What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

By Marjorie Foerster Eddington

What do you want to be when you grow up? That’s a fairly common question. Most people think of the answer in terms of a career or a job. But I wonder how our lives would change if we shift our perspective to focus on the “be” as a state of being rather than a state of doing.

In other words, instead of answering that we want to be an astronaut, a teacher, or a software engineer, we answer, “I want to be happy, harmonious, kind, generous, compassionate, aware of others’ needs, empathetic, energetic, helpful, responsible….” (Notice: I didn’t write about success or wealth. And notice, too, that these are all good, ethical, God-sanctioned qualities. No wishing for revenge or getting ahead of someone else. That doesn’t work here.)

This takes off a lot of pressure and stress. We don’t have to know right now what we want to do or even what college we want to attend. But we all know, pretty well, what feelings we’d like to experience. Perhaps we want more love or more balance. Perhaps we want trustworthiness or friendship. Perhaps we want adventure or fun.

So why wait until we grow up to be what we want? Why not be it—experience it—now? Why not figure out what values are really important to us and then live out our lives from that standpoint? It seems a much better alternative than letting society tell us what jobs make money or bring notoriety, and so determine what we do or how we feel.

And this can be life-changing because we actually have power over feelings. We can’t say that about our jobs. Other people and various circumstances beyond our control often impact our careers. What we plan for ourselves may not actually turn out. But we always (and I say always on purpose here) have control over our state of thought, our sense of well-being, the feelings we decide to act on in our lives. We always have a choice about how we respond to situations or feelings. For instance, one person may respond to a situation with stress and anxiety, while another person may respond to that same situation with clear thinking and inventiveness. How do we want to respond? It is a choice.

One of the ways we can experience the values and qualities we want in our lives is to declare that we have them—literally to say, “I am happy. I am balanced. I am calm.” But this can’t just be wishful thinking. We have to mean it, and we have to realize that we have the power of God behind it. When we say that, we are affirming for ourselves what God has already given us. Remember in the parable of the prodigal son what the father (who represents God) said to his eldest son? He said, “My child, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours” (Luke 15:31 ISV). Everything. Well, God is all good, all peace, all harmony, balance, all life, all love. Everything good—that’s God. So we have all that God has given us. Pretty cool. Pretty powerful.

So once we claim for ourselves what we want, we start practicing. If we want to experience love, serenity, patience, mindfulness, generosity of spirit, unselfishness, we look for opportunities to express patience, unselfishness, etc. And just standing in line at the movie theatre, driving a car, doing homework, having to collaborate with others on a project, give us plenty of opportunities to hone our skills at living a life of goodness. It’s not always easy, but it’s incredibly worthwhile.

As we practice expressing our God-given qualities, we will find that our lives, our careers, will take shape. Sure, there will be pit-falls and unexpected turns. But we will know how to find joy even when we didn’t get into the college we wanted or when someone else got the promotion, etc. Regardless of what happens, we can be what we want to be.