Many articles I’ve been reading lately suggest that your personality is formed at around the age of eight. Oh sure, you’re not yet registered as a Republican, and your musical taste may run more toward Cookie Monster than Coltrane, but the basic building blocks of your personality are set. What interest you, what energizes you, what you love or what you hate doesn’t change much over time. But how you tune in to those things does.
Life coach Martha Beck writes about the difference between your “essential self” and your “social self” in her book Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live. She almost always starts her work with clients by asking them what they loved doing as a young child. Many clients struggle with this question; they’re not sure they can remember, and they’re less sure that it matters. They’ve spent years layering “correct” and “adult” expectations and constraints over their wild and fearless inner eight year-olds. By the time they choose a career path, it’s built on the expectations of the world, their parents, their professors and their peer group. It’s not built on their inner dreams.
Have you been dreaming of a new career – one that excites you, energizes you, and feels like play instead of work? Maybe it’s time to get back in touch with your eight year-old self.
What compelled you when you were in second grade? What did you love to do? I was a budding bookworm, fascinated with words and thrilled to be reading grownup books instead of children’s books. My parents bought me age appropriate editions of all the classics: Black Beauty, Treasure Island, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and many others. I was enthralled with storytelling and characters and adventures in places I’d never heard of. I started my lifelong love of reading and writing and promised myself that I would become an author one day. I write every day now, and couldn’t be happier. It’s more than what I do; it’s who I am.
I asked my husband Thom what he was like as an eight year-old. He thought for a minute, then said that what he remembered was being incredibly active. Running, swimming, jumping, yelling at the top of his lungs just for the joy of it. “I wanted to jump off every hill, race all my friends, take crazy risks to prove that I could conquer the world,” he said. “I never spent a minute in the house when I could be outdoors.”
For the record, he chose his career in the third grade, when he watched John Glenn splash down in the space capsule after orbiting the Earth. Did he want to be an astronaut? Heck, no. He wanted to be one of the frogmen who got dropped out of helicopters and swam out to release Glenn and bring him to a waiting ship. Thom spent twenty years as a U.S. Navy Search and Rescue crewman, jumping out of helicopters and taking some crazy risks for most of those years – and loving every minute.
A recent New York Times article quoted Maggie Mistal, a career consultant, on retirees who were starting businesses based on what they’d loved since they were kids. “Many of us believe we need to seek or discover what our passions are, but in reality what we’re passionate about has been a part of us our entire lives.”
So back to the original question: what did you love at eight years old? Chances are you still love doing it and have made it part of your life in some way. What if you could transform your job into something you’re passionate about. Those of us who have found that kind of work are happy campers.
Do you have a story about how your inner eight year-old and your work? I’d love to hear it. Leave a comment or send me a message: cmoody at careersourcenefl.com.