What do you want to be when you grow up is one of the most mysterious questions you can ask a person. Planning your future is not an easy task. It takes time, insight, and wise advice.
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Figuring out what you want to be after you grow up requires a lot of things. In this piece, I want to speak to two of them:
- What do you want to do?
- What would it take to get there?
Since I have worked through this process with my vocation, I will use that as an example to give you an idea of how you can think about your life choices.
What Do You Want to Do?
You should be good at whatever you decide you want to do. Thinking about your unique gift mix is essential because you want to do the things that are easy for you to do. God made you an individual, and your life has a unique shape. To find your vocational sweet spot, you will want to connect your unique gift mix to your future career.
One of my most favorite things to do is study people. I love people, and I love studying them. The more technical name for this is ethnography. An ethnographer is a person who examines people while contextualized in the community in which he is studying them.
I have never been an outward, showy, energetic, charismatic personality. If the world is a stage, give me a box seat. My early years were spent watching life more than participating in it. After regeneration, my desires to learn and help people became “redemptive” habits. As I thought about what I enjoy doing and my unique skill set, a twofold mission began to take shape:
- I want to take the gospel to every person in the world so I can help people.
- I want to live 25 years after I die because I need more time to take the gospel to every person in the world.
These two ideas drive everything I do. If what I do does not fit within that schema, I extract it from my life if I can. It’s that simple, which is the way I believe the Lord has led me to most effectively glorify Him vocationally (1Corinthians 10:31).
I derived my two life goals from the life of Jesus. (1) He came to preach the gospel to anyone who would listen to Him, while (2) His organizational objective was to replicate Himself into others so that His ministry would continue after He left our planet.
What about you?
- What is something you love to do?
- What is something you enjoy giving time for reflection?
- When you have downtime, where does your mind drift as far as a possible career choice?
- How has God gifted you? How would your friends answer that question?
- Describe your personality. What does it say about the kind of job you should have?
- What suggestions have people made about your career, based on their understanding of you?
What Would it Take to Get There?
After I figured out what I wanted to do with my life, I set the trajectory in a general way. I then needed to think about the practical specifics of getting the training I needed while building a reputation within my expected sphere of influence.
For me, it meant finding another kind of job to meet the daily needs of my growing family while building a second rail for my dream job. Working a pragmatic job while planning for your calling is a typical experience for many people.
It is rare for a person to know when he’s ten years old what he wants to be as an adult. It’s an unfair question to ask most high school graduates because it’s too early to know.
If you interview the college graduates in your church, you’ll probably find that the majority of them are doing something different from their college degrees. For many reasons, they did not discover their vocational sweet spot until many years after college. And it’s common for that sweet spot to be different from what they were trained to do during college.
There is a reason there is night school for thirty, forty, and fifty-something-year-old people. So don’t sweat it if you’re working a pragmatic job while planning for your future career. The primary key is to identify your gifting and develop a plan to where you can introduce your gifts to your ultimate career.
After I figured out what I wanted to be after I grew up, it was a matter of strategizing how to fulfill my twofold mission statement: (1) taking the gospel to every person on the planet (2) over a period that would outlive me. I deduced that I could accomplish this in two ways:
- The redemptive use of technology
- The replication of leaders.
Redemptive Technology – There is an “echo of omnipresence” in technology. Meaning, you can wrap the globe with the gospel without having to be everywhere at the same time.
Replicated Leaders – Finding men and women with distinct leadership gifts and equipping them in this gospel adventure.
What about You?
- What are the educational requirements needed for your desired vocation?
- What is your plan to get the training you need?
- What other things do you need to get to your dream job destination?
- Do you have a person in your desired field you can emulate?
- Who is mentoring you in this process?
- Who is holding you accountable for accomplishing your objectives?
Five Final Tips
Tip #1 – It is essential you have someone who is willing to walk with you, assess you, and help you. This person must know you (or is ready to get to know you). That person must be willing to be direct and honest with you. There is too much at stake. You need truth with clarity about yourself.
Tip #2 – It would help if you wrote out your answers to the twelve questions I asked in the sections above. Talk through those questions with your mentor. If you do not have a mentor, you’re welcome to become part of our community. Replicating leaders is what we do.
Tip #3 – Don’t wait for the perfect plan before you begin. Implementing an imperfect plan is better than not implementing one at all. What you start today will not look like the same plan ten years from now. There will be unexpected events along the way. Let your life plans evolve because they will. Don’t say, “I’m going to (fill in the blank).” You may or may not. Make definite plans and hold them loosely (James 4:13-17).
Tip #4 – Don’t fall for the religious vocation trap. Yes, my career is in religion. That does not make me a better person. There are some who believe that “being in the ministry” is the only way. It’s not. The only way is to go the way the Lord is leading you whether you work in a “religious” field or a secular field.
Tip #5 – Don’t compare what you do with others, especially if you’re a stay at home mom. On our first date, I asked Lucia what she wanted to be after she grew up, and she said, “I want to get married, have children, and quit my job.” Some may say she’s only throwing two copper coins into the treasury, but I suspect the Great Accountant thinks differently about her vocational sweet spot (Luke 21:1-4).
Bonus Tip – If you’re lazy, forget about all this. It won’t work. Procrastination and laziness, which are in cahoots together, will keep you from learning what God could do with your life.
Also published on Medium.