Going into a new year I have been thinking a lot about the phrase, “You can be whatever you want to be.” We’ve all used it, either to encourage a friend, a child, or loved one. But is it really true? Is it something we should say? I just started reading Cure for the Common Life by Max Lucado and he would disagree with the use of this phrase. Think about it. Can we really be anything we want to be in life? We could certainly try, but depending on our choice it would not necessarily lead to the most fulfilling life or best use of ourselves. For example, I could never be a singer/song writer. Anyone who has ever heard me belt out a tune will attest to that! I can dance, lip sync, and I’m arguably very fun at a karaoke bar. But I do not have a good singing voice. Sure, if I really aspired to be a singer I could hire the best voice coach in the world and make a go at it. But it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense. So how do you decide what you want to be when you grow up? This can change many times throughout our lives, especially in this day and time when the average person makes several career changes before they retire.
There are three keys to determining your ideal pursuits and how you spend your time.
- What are your God-given talents?
- What do you love to do?
- What are the needs of others?
The place where these three things converge is what Max Lucado calls your “sweet spot.” Incorporate one without the other two and you will find yourself unfulfilled and wasting your time. I’ve discovered this the hard way in my own life.
In college I had no idea what I wanted to study. I chose Industrial Management as my double major before I declared my primary major, because it was the most general and would allow me the most flexibility. Halfway through sophomore year my Statistics professor wrote a note on my final exam encouraging me to major in the subject. “You really have a knack for thinking like a statistician, Tracy,” he said. So I met with him and the next thing I knew I was a Statistics major. I was really good at it. I was born with a very analytical, left brain dominance. The problem was, I never stopped long enough to think about whether or not I loved it. I liked it ok and it made me feel successful, but I definitely lacked a passion for the subject. While it gave me a great skill set, I obviously did not end up choosing a career in Statistics. This is an example of what happens when you pursue something you’re good at, but that you don’t necessarily love to do.
It also doesn’t work when you try to pursue something that you love, but that you aren’t born to do. God designs each of us with a certain set of talents and skills. I hesitate to even use this example, because it was such a rewarding part of my life, but I am going to have to say that basketball falls into this category for me. Let’s be honest, I was not born with a ton of natural athletic ability. One would say I am the “short & slow white girl,” for lack of a better term. But man did I love it! I worked my tail off and was able to play Division III ball in college because I had a lot of heart and determination. The fact remains, unfortunately, I was never going to play at a higher level because of obvious physical limitations. Those years were some of the best of my life, and I certainly don’t regret playing a sport that I loved with all my heart. I do stop and wonder sometimes what could have been if I had pursued a sport that I had more God-given talent for, like golf.
Last, and arguably most important, is the consideration of the world’s needs. In order for our society to be a decent place, we need to share our talents with others and meet others’ needs through unselfish giving of our skills. When this third factor falls in line with the first two, amazing things will happen! You will find what you were truly put on this earth to do. The first time I experienced how much joy this could bring was when I quit my job in the business world and became an Algebra teacher. Are you living your life in the place where your talents, your passions, and the needs of others converge? If you’ve ever hit a golf ball on the sweet spot of the club head, you already know, it feels great!