What do you want to be when you’re grown up?

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Remember that question? I expect we have all been asked that by various people. Can you remember any of the answers you gave? The only one I remember was after a particularly memorable lesson at school when I was ten or eleven. Our teacher, the fabulous Mr Wilson, was quite possibly the most creative educationalist who was ever allowed to try out his theories of learning on me. I’m not sure how much I learned from him (I seem to remember that he left teaching quite early to become a professional musician) but he left me with more memories than many of my other teachers. One of his innovations was to set up a class Parliament. We divided into two “parties” (which become boys v girls) and since there were more girls than boys they became the Government, and I was Leader of the Opposition. My ambition at that moment (short and long term) was to become Chancellor of the Exchequer. I suppose I knew intuitively, even then, that you didn’t have to hold the top job to have the most influence.

When your dreams hit the “nevers”

We’ve all had dreams of what we want to be that don’t materialise. We all , at some point, hit the “nevers.” I’ll never be Chancellor of the Exchequer, play cricket for England, be a journalist, fly to Mars. But that doesn’t stop us dreaming about what “I want to be when….” With the Centre for Ageing Better asking if we had reached a period of history that could be described as the Age of no Retirement there has never been a greater need to give ourselves permission to dream about our futures. Not only are our futures likely to be longer than many of our parents, they will also need more active management on our part. But before we get into the practicalities of that, why not start with a little dreaming.

Coaching in action

Take that question that set you dreaming all those years ago, and reapply it to another life phase that’s ahead of you. What do you want to be when (for example) you outgrow full-time work? You could begin to answer that question by starting with “I want to be someone who…..” and describe the person who starts to materialise. You might be surprised at the possibilities that emerge.

And don’t worry if life after full-time work seems a long way off. Being grown up seemed a long way off when you first started thinking about it. It didn’t stop you dreaming then.

Don’t let it stop you dreaming now.

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