Among the first things we want to find out about someone is what kind of work they do. As soon as we feel we have permission, we'll ask,
"So, what kind of work do you do?"
Back in college, a similar curiosity prompted the familiar getting-to-know-you question:
"So, what's your major?"
When adults ask youth the question, it takes on a future tilt:
"So, what do you want to be when you grow up?"
Questions like these appear in our minds fully formed and ready to go. They roll off our tongues without reflection, largely because they're not OUR question. It's the same question, word for word, that the previous generation asked of us, and so on for I don't know how long.
We want the answer; we don't think about the question.
Here, since, presumably, we're teachers or parents, I want to suggest an alternative to the latter question, the one we ask youth.
Instead of asking, "What do you want to be?" ask,
"Whom do you wish to serve?"
For when all is said and done, if you ask that question, you might just nudge a youth into choosing a life well lived.