It’s often asked of children, and some immature adults: What would you like to be when you grow up? Personally, I think a better question would be how you want to be. How would you like to be emotionally? What kind of improvements do you envision in the way you interact with the universe? What kinds of character traits would you like to amass, and which would you like to eliminate from your repertoire?
Wouldn’t you fancy being more patient, more loving, more diligent? And definitely happier?
These are states. These are qualities that need to be nourished.
Asking a kid if he wants to be a fireman or an astronaut is cute but ultimately less important than the state of mind to which he aspires. Of course, it’s wonderful to imagine yourself in a heroic professional role, helping people, saving lives, but what you really need is to truly care about them – and that requires serious character renovation. There’s nothing more obnoxious than a well-trained doctor who’s an impatient sourpuss, an individual who clearly hasn’t done any self-work and has relied on education alone.
Consider the qualities ascribed to saintly, even holy people. If you are overly critical, cynical, or prone to disappointment, you may be inclined to close yourself off and scoff at such goodness, dismissing it as naïveté. But why not allow yourself to admire its potential? Why not be open to the possibility that with the right emotional and spiritual fine-tuning, the traits you secretly marvel at are achievable for you?
With vision and discipline, you can get there. Obviously, no one ever became something without working for it, often studying diligently and even living with various disappointments and setbacks along the way. This process is not just unavoidable; it’s the key to the whole business.
As you live your life, look at who you are at any given moment. In response to that assessment, recalibrate so that you can improve and elevate yourself, especially if you’re feeling less than optimistic, less than excited about being alive.
Develop strategies to keep yourself motivated as you pursue the goal of becoming your best self.
Do you want to cultivate kindness? You need to spot and admit all those times your thoughts toward near, dear and strangers are less than generous. Pay attention to your nasty inner critic. Watch out for selfishness. Fortify yourself with gratitude; it tends to make you a kinder human being. You want to be as honestly cheerful as possible. Good mood is infectious.
As you progress in the endeavor of enriching your interactions on this planet, it will be easier to catch your flaws and even easier to rectify them. This does not need to be done with a professional nor does one need higher education. Even a child can learn how to monitor himself and strive to be a better person – if he is encouraged to think about how he wants to be when he grows up. Children are eager sponges and adapt quickly to the lessons they are taught; use this fact to teach your children good values, planting the notion that the most important thing in life is to be a genuinely caring human being.