When we are growing up, how often are we asked what we want to be when we grow up?
The intention behind this age-old question is well-meaning, but the sentiment behind its answer leaves something to be desired. Instead of setting children on a track for success in some far-off future, what if we asked them something different? What if we asked them what they want to be now?
Hanalei Swan, fashion designer, artist, international speaker, author, and model, grew up traveling the world with her entrepreneurial family. She will never forget the moment when, at the age of seven, her mother asked her, “Hanalei, what do you want to be now?” It was a moment that undoubtedly changed the trajectory of Hanalei Swan‘s life. She shares the power of asking the question: “What do you want to be now?”
The Importance of Living in the Moment
In today’s world, getting lost in the future can be easy.
We plan our lives as though they have already occurred – we think about where we will be in five years, what job we will have, who we will marry, etc. This kind of planning is important for ensuring our visions become a reality. However, living only in the future can lead us to neglect the present moment and all that it offers – opportunities for growth and learning lessons.
The same goes for your children. When you ask them what they want to be when they grow up, even if you don’t mean it this way, it implies that their current pursuits don’t matter or are somehow less important than their future ones. It steers them away from pursuing their passions here and now and instead focuses on a distant goal post that may never come true.
This can make kids feel like failures before they even begin because the pressure of achieving their ultimate dream can seem insurmountable.
The Answer is Asking Differently
To combat this issue and allow kids (and yourselves) the freedom to live in the moment without sacrificing ambition or success in the future, reframe the question. Ask your children not “what do you want to be when you grow up?” but rather “what do you want to be now?” This subtle shift allows them (and you) permission to explore their passions with curiosity instead of expectation while instilling confidence in their abilities right here and now. In addition, it grants us permission to make mistakes without fear of failure because those mistakes are part of what makes life meaningful. Seeing your child take risks with enthusiasm is much more fruitful than seeing them cower under pressure – for both parent and child alike!
It is important to give kids permission to dream, explore, and make mistakes without worrying about getting them right all the time. We must remind them that there is no one definitive path to success and that they should not feel pressured into taking a certain direction just because it appears to be the expected route. Instead of asking them what they want to be when they grow up, let’s encourage them to start dreaming now, in the present moment.
“I believe as kids, we are very open to so many possibilities and constantly want to try new things. So when my Mom asked me what I wanted to be in that moment, it was like an affirmation to feel like I could do something bigger right then and there rather than waiting for the future,”
Helping kids identify what they want now can help them develop a sense of self-awareness and confidence that will carry over into adulthood. For example, if your child expresses an interest in sports or music, encourage them by helping them find ways to pursue those interests today instead of waiting until some distant point in the future when “the time is right.”
Living in the present moment doesn’t mean forgetting about our aspirations for the future; rather, it allows us an opportunity to enjoy life as it happens while also working towards our goals with gusto. Asking, “what do you want to be now?” instead of “what do you want to be when you grow up?” encourages exploration without sacrificing ambition or success.
So let’s permit ourselves today – no matter how young or old –to explore who we are now instead of waiting until some far-off future date materializes!