What is your narrative?

Your Life’s Narrative

Narrative: a spoken or written account of connected events; a story.

“the hero of his modest narrative”

What is your narrative?  That could be asked of any situation, however, in this case I’m referring specifically to who we are, how we define ourselves, and how we are possibly setting up our children for disaster, and may have been doing so for generations.

What’s the most asked question of any kid from say, age 5 until he graduates college?  That’s right, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  As if this child, tween, teen, semi-adult has any clue what that even means.  Let’s face facts, science has already declared the age of adulthood should be changed to reflect the fully formed brain which for women is between 22-24 and men 24-26.  What this means is that this question forces a narrative onto a child that their brains won’t be able to fully comprehend until 22-26!  Seriously!

Let me break this down even further for you.  In this day and time we hear a lot of talk about being present, mindfulness, being in the moment, etc.  This usually is in the same circles of talk as work/life balance.  Along with this we have a nasty little narrative hiding out, just waiting to be sprung on someone unsuspecting with this gem of a question, “WHAT DO YOU DO?”  LOL, OMG, did you really just ask that?!  

The all important and powerfully defining question, “What do you do?”  As if this one question will reveal everything there’s to know about you and thus, help to render an important decision, “Are you worthy enough to be seen with me, talk with or otherwise engage with me on any social level?”  I love and have used Red Foreman’s (That 70’s Show) response to this many times.  When presented with the aforementioned question, Red replies, “About what?!”  Right!  Great response to an inane question that produces little if any fruit for the interviewer or interviewee.

Of course this question is usually asked by someone who lacks a higher level communication in all manner of social situations.  So, let’s take a look at the questions that shape these narratives and see if we can’t come up with some better questions that can better shape a more interesting narrative.

Let’s begin with children first.  Instead of asking, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”  How about we start with a fundamentally basic question that could shape a person’s character, like, “What KIND of person do you want to be when you grow up?”  This creates a dialogue between child and parent as to what qualities and characteristics define a good or bad person.   A second question we could ask not just to our children but all throughout life, and that is, “What kind of life do you want to live?  Or What kind of lifestyle do you envision for yourself?”  Again these questions create a dialogue that lead to proper planning by way of dreaming and achieving these dreams by way of goals setting.I read an article once that profoundly changed my way of thinking.  In the article, the author was challenging the standard model of following your passions.  He reasoned that most people set goals and start towards those goals without having a dream attached to them as the final destination.  Essentially he said we need to dream first, then set the goals that will lead us to our dreams.  Without the dream, you’re just wandering around aimlessly, fulfilling goals that lead to nowhere, again, this is a result of the wrong narrative.  The narrative has an inception and destination, but it’s like Mad Libs fill in the blank fun pads we used to play with on long road trips.  You have to fill in the blanks at both ends to have a complete narrative the provides you a fulfilling life journey.

So, what’s your narrative?


Written by Brian Mabin

What do you think?


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  1. Our kids are super-smart and in band, so they’ll prob end up with scholarships for college. i am always telling them that they should find a career that is doing something they enjoy. My son hates math, he knows that a job that involves numbers isn’t for him. My daughter is looking at graphic design, she’s likes drawing and is really good. I also point out to them that they can do a trade school if they choose something that’s offered there, and graduate faster. I feel bad about kids today, they don’t get to be kids anymore. My daughter has been stressed out since the end of 5th grade, because they drill it into their head that they HAVE to get good grades, they HAVE to go to college. I don’t feel like college is the holy grail path to success. That’s just my opinion.

    • Good morning Kimberly!

      Sounds like you and your kids are headed in the right direction, at least in your thought process.

      I remember, years ago I watched a phenomenal TED TALK by a Dean of a vocational school who talked about exactly what you stated. College isn’t for everyone, trade schools offer a fantastic short term education specifically in a field where you can focus soley on that subject, graduate and be making $20, $30 plus an hour! Within 2-3 years these trade school graduates are banging out $60k-$200k, while college students are still schooling and racking up massive debt.

      The point is, there’s more than one way to the mountain and each parent/child unit has to determine what’s the best path for them… Imo, based on science backed by companies like The Kolbe Corp who specialize in identifying people’s instinctive nature and how to best apply them.

      Thanks for your thoughts and keep up the great work, being a parent is the hardest job in the world!

  2. Michael,

    Thanks for your thoughts, and you’re not wrong, really! Neither am I however.

    Check out a very rudimentary search of statistics pertaining to adults that followed their childhood dream job and those that didn’t. The short of it, is that only roughly 22% followed their childhood dreams and are exceedingly happy. Yay for them. However, that leaves 78% of adults unhappy and looking for new jobs on a regular basis. This is corroborated below by 2 different articles approaching the subject from 2 different angles.

    If that wasn’t enough to make us question the narrative for ourselves, family and children, then let’s consider studies conducted in the last 15 and 20 years by company’s like The Kolbe Corporation that have shown through science that:



    You can read further here as to a very real scientific and statistical basis for my article.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study found that close to 80 percent — 78.06 percent, to be exact — of adults don’t end up following through on the career path of their six-year-old imaginations.

    The approximately 22 percent of people who do pursue jobs their younger selves dreamed up, however, are overwhelmingly happy with their careers: Nearly 90 percent of respondents who fall into this category report high levels of job satisfaction. For this cohort, the industries with the highest levels of satisfaction include: education, information technology, health care, professional services and government.

    Study: 71 percent of employees are looking for new jobs

    Once again, Thank you for your thoughts and taking the time to even read it, very much appreciated.

  3. I don’t agree. There are many stories of very successful people who knew what they wanted to be from a very early age. Generally speaking, a child who has ambition and has made a determination of a career as a youngster develops into a pretty interesting and well-adjusted adult.

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