This article is from Issue 57: May/June 2012

10 Ways to Find Your Calling

How to figure out what you want to be when you "grow up."

"What do you want to be when you grow up?” It was the most important question anyone could ask you when you were a kid. And, if you were like most kids, your answer probably changed on a regular basis. In fourth grade, you saw yourself as the fun, cool, smart (and lax) teacher. You knew you would educate children, inspiring them so profoundly that at your retirement party, there would be three former presidents, an NFL quarterback and Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus.

In seventh grade, you had matured. You would definitely be a cop. You knew this because you watched COPS, and it was pretty cool to carry a Maglite and a taser. Obviously, you were meant to drive a beat as a 5-0.

Or perhaps you carried big childhood dreams of playing football or figure skating professionally, only to find your body didn’t cooperate. Or you wanted to deliver food to gaunt people in exotic lands, but learning new languages isn’t your thing. “It would be so awesome to get onto Saturday Night Live or Second City,” you thought, but you soon realized your community theater wasn’t going to get you there. You had visions of waving your arms on Wall Street, yelling “Buy! Sell!” and driving off in a Porsche, but you struggled with math class or lacked the gene for conniving.

Or maybe you’ve never had a dream. You’ve never known how to answer that favorite introduction opener, “So, what do you do?” You’ve heard all your life you could do anything, be anyone, live anywhere and change the world, but you’ve never had the slightest idea how to go about choosing.

No job has to be ordinary. Just about any job can be done well.


There are a few people in the world who love hearing a motivational speaker say, “Just do what you always dreamed of doing.” Those people have a dream secure in their pocket and are ready to take off. For most of us, though, trying to visualize what we always dreamed of doing feels like staring at a 75-foot-wide IMAX theater screen that’s shut off and blank.

But it doesn’t have to be that daunting or hopeless. There are some steps you can take and questions you can ask yourself right now that might help you figure out what it is you really want to do. Whether you do it or not is up to you.