Does the Career Choice You Choose as a Child Affect Your Future?

Why some kids reach their early career goals and others fall short.

Thrive invites voices from many spheres to share their perspectives on our Community platform. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by Community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Thrive or its employees. More information on our Community guidelines is available here.
Girl playing with blocks

When I was a child, I wanted to be a mom. More specifically, I wanted five kids and a handsome husband who was a coach. 

Currently, I have four children. In addition to his regular job, my husband also happens to be a coach. I have most of what I wanted—plus a thriving career. 

A recent study shows one out of three children actually end up becoming what they set out to become in their youth. The top three choices among females are teachers, doctors, and veterinarians, while boys opted for professional athletes, musicians, and doctors. 

What does this tell us?

As children, we’re literally programming our minds and bodies to be our future selves. So while we may think these childhood ambitions are innocent—are they really?

And why is it that two out of three children don’t seek their initial career goals? Here’s what I think. 

Childhood dreams—and external conditions and support—shape us more than we realize.

  • Support is everything. If you were to come home as a child and tell your parents, “I want to be an engineer when I grow up,” what would have been their reaction? Would they have given you all the reasons that’s a bad idea, or would they support you in your decision to grow? In all stages of life, support means everything as we learn to trust ourselves and carry out our own life paths. 

  • Money is important, but it shouldn’t be everything. Is your current career choice based on a belief your parents or peers had on financial security growing up? Did you settle for where you are now because your parents didn’t have the finances to fund your childhood dreams? As a child, perhaps watching loved ones around you struggle to make ends meet shaped the path you took as an adult who now craves monetary stability. Many people forego honest childhood ambitions in favor of more lucrative career paths, while others shy away from pursuing dreams if the cost is too high. 

  • Our ultimate choice should boil down to the contribution, not the career. Do you feel that you serve your life’s true purpose in the role you’re in now, or do you crave something more? Stripped of its title and perception from others, how do you feel about the contribution you make? The career we choose should be based on its contribution to society and whether or not it allows us to carry out our life’s mission. Afterall, money and esteem won’t bring us happiness—but aligning ourselves with our true value will. 

The takeaway: strip away limiting beliefs 

As we grow, our perceptions are shaped by the spoken reality of those around us. Whether it’s lack of financial means or little parental support, we often stop trying to reach our highest potential when we meet resistance on the way. Or, we unknowingly create limiting beliefs based on the opinions of our parents, society, and other well-meaning people. 

Maybe your six-year-old self was wrong and, with age, you found out your dream career wasn’t all that dreamy. That’s okay—it’s common to change your mind with time, wisdom, and experience. 

Or maybe after reading this, you realize you’re exactly where you’re meant to be. (And that’s great!)

What matters is that we understand our past does not define us. We are not stuck. It’s possible to overcome the limiting beliefs we’ve adopted based on opinions or circumstances we had little control of as children.

Now is the time to step into the leader you’re destined to be. 

What did you want to be when you were a child, and what are the reasons you did or didn’t pursue it?

    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.