What do you want to be when you grow up?

I found this post in my draft file, so its a little later than intended.

Summer holidays often provide the opportunity to think about our current circumstances and the future…perhaps its just me, but given the number of people that are tempted into viewings of villa’s abroad whilst on holiday, somehow I suspect that I’m not alone. Sitting poolside with a good book and glass of something refreshing begins to get the imagination whirring into life. A plethora of  self-reflective “What if’s?” are posed. I’m at a new landmark in my family life, my youngest daughter is now about to start University (yes it is hard to believe that I could possibly have a youngest daughter old enough, but there it is). Of course many of you will have experienced this already, some will do so in the future, as for me, this is a new chapter. There is newfound “freedom” albeit with the proviso that we have an attention-loving cocker spaniel.follow-that-dream-movie-poster-1962-1010427158

As I was driving with my youngest today, she remarked how she meets so many people that don’t seem to like their job. She has been having a “gap year” (which I encouraged) and has involved various activities, one being to work for a well-known retailer. I wanted her to gain some practical experience of “real work” and earn some money to help her along at Uni. It has been an enlightening and worthwhile experience. Despite the brevity, she has experienced good and poor management, office politics, a degree of red tape and a considerable amount of “customer rudeness”. She wasn’t really prepared for this and has been surprised, disappointed and generally staggered by the manner in which some treat “shop staff”. All rather good life lessons. Anyway, she quickly appreciated that a considerable proportion of the working population regularly have either a bad day or are trapped in jobs that they simply loathe. All from relatively brief but telling interactions. So she asks me “how come you love your job?… was it just luck?… didn’t you just get lucky and find a career at a very early stage?”

Truthfully… yes, but it wasn’t always this way. I grew into my “work” (I don’t like calling it a “job” any more than calling being a  parent or husband a “job”). I do think that I was lucky… even though the first two firms I worked for were considerably stressful, due to my unwillingness to sell financial products that I simply didn’t think were suitable, (even by my then naive standards) and subsequent lack of earnings. To this day I still don’t really like financial products, they bore me. What I love and enjoy is helping people to imagine, verbalise and clarify a better future for themselves, then figure out, how I can help bring this about. In a world without financial products I could still do pretty much what I do. There was never really a single epiphany, but and gradual process of maturing, becoming more skilled and accomplished. I still have much to learn, which is something that I find exciting rather than anxiety inducing.

So whilst many are heading off to University, having had a thorough grilling from family and friends asking “what do you want to do?” I do wonder if we are not simply trying to get ideas for ourselves. Most people don’t plan a career, much less a life. Some do. Albeit that I am a planner, there is a degree to which one can over engineer dreams. Sometimes, if we are honest, we lack a little imagination, go for the easy, expected answers – to travel, buy a yacht and so on. Whilst clearly I don’t believe these to be wrong, we must challenge our own beliefs to determine if they are truly ours, or just the implanted marketing messages. Your life after all is uniquely yours, so when you are describing your “dream” make sure that it really is yours.

Dominic Thomas