when-i-grow-upI asked her what do you want to be when you grow up? The bright-eyed, lively ten year old replied: “I want to be myself“. Wow, I was amazed, thrilled; what an exhilarating response coming from a ten year old girl.

I remember when I was about ten years old, during the euphoria of man having landed on the moon, I dreamt of becoming an astronaut when I grow up. Well, that surely didn’t work out! Back then I had no idea what the universe had in store for me. I am not saying that we have no say in what we become when we grow up, but throughout the years I’ve learnt that life is full of surprises and there’s a lot outside of our control. Becoming a therapist and life coach was probably the remotest thing for me ten or twelve years ago. But here I am, practicing it after many years of successful work in the completely different ITC industry. And I must admit I have never been more fulfilled with my work and life.

Sure there are some children who know from very early on what they want to be when they grow up; but that’s very rare. Majority of us don’t have a clear idea. As kids we might become inspired or fascinated with someone or something that captures our imagination, but most of the time life has other ideas! The point therefore is not having the clarity of what kind of work we want to do when we grow up. It is rather to do with being eager and excited about finding our true self and being ourself! While this is probably a rare quality in adults let alone in children, but it can and should be encouraged, taught and better cultivated. One’s unique career direction will have a better chance to emerge as a result.

It is not important to have clarity about what kind of work we want to do when we grow up. What is life changing is rather being clear about finding our true self as we grow up, and having the courage to be ourselves. The rest would follow.

The ten year old sparkly girl who knew she wanted to be herself when she grows up was the youngest daughter of Professor Lisa Miller, renowned Columbia University psychologist and researcher (see Update below).  My conversation with her took place after Lisa Miller’s talk  last week “What makes life worth living” and I remained exhilarated for couple of days afterwards.

While Lisa’s talk and the question and answer session were highly informative and engaging, but I can hardly overemphasise the impact on me of the heartfelt conversation I had with Lisa and her family afterwards. That teaching was direct and beyond the usual intellectual mind stuff. In particular the long lasting impression on me of the ten year old’s profound, yet light-hearted, joyful and  full of life response: “When I grow up, I want to be myself.”

Update: Professor Lisa Miller’s extremely successful new book could be of interest to parents:

The Spiritual Child: The New Science on Parenting for Health and Lifelong Thriving.
USA TODAY Bestseller
Publishers Weekly Bestseller