Recently, I’ve been speaking with people who are searching for a deeper purpose in their life. They feel dissatisfied with their careers; no matter how much success they’ve experienced, they feel unfulfilled, without purpose or simply bored. They feel like there must be more, but are’t sure how to unravel their identity from their work. I’ve been on that path, too, and here’s what I’ve learned.

How often were we asked (by adults) in our youth, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s a tough question to answer at any age. We begin to believe, from a young age, that our value is wrapped up in what we do. Some people get lucky and their career fits perfectly with their desires and they are happy. Some people do what others tell them they should do, or they end up in studies or careers that only answer the ‘doing’ part. After years of just ‘doing’ they may feel like they’ve hit a wall and finally ask ‘Why am I so unhappy and unfulfilled with what I am doing?’ There has GOT to be more.

Perhaps the question to ask is ‘Who do I want to be?’ When we are authentic & sincere; when we are who we want to be, it is liberating and empowering. When we get to know and accept who we are (with all of our quirks) and fall in like and then in love with ourselves – we have the capacity for the biggest, most gratifying and unconditional love for others. When we accept and love ourselves, we treat others with compassion, consideration, and care. We are present, grateful and we respond to life’s events with more objectivity – not taking things as personally. That sounds an awful lot like happiness and success to me.

Who do I want to be?  Who do I want to become? Who do I want to be on my last day on earth?

Deep questions, to be sure, inspired by the writing of Viktor Frankel in ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ and, recently by Coco Channel’s quote “How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something, but to be someone.” 

and this excellent article by author Agapi Stassinopoulos about finding your calling.


Ultimately, our most important job is to figure out WHO we are; to learn to accept WHO we are – to change what we want to change, to grow, to recognize that we are imperfect, to know we can correct our mistakes, to apologize or make-good if that’s what is called for and then to move on.

Yes, it’s hard work and absolutely worthwhile. We owe it to ourselves to shake ourselves to the core; to learn to love and accept who we are; to learn to look at this amazing life we have been given and begin to give back; to give thanks; to ask ‘How can I be more of who I really am? How can I improve, learn, create, grow, and love more?’

Are you willing to ask yourself those hard questions? Really dig deep and figure it out. Ask for help if you don’t know where to start. And yes, you have free will. You can change your mind. Ultimately, your core values and beliefs are what motivate you anyway; they lead the way. Life gives us ample opportunity to show our authenticity, test our mettle, express our strengths, capabilities, courage, resilience and intelligence. Are you up to finding out who you are and who you want to be?

What do you really want to experience in life? What is your heart’s desire? Connection, love, community, acceptance, forgiveness, freedom, respect, happiness? Nurture and develop those traits in yourself. Learn to love yourself.

What you do for a living is not who you are. Who you are shows up every day, every moment, in every action, word and response. It’s how you do what you do and it’s unique to you. NO one can ever take it away from you. Life happens; it’s random and unexplainable – What we do with the events and how we respond to them is what shows us (and others) who we really are.

And, try this the next time you’re chatting with a child or teen; ask them ‘Who they want to be when they grow up’, rather than ‘What they want to be’ and notice what they say. It could be the beginning of a very interesting conversation.