I bumped into former co-workers on the way to lunch. After dispensing with the requisite hugs and ugsquick pleasantries we turned to a coach’s favorite topic – “What do you want to be when you grow up”? (I have the coolest job, everyone loves talking about the possibilities in life.) These two ladies were quickly approaching eligibility for early retirement and they were more than excited to spend a few minutes contemplating the next version of their careers.
“I always wanted to be a teacher. I really want to help our youth.”
“I used to be in management for musical artists, but I gave that up a long time ago. I guess I’d love to get back into that.”
Broad smiles brightened their faces as they began to dust off their long-lost dreams. This is the moment that we always read about in those brightly colored self-help books. The moment when we reflect upon our passions and our past and magically discover our life’s purpose.
However, as the ladies and I kept talking, I soon realized that the books don’t always tell the whole story. They guide us to dig into our past, delicately unpacking our dreams and passions from the dusty corners of our hearts where they’ve been stored all of these years. While that is great advice, they fail to warn us that sometimes those boxes are just a bit outdated – filled with the emotional equivalent of bellbottoms and acid wash jeans. As beautiful and fun as the dreams were back in the day – they just don’t quite fit perfectly anymore. Being a school teacher was a great option for a fresh faced twenty year-old, but will a retiree be fulfilled battling the realities of our education system? Perhaps there are other ways that allow her to make a difference that may be a better fit for where she is in her life right now.
So, what to do with those old dreams? If we are honest with ourselves, some of them are really just fantasies (I’m nursing one that involves me and Brad Pitt) and are meant to be enjoyed in our hearts only. The others should serve as inspirations and a foundation to understand what you really want. Ask yourself:
- What do I love about this dream career?
- What parts of the work would give me the most fulfillment?
- How does this career fit with my core strengths and interests?
- What other roles will allow me to accomplish the same feeing?
When you get very clear about the parts of the dream that work the best for you, you can rework that tired old outfit into something new and exciting.
Share with us – what dreams do you have stored away?