Dreaming After your Twenties

What do you want to be when you “grow up?”

What do you want to be when you “grow up?”

By Mary Helen Conroy

What do you want to be when you grow up? A dancer? A firefighter? A teacher? Naturally, you probably think I’m asking a 10-year old. But I’m not, I’m asking you! When was the last time anyone truthfully asked you that question?

Let me ask it again — and think hard about your answer this time. What do you want to be when you grow up?

As a life coach, I hear responses such as, “are you kidding me? I am grown up!” Or the more usual one, “I don’t know. I wish I did.”  It’s amazing that this important life question falls away. No one asks us to dream anymore. But why?

I’m often reminded that when I was 19, I lived my life as if I had the rest of my life to live. Now, that statement is still true. I must live as if I had the rest of my life to do so…because I do! Regardless of if you’re 30, 50, or 70, that’s what it’s all about — living as if you have the rest of your life.

So, the question is still out there. What do you want to be when you grow up?

In our midlife and bonus years, I’ve found 3 tools that help answer that big question. So, if you’re feeling stuck and need some inspiration to keep dreaming, get started by taking in these tips:

THE TOOL OF REVIEW
All of us have chapters to our lives. The titles usually reflect our life stages like child, student, parent, worker. For each of us, the chapter titles may be similar, but the pages are as unique as we are.

At times of chaos in our lives, a great challenge confronts us. For some of us divorce, some the death of a parent, for others a job loss — these are all major times to review our lives. Look at the pages and find the plot lines of our life’s story. What are the themes of your pages or your chapters that will help you in the future?

Sitting with large, blank sheet of paper, I worked out a timeline of my life. I decorated it with dates that were important — jobs I had, people that influenced me during each period, etc. I worked on these pages little by little until I could start seeing themes.

As I reviewed my life chapters of Daughter, Student, Wife, Librarian, Mother, Teacher, Sales, I found that I could identify threads crossing the years. In reviewing my life three themes became evident: I’ve always been an information gatherer, inspirer, and a champion of creating safe environments. So, no matter what I do in the future, these elements must be present.

What are your main elements? Find your common themes and embrace them!

THE TOOL OF RETREAT
The world is a very noisy place. Screams come to us from phones, Facebook, TVs and yet change and learning who you are takes quiet. Find time whether it’s in a coffee shop, a walk in the arboretum or a weekend retreat to just listen to the small voice within you. Retreat and listen to what you learned through the tool of review. Let it soak in and, like spices in a stew, simmer into your new creation.

THE TOOL OF REINVENTION
Finally, once we’ve discovered our themes and sat with the plot lines of our lives, we’re ready to reinvent.

What do you want to be when you grow up? I wish I could tell you which store has the answer for you to buy. I wish I could tell you that your parents, your sister, your boss, your partner had the answer for you, but I can’t. No one can just give us our “want to be’s,” we must decide them on our own!

My favorite question for this phase of change is “what if I?” What if I decided to go to a movie, a concert, a baseball game? What if I decided to apply for that job? What if I wore all blue, pink or black today? What if I took a different way to the store? Experimentation is key.

Reinvention is about taking the knowledge of review, peppered with the quiet of retreat and boiled to a new pot of stew. Journal your desires, cut pictures from magazines and create dream boards, use your voice recorder on the phone and speak your dreams. If you read, look at, or listen to your dreams you’ll soon know the “what do I want to be when I grow up” answer.

But remember, the real answer will never be written in stone. You can always go back to the review, retreat, reinvent and repeat! So, I’ll ask you one more time. What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s time now to find your answer.

Mary Helen Conroy is a life coach and change strategist living in Madison, WI. As a professional speaker, author of “Ready, Set, Retire” and workshop facilitator of Dream Camp Retreats, her goal is to remind everyone that life is a daring adventure and they’re not done yet! Want to learn more? Visit lifesadaringadventure.com today.

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