When’s the last time you revisited who you are, what you like, and how you want to live?
For most of us, we give this question A TON of thought for the first 18 years of our lives. Everyone asks us: “what do you want to be when you grow up?”.
And while I think it’s a great question, helping children pay attention to the cumulative sum of their efforts — or their future — it also is very final. It’s as if one day you’re all grown up, and it’s time to stop thinking about what you want your life to be like and how you want to live. Yet, that’s only 18 years into your life, so the suggestion is you’re supposed to make all life decisions before you’re old enough — and mature enough — to understand the implications of your decisions.
I don’t know about you, but here are a few ideas I came up with during childhood that no longer seem realistic:
- When I was 3 years old I wanted to have 100 children. I was very serious about this…
- When I was 5–15 years old, there’s nothing more I wanted to do than become a vascular surgeon and partner with my father; I should mention my father is retired, so that wouldn’t have lasted very long.
- When I was 15 years old, I was committed to playing Olympic and professional water polo, and I had to be convinced there wasn’t a future in this career, from a financial and longevity standpoint.
- I wanted to marry my first girlfriend and start having children right away. In hindsight, this would have likely prevented me from getting a graduate degree, becoming a Doctor of Physical Therapy, starting my own business, and being able to improve world health.
- At one point, I wanted to drop everything I was doing and join the military. I remember standing in line the day of September 11th, committed to defending our country. And, while this is a very high road to take, I can’t imagine using all of my abilities to follow orders and kill. Fortunately, life had my back that day… and I got jumped in line by 8–10 of my soon-to-be fellow soldiers, because they found out my name is Kareem Samhouri and determined I must be a terrorist. I ended up having to escape in order to avoid a brutal beating, and in time I found out there were similar sentiments across the United States. Had I volunteered for war, I probably would have been killed by my own side. And, then there’s no way I would have been able to volunteer my care for so many veterans or work on peace efforts in other ways.*
*NOTE: I think it’s important to say how much I appreciate each and every military personnel and veteran for the sacrifice they make in the name of our country’s honor. And, for that matter, the sacrifice other country’s soldiers make in honor of service for their countries. I am beyond grateful, and I don’t take my life and freedoms lightly.
So, I encourage you to revisit your life, your plans, and the reason you wake up each day and make the commitments you do. Think of your life like a constant discovery process of:
- your soul
- your self
- your passions and purpose
- your likes and dislikes
Re-consider the question — as if you’ve never answered before and you’re thinking about it for the first time — ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’. Instead of thinking of 18 years old as grown up, think about ‘grown up’ as the next 5, 10, or 20 years of your life.
And just like when you were a small child, allow your answers to change, invoke curiosity, and spark daydreaming. You might wonder how you’ll spend your time, who you’ll be with, your connection to nature, and any religious questions leftover.
Most importantly, you’ll be allowing yourself to become dynamic again, meaning you won’t be resisting change. By allowing the answer to change over time, you’ll stop hardening yourself into a position in life that forces you to repeat habits and routines that no longer fit.
Whether you live in a free country or not, think about the innate freedoms each of us has to think our own way, live our own way, and dream our own way; now, consider the handcuffs we put on ourselves by choosing one path for life and sticking to it.
Today’s questions to ponder: what can I still discover about myself? Will I allow my life to change? And, if there’s any resistance, what’s the root emotion linked to it (fear, shame, guilt, rejection, loss)?
Sent to you with love, compassion, and gratitude,
Originally published at drkareem.com on July 12, 2017.