When I Grow Up… Why Only 6 Percent Of Us Achieve Our Childhood Dreams

by John Haltiwanger

We all had childhood dreams. Many of us likely wanted to be astronauts, painters, actors, chefs, musicians, firefighters, police, archaeologists (Indiana Jones), teachers, lawyers, doctors or perhaps even the president. Some of us might have been a bit more eccentric and wanted to be orthodontists, paleontologists or even entomologists.

Many adults probably don't even know what an entomologist is. But you can bet your ass that there's a 5-year-old somewhere that really wants to be one, even if he can't pronounce the word.

Indeed, the magical brain of a child perceives the world as an endless array of possibilities.

Yet, a recent study in the academic journal Social Forces has revealed that only 6 percent of adults ended up in the careers they dreamt about as kids.

The study didn't reveal why that is, however. Thus, it's an open question.

Why don't the vast majority of people end up in the careers they wanted when they were kids?

Some might take the negative route, arguing that childhood dreams are ultimately futile. These individuals would likely contend that the world is a harsh place. Tough sh*t. Move on, suck it up and pay the bills.

This is a very narrow way to look at this, however.

Life is full of twists and turns. There are ups and downs, moments of glory and periods of despair. It's all a tenuous balance between the positive and negative. There is no single path to happiness.

If all of our dreams came true, life wouldn't be the beautiful, random and enlightening journey that it is.

Here are five reasons why it's a good thing that most of us don't achieve our childhood dreams:

It makes us realistic.

It's important to have aspirations in life, but in many ways, it's more important to learn how to accept failure.

Life isn't always easy. It's a struggle. But it's through struggle that we grow stronger.

In order to rise, we first have to stumble and fall.

Yes, we all need to have dreams and goals, but we can only know the true extent of our strengths and weaknesses when we falter in pursuit of them.

Success is not achieved by aimlessly stumbling from one accomplishment to the other. It's trial and error; it's victory and defeat.

If we got everything right the first time, we'd have an extraordinarily unrealistic perception of what the world is like for most people. We'd be less empathetic, less prepared and more narrow-minded.

Failure is what makes us human.

It's important to embrace change.

The only constant in life is change. You can either go with the flow, or swim against the current.

We often find what we are truly gifted at by failing at what we initially desire. It's true that we might feel defeated for a time, but if we accept that life is a series of constant changes, we'll learn that it's only temporary.

Think about failure like accidentally making a wrong turn on the way home and taking the scenic route. Yes, it's more time-consuming, and somewhat enraging at first. Yet, in the process, we also get an exceptionally beautiful view.

Simply put, we all have to learn to take the good with the bad. We might believe that we are going to follow a distinct path in life, but nobody can predict the future.

As the philosopher Alan Watts once stated:

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.

Embrace the unexpected. Revel in the convoluted nature of existence.

Society necessitates diversity.

Everyone has a different path in life. We can't all be pop stars. As a society, we function because there are people who end up in an endless assortment of positions.

Accordingly, Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated:

Whatever your life's work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.

In essence, take pride in your profession, regardless of where you end up. The worth of an individual cannot be equated with his or her career. Ultimately, our true value is a product of the way in which we interact with others.

Not everyone will achieve wealth and fame, but this should not be how a person measures success.

Success is achieved by having a positive impact on the world around you, even in a minute way. A tiny stone can create big ripples when thrown into water.

No one should live a predetermined life.

Life is not meant to be set out and determined from the very beginning. Humanity's darkest moments have been a product of this mentality.

When we seek to control, it produces an oppressive environment. It's possible to do this on a personal level as well.

Don't constrain yourself with a prescribed lifestyle. Enjoy all that this world has to offer. Explore, discover, take risks and step outside of your comfort zone.

Humanity was not meant to be placed inside of a box and shipped from birth to death.

Life is arbitrary and dynamic. When we plan too far ahead, we forget to enjoy the moment.

Disappointment makes success that much sweeter.

The great American poet, Robert Frost, once wrote:

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.

Indeed, regardless of our own feelings towards the world, it will continue on without us.

We will all face disappointments, it's a natural aspect of existence. Yet, there would be no victory without defeat.

Simultaneously, the world is not black and white, there are shades of grey. We aren't always sitting at one extreme or the other.

It's impossible to appreciate success without first understanding what it means to fail. Remaining cognizant of this takes patience and perseverance. The most accomplished people in history possessed both of these qualities.

This is not to say that you should give up on your dreams, but that it's important to understand that they will likely change as we grow.

Likewise, in the words of Winston Churchill:

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

We can never really know where we will end up in life. Your childhood dreams could end up becoming minuscule in comparison to what you ultimately accomplish.

Enjoy the ride, remain indefatigably determined and remember that the future is a product of our actions in the present. Carpe diem.

Citations: Just 6 Percent of Us Have the Jobs We Wanted As Kids (Science of Us)