What do you want to do when you grow up?
In my childhood, I was afraid of this problem. I never gave a good answer. Adults always seem to be very disappointed because I have not dreamed of becoming a big man or a hero, such as a filmmaker or an astronaut.
In college, I finally realized that I didn't want to do something. I want to do a lot of things. So I found a workaround: I became an organizational psychologist. My job is to improve the work of others. I was able to experience them indirectly—I have been able to explore how filmmakers explore new ways and how astronauts build trust. And I am already convinced that asking the children what they want to do is a kind of harm to them.
My first dissatisfaction with this problem is that it forces children to define themselves with a job. When you are asked what to do when you grow up, answering "a father" or "a mother" is socially unacceptable, not to mention "a person of integrity." This may be why many parents claim that they themselves believe that the most important value of their children is to care for others, but their children believe that the most important thing is success. When we define ourselves by profession, our value depends on what we have achieved.
The second problem lies in the implication that everyone has the same vocation as himself. Although having a vocation is a source of joy, research shows that finding a vocation will make students feel confused and confused. And even if you are lucky enough to run into the same job, it may not be a viable career. My colleagues and I have found that the call of vocation is often unresponsive: many career dreams cannot pay bills, and many of us don't have that talent. Comedian Chris Rock, when he heard a manager telling a high school student who had just entered the school that they could become anyone they wanted to be, he asked, "Why, why are you kidding these kids?" Maybe four of them may become anyone they want to be. But other 2,000 people better learn how to weld. He went on to say: "To tell the truth to the children. You can do anything you are good at - if they are recruiting people."
If you can overcome these obstacles, there is a third thing: careers rarely meet the expectations of your childhood dreams. In one study, finding the ideal job made older college students feel more anxious, depressed, weak, and frustrated throughout the process—and were even more dissatisfied with the results. As Tim Urban writes, happiness equals reality and subtracts expectations. If you are looking for ecstasy, then you are destined to be disappointed. This can explain the study, which shows that college graduates who graduated during the recession will be more satisfied after 30 years of work: they don't feel that having a job is a matter of course.
One of the benefits of low expectations is that they can eliminate the gap between what we think and what we get. A lot of evidence shows that instead of imagining a job as good, it is better to realistically anticipate what it really looks like when you enter the job, and there is no reservation. Of course, you may be less excited when you take over, but on average, your final gains will be bigger and not easy to quit. Oprah said well: "Your work will never make you feel satisfied."
I fully support young people to strive for the upper reaches and high goals. But listen to the advice of people who study "work" for a living: these ambitions should not be limited to work. Asking children what they want to do will lead them to pursue a professional identity that they may never want to fight for. Instead, ask them to think about what they want to be – and think about the different things they might want to do.