What Happens When Aspirations Change?

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“Do you know what you want to be when you grow up?” That’s a loaded question, right? The older we get, the more fraught it becomes to answer. Who you wanted to be when you were five years old is more than likely not where you want to be now that you’re out in the world. Mainly, because unfortunately Firefighting Unicorn, or Fairy Princess of Candy Cane Mountain aren’t real professions…yet.

That question becomes even harder to answer once you start pursuing what you think you want, and it turns out not to be right for you. Today we’re going to explore what happens when your aspirations shift, and what you can do about it.

It Happens to Everyone

One of the worst moments you can face is after you work extremely hard for something is that you realize it’s not what you want, after all. All the time, energy, and hard work—and presumably the help you received along the way is a grand culmination towards a destination, which you realize just isn’t for you. That’s scary for anyone.

You’ve heard of Michael Jordan, yes? The all-time NBA great, and star of Space Jam? (Of course, you have) Did you know that at the peak of his NBA career, a little more than a year after winning an Olympic gold medal, he suddenly announced his retirement from basketball…in order to play baseball?!

Yup, that happened. Jordan played for the Chicago White Sox for about a year and a half until he decided he wanted to return to the NBA, to everyone (and no one’s) surprise.

In the case of Jordan, it appeared that he was burnt out from playing Basketball and needed a break from the grind to fall back in love with what he was doing—the same could be true for you.

Sometimes all the hard work, grind, and dogged determination means that by the time you’ve achieved what you wanted to—you no longer want it because you’re too worn out to appreciate or enjoy it. In those instances, it’s ok to take a step back and recharge before you decide if it’s just not what you want, or you just really only needed a break to value what you’ve accomplished. Both are totally fine. The key here is to not make any knee-jerk decisions. Consult with your Advisors and try to get to the root of the issue, it will help you decide what to do next, or where to go from there.

When it’s Not What You Want

So, you’ve decided that what you worked for really isn’t what you want… Now what?

Be honest with yourself and your Advisors. The worst thing you can do in these instances is keep it to yourself and try to carry on, or suddenly change what you want without talking to the people who’re there to help you in the first place. What we mean by that is—your people care about you and your well-being. You need to be honest with them when your ambitions shift so that they can help you take stock of what’s going on, and help you decide the best steps forward. Lean on them for support, and they will help you figure out what to do next—don’t shock them out of the blue by stepping down from your amazing new role by telling them you’re going to go try out for the Chicago White Sox. We’re not sure it will work out as well for you as it did for Michael Jordan.

It Was Worth It

If you’re in this position, it’s very easy to feel lost and that the time you spent chasing an ambition you no longer want was wasted. Friend, we’re here to tell you the exact opposite is true! Knowing what you don’t want is just as important as knowing what you do want. Sometimes to get to where you want to be in life, you have to try a few paths before you land on the one that will get you to where you ultimately want to go. Part of that is a process of elimination to figure out what paths not to continue on.

Talk with your Advisors and try to figure out what you learned from your experience. It may be that the destination wasn’t where you wanted to be, but the skills you picked up along the way are things you really enjoyed learning. Figure out how you can apply them to a new path.

We’ve said it before on this blog, and we’re going to say it here, now: Success is a journey not a destination. You’re learning a lot by accepting that what you wanted in the past is not what you want now. Pivoting, gracefully, and deciding on a new path is a fantastic skill to learn—and one that is going to serve you well. No one’s success is a straight-line trajectory from childhood to now, unless you’re talking to 6-year-olds who simply wanted to move their bedtime past 6 pm, successfully lobbied their parents, and won. Then all they know is winning.

…Now What?

Think about it—how many careers have you wanted since you were first asked the question, all those years ago? Every time you were trying on a new hat, and trying to figure out if it fit, or not. That process never changes—and you have a team of Advisors to help you navigate it. The process is the journey—you’re not always going to have the answers but knowing what you don’t want can help you narrow in on what you do.

Also, if you’re ever feeling discouraged by your aspirations shifting, remember—if Michael Jordan can figure it out, why can’t you?!

What do you think—has this ever happened to you? Let us know in the comments below!