Several months ago I asked my then four-year-old what they wanted to be when they grew up. The answer I got was: “Duh! I don’t know.”
Which fair, maybe four is a little young to have a life plan. I couldn’t help but laugh because her answer made me realize how much we ask kids that question and how truly unhelpful it really is.
As if they know what they want to be. I’m almost 37 and sometimes I’m still unsure about my answer.
Asset #39 Sense of Purpose isn’t just about how kids want to make a living. It’s about what makes them come alive.
Had I asked my four-year-old what she loves doing I would have gotten a better answer: skiing, watching as much TV as we’ll let her, and playing Big Hero 6. While these might not be Sense of Purpose material just yet, it gives us better information about what she’s interested in and the activities, people, and places we can encourage her to explore.
For instance: When I was a kid, I loved playing school, making art, and arguing with my parents. So they encouraged those things, well most of them. They looked for opportunities to expose me to the things I was passionate about. Took me to art shows, signed me up for classes, helped me get a summer job with a real, working artist.
Then, they encouraged me to use my interest and skill to help others. So I started volunteering at my local Arts Council, and eventually I snagged a job leading classes for kids.
While a lot of this was due to my parents’ support, it also happened because other adults took a chance on a teenager who felt her life’s purpose was to make art. The artist who let me crash his studio every Saturday. The non-profit that trusted me with a job.
Childhood isn’t about having it all figured out. It isn’t about “what you want to be when you grow up.” It’s about trying lots of things and discovering what you’re passionate about. It’s about having the space and support to test ideas and change your mind.
And we can all help kids do that!