Updated: Oct 20, 2021
A simple investigation to learn something new about yourself.
Some say that if you remember what you wanted to be when you we were a kid, you might unlock the secret door to your true potential. Apparently, this simple exercise will help you identify your true calling.
I love this concept. Wouldn't it be great to go through your childhood memories or maybe diaries, discover what you were passionate about and boom! You know what you want to be when you 'grow up'.
I wanted to be a cook on a big ship when I was a child. I even wrote one of those essays that was later read out in front of the entire class.
As a fully grown-up adult, I hate cooking. Does it mean I'm missing out on my potential dream career path?
I don't think so. Come on, I was 8. Or maybe 9 when I declared that being a chef is my dream and aspiration.
But how accurate are those memories and even if they are accurate, what do they really mean? Do they show our true potential or do they show what was going on in our heads? What if they could show us what fears might have lurked under our beds? And as a result, help us to understand ourselves a bit better.
I decided to conduct a little experiment to find out how trustworthy my childhood aspiration was and whether there was something else to that dream career of mine.
Where do dreams come from?
My first point of call was the idea that because we live in a society we are influenced and inspired by the society, family or whatever is going on in the world. These influences are sometimes known as environmental influences.
Because think about it - after the first man landed on the moon, pretty much every child wanted to be an astronaut. Why? Because it was exciting. Because everyone was talking about it.
This is a so-called 'fantasy stage' when we want to become something based on our current feelings and emotions. For instance, many girls might want to become cooks when they are pre-teens because they enjoy spending time with their mum or dads helping to prepare food.
Was I one of those girls? Not really. Our kitchen was considered a hazardous zone. I don't remember spending any quality time with my parents there.
Psychoanalysis to the rescue
So I decided to dig deeper and apply some psychological tricks to uncover the truth. Because I wanted to be a cook at some point in my life. I could not deny that. This experience is haunting me at every family gathering.
But why did I write what I wrote? Why did I think being a cook was my dream job? If all I remember about our family kitchen was being shooed away from it's potential dangers. Why did I think it would make a good future career?
I pretended I was talking to myself as a child where a grown-up version was a psychotherapist and a child version was a client.
Therapist: So, how does it make you feel to be in the kitchen surrounded by utensils and different types of food?
Client: Alright, I suppose.
Therapist: Does it make you happy?
Client: Not really. It's kind of like a place where we eat and make food.
Therapist: I see. So the kitchen does not make you happy. How about different smells and scents? Do you enjoy smelling freshly made food?
Client: Oh no!! (laughing) Especially not when it's chicken, or meat or fish. I hate fish.
Therapist: Ok, I see. So you are not a massive fan of meat, poultry or fish. But how about sweets? Do you enjoy the smell of a freshly baked cake?
Client: Yeah, sometimes, if it has cinnamon in it. I don't like apple cakes cause they always too crunchy or chocolate is way too sweet, but my sister likes it so they make it sometimes.
We could have continued forever, as you can imagine. But not sure it would have given us any useful insights. Because even as a child I didnt like cooking and I didn't very much like eating, for that matter. I was a super fussy eater. My mum spent countless hours begging me to eat just a little bit more.
So not sure cooking is in my DNA, really. But to continue with a bit of business psychology I have now decided to apply a sprinkle of problem solving techniqies that I sometime use in my coaching practice and everyday work life.
The Humble Question 'Why'
'He who has a why can endure any how.’ - Frederick Nietzsche
This technique is also known as the 5 Whys where you continue asking a question why to every subsequent answer until you get closer to solving whatever challenge you've encountered.
Why I said and wrote what I did?
Why it sounded plausible?
Why was I so passionate about it?
Why did I think cooking might turn into my career?
The answers started coming up thick and fast.
A certain memory was triggered of my dad being away for work most of my childhood. He was a Chief Engineer on a cargo vessel. What was the easiest thing I could do on his ship? I know! I could be a cook! I thought that by learning to cook I'd be able to see him more often.
Mystery solved. I have unconsciously tried to bridge that void between me and my dad by inventing this dream career. Because if it was to be my dream career, I am sure I would have learnt to cook really well, wouldn't I?
So in my mini investigation, I have discovered that childhood dreams might not always hold the key to our true potential.
But instead, they might offer us a glimpse into our thought processes, fears and insecurities as a child. We invent fantasy dream careers to serve a purpose: to bridge a gap, to make us feel closer to someone, or to relive an amazing experience. Because dreaming allows us to be anyone in the world. Even if the most ambitious career we could come up with is a cook on a cargo ship. Because why not!