The Most Important Decision You Make Happens At Age 12

braces awkward girl middle school

We were all asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” probably a million times during our childhood. It’s no wonder that we felt pressure to come up with an answer.

Last year, literary critic William Deresiewicz advised Stanford University’s freshman class to reevaluate the decisions they made at age 12, or 19. He said that too often, people continue on with a path because it’s safe and conventional. Not that we all need to be Mark Zuckerberg or Ralph Lauren.

“Maybe you did always want to be a cardiac surgeon. You dreamed about it from the time you were 10 years old, even though you had no idea what it really meant, and you stayed on course for the entire time you were in school,” he said. “Who wants to live with the decisions that they made when they were 12? Let me put that another way. Who wants to let a 12-year-old decide what they’re going to do for the rest of their lives? Or a 19-year-old, for that matter?”

Basically, he told them to grow up. Maturity means you have to make tough, thoughtful decisions. 

He even went so far as to say today’s young people are part of a “postemotional” generation: “You prefer to avoid messy and turbulent and powerful feelings.”

Without introspection, “You go from being a political-science major to being a lawyer to being a corporate attorney to being a corporate attorney focusing on taxation issues in the consumer-products industry.”

And is that where you wanted to go?