The Myth of ‘You Can Be Anything’: Aligning Career Goals with Natural Strengths

Mar 4, 2024 | Uncategorized

The Misleading Mantra

We’ve all heard the phrase, “You can be anything you want to be when you grow up,” usually from well-meaning parents, teachers, or mentors. While the statement aims to empower, it often lacks a much-needed caveat: just because you can doesn’t mean you should. In this blog post, we’ll explore why aligning your career with your natural strengths is essential for long-term satisfaction and success.

A Cautionary Tale: 18 Years in the Wrong Lane

I recently spoke to an individual who spent nearly two decades in a career that wasn’t a good fit for his natural abilities. He was working in project management within the construction industry, a role that required meticulous attention to detail—something that was not among his inherent skill sets. Although competent, he never felt fulfilled. He later transitioned into sales, a job that allowed him to harness his natural strengths like people skills, communication, and problem-solving. The satisfaction he felt was unparalleled.

The Apple Tree Metaphor: Plant What You Wish to Harvest

Motivational speaker Myron Golden asks, “How can one guarantee he will grow apples if that’s what he wants?” Most people’s thoughts go to watering the tree and fertilizing the soil, but his answer is far simpler: “Plant apple trees.” This metaphor demonstrates that despite best efforts, a pear tree will never grow apples. The same concept applies to careers: work in sync with your inherent skills to grow the right fruits.

The Wisdom of Age-Old Proverbs

An old piece of wisdom found in Proverbs 22:6 advises parents to “train up a child in the way he should go.” This is a call to acknowledge the natural talents and inclinations in ourselves and others, guiding them towards paths where those strengths can be fully employed. The advice may sound harsh or limiting to some, but it offers a realistic roadmap to fulfillment and happiness.

The Uncomfortable Truth: Facing Reality

The principle doesn’t mean you should give up on your dreams or aspirations; rather, it suggests you align them with your innate abilities. This may involve tough conversations where we tell ourselves—or others—that maybe a particular career isn’t the best fit. And while that may be a difficult pill to swallow, the long-term benefits are invaluable: avoiding years of dissatisfaction and regret.

Embrace Your Authentic Self

In summary, the mantra “You can be anything” should be adjusted to “You can be the best version of yourself.” Take time to understand your natural skills, strengths, and weaknesses. Align them with your career goals for a more fulfilling and effective professional life. Sometimes, by letting go of what we want to be and embracing who we are, we find a happiness we never knew was possible.