Please Stop Asking This Question
by Robin Sacks
I have a 14 year old daughter who is starting to look at colleges and universities. She is a great student and a great athlete (biased, but accurate). As people learn about the plan to continue her education, the same question is asked over and over and over again — “What do you want to do?”
I have to laugh when I hear it.
It’s a question we have all asked many times, to both kids and to adults. Many of us have even asked ourselves that question (many of us, more than once!). Outside of the very few who seem to know exactly what they want to do with the rest of their lives by the time they leave high school, most people aren’t sure ‘what they want to be when they grow up,’ regardless of whether they are 14 or 44.
But this question has gotten me thinking.
It’s got me thinking about how, if we ask the opposite question first, we can get closer to what we do want more quickly and with more clarity.
Think about it.
Instead of asking yourself (or other people), “What do you want to do?”, ask “What do you not want to do?”
Instead of asking yourself (or other people), “What do you want to be?”, ask , “What do you not want to be?”
We spend too much time attempting to identify who we are when we should be spending more time deciding who we are not. We spend too much time attempting to identify what we want to do when we could be getting clarity on what we don’t want to do.
Since it’s easier for our brains to look for (and find) the negative, let’s use that to our advantage! I might not be able to narrow down what I want to do easily, but I certainly can make you a long list of what I don’t want to do.
Can’t you? See, it’s much easier!
Give this approach a try and see if you can get more clarity about yourself. What personality traits do you not appreciate in other people? Make the decision to never be that person. What do you know you do not enjoy doing or do very well? Make the decision to choose a job or career that does not include those things.
You are allowed to make your own choices, and if you learn a bit more about yourself, those choices can be great fits.
You can get a lot of clarity about who you are by deciding who and what you are not. Take some time today and think about, not just the person you strive to be, but also the person you have made a commitment to yourself never to become. Then, go be you!