Frankly, the question is bullshit. We are guided to answer it with a profession, a title or a lifestyle.
“I want to be an artist.” “I want to be the president.” “I want to be a film director.” “I want to stay at home and raise my children.”
The problem? There’s far more to life than a title, many roads to travel, and too much time to do only one thing. Your answer will change. It has since you were born, it will continue to evolve until the day you die. My answer changed throughout my life from Locomotive Engineer to Meteorologist to Starship Captain to Video Game Designer to Film Producer to Technology CEO. I have been all over the map, with passion and curiosity. I am sure you have, too.
I understand the question. “What do you want to be?” It is a focusing mechanism, the answer of which can help guide you into the trials and tribulations of adulthood. Unfortunately, the question suggests that there is only one answer per person. It distinguishes between future (“what will you become”) and present (“what you are now”). And it prompts you to cite conventional societal roles or industries as a solution to your life problem. Woe is you if your job title is at the core of your eulogy.
I propose a new question:
“What is your purpose?”
Purpose is your mission in life, your agenda, the core principal that guides you when you wake up in the morning and drives you to make decisions. No matter the career or role you play, purpose underlies everything you say and do.
What would you die for?
I want to bring people together. That’s my purpose. And that purpose is far more noble and omnipresent than my resume or my title.