Or at the very least, they can make you feel less alone. Google them and find out how they did it and learn about their challenges. Print out their pictures and quotes and pin them on your board. Whenever you hit roadblocks, just seeing their photos can push you to carry on.
#4 Imagine your epitaph. What does it say? How grim it is to think about death when we’re visualizing our future? But this is an effective way to know what we want out of our existence. Since it’s an epitaph, limit your description to up to ten words. Examples: “The man obsessed with telling genuine stories,” “Inventor of crazy things,” “Best mom in the world.” [Read: 15 feel-good secrets to help you feel better about your own life]
#5 Imagine your 75th birthday. What do you want people to say about you? This is similar to #4 but is more detailed. So imagine an old and wrinkly you, sitting on a chair, listening to your guests say things about you. What do you want to hear?
Maybe you want to hear your daughter talk about how strict but loving you are. That you’ve helped her become the best version of herself. Maybe you want to hear your neighbor tell you that they always appreciate your warm smile and gifts. Maybe you want to hear your co-worker telling you that the office has been boring ever since you left. This will guide you to sculpting the kind of person you want to be.
#6 Money vs. passion? You’re lucky if you can have both, but most passionate pursuits *starting your own company, becoming an artist, etc.* require 70% or more of your time and focus. If you’re at the crossroads and you really find it hard to decide whether you should work full-time at a corporate job or do freelance gigs doing what you love, you have to know right now what kind of suffering is more tolerable for you.
If you choose to follow your passion and it’s not lucrative, accept the possibility that you won’t be able to own five houses in five years. Likewise, if you choose to stick to financial security first, you’ll have to deal with the “what if’s” that will visit from time to time. [Read: 16 things you need to give up for a truly happy life]
#7 What kind of people do you want to interact with on a daily basis? Think of the people in your life right now whom you really want in your life five years from now. If you don’t want to include your best friend in the picture, then you have grown apart but are still in the process of cutting the cord. It’s okay. At least you’re clear about what you want and don’t want in friendships.
Once you’ve made a sketch of the people you want, make sure you say hi to these kinds of people when you see them. They’re as rare as gems. Likewise, don’t get too close with the people whom you can’t imagine having laughs with in the future. [Read: 17 types of bad friends you need to unfriend from your life]
#8 What non-negotiable qualities are you looking for in a spouse? Who we marry affects our future in all aspects. If you want to get married at all, list the qualities you are looking for in a relationship. Do not be too ambitious *filthy rich, most handsome guy in the world*, because you might end up being disappointed all the time. Simply list the non-negotiable qualities that will be your guidelines in choosing a partner. Example: 1. Should look at me when I’m talking, 2. We should be able to laugh effortlessly, 3. Should have a good income, etc.
#9 Do you want to have kids? How many? You have to remember that it’s perfectly fine not to have kids if you really don’t want to. But if you are planning to have kids, ask yourself how many can you really raise considering your answers to the questions above.
If your dream is to become a billionaire or an artist, it’s almost impossible to raise a dozen kids. Based on the lifestyle you’ve envisioned above, how many kids do you think you should have? Remember, you can’t do it all at the same time. While raising kids, you can’t be 100% devoted to your career, and vice versa. [Read: 12 insightful lessons to help you have a better life]
#10 What things make you joyful and exuberant? List all the things that make you happy. Raindrops? Tea? Warm bath? Hugs? Don’t hold back. Get a pen and paper and keep writing for ten minutes. Incorporate all of these things into your plans for your future.
If gardening really makes you happy, make sure you get a home with a garden. If painting gives you joy, make sure that in your future home, you have a studio where you can paint.
#11 What is your perfect daily routine like? Envision yourself waking up five years from now. What time is it? What kind of breakfast are you preparing? Do you go out to run or do some yoga in your living room? What’s your routine at night? What makes you excited for the weekend? [Read: A helpful reflection on what you’re doing with your life]
#12 What ten words do you want to describe your future self? More than a career and relationships, it’s important to know the kind of person you want to be in the future. Think of core characteristics like being patient, generous, always smiling, genuine, funny, a source of joy to yourself and others, etc. Write them down and read them from time to time. Start cultivating your personality because it shapes your future more than money, connections, and other things mentioned above.
After answering these questions, make sure you make a dream board to remind yourself everyday of your goals. Finding out what you want is just the first step, but it’s half the battle. Make sure you will actually achieve the future that you envisioned for yourself by making the necessary steps one day at a time, without fail.