I make my living working with kids, and it’s my impression that most of them have little clue as to what they want to do with their lives, and that they find the very question terrifying.
I wonder if we’d serve our kids better by instead asking something like this: Of the many different kinds of work that need doing in the world, what might you be well-suited for?
Perhaps we ought to steer the spotlight away from all the personal achievement/follow-your-bliss implications and get kids thinking more about developing their values and their character strengths, and considering their preparedness for future roles and responsibilities in their families and communities. I’m pretty sure that it’s through working hard to better ourselves as good friends, good partners and good citizens that we discover our Bliss.
Have something to bring to the table, because that will make you more welcome. -Randy Pausch
People can change, in profound ways. Personality itself can and does change over the lifespan, especially when a person sets out to make deliberate improvements. Tons of what we do really is just deeply entrenched habit, and habits can be modified.
Here are two good articles and two good books on habit change:
The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg
Switch; How to Change Things When Change is Hard, by Chip and Dan Heath
I adore the story of David Finch, a man with Asperger’s Syndrome, who saved his failing marriage by teaching himself empathy. And here’s another of Finch’s essays, in which he learns to control his irrational fear of snakes. (Both of these are moving and charming and hilarious; pleeeze read them! And his book, The Journal of Best Practices, is wonderful, too).
I also love Randy Pausch’s recipe for the perfect apology:
Proper apologies have three parts:
1) What I did was wrong.
2) I feel badly that I hurt you.
3) How do I make this better?
Perfection is not the goal, of course, but striving to be a better human being is a worthy lifetime project.