Let us take the example of a fish, a bird and a dog. If all three are asked to become swimmers, the fish will do really well, the dog might just scrape through and the bird will be unemployed. All three have different strengths and should not be asked to follow the same career.
But this is exactly what we are doing to our children and youth. We want them all to become engineers, doctors and managers regardless of what their own unique strengths are.
Three aspects which should help change this decision are:
Health of the individual: When we like what we are doing, even if it is challenging, we experience positive stress. However, if we are forced to do things we neither like nor have the ability and aptitude for, day in and day out, we experience negative stress, burnout and many more problems. Good, engaging work is a good outlet for our energies, but work that we dislike and which confuses us, makes us feel stupid and have low self-esteem. Right from the time a child enters 5th or 6th standard we make him or her work (in the form of schools plus classes plus tuitions) for 14 hours a day, or more. Children who have had no free play time will grow up to be fidgety and unhappy adults stuck in the wrong jobs.
The adverse effects of this are seen in the form of school-related stress, exam stress and work stress. Effects are seen on health in the form of hypertension and heart problems. Diabetes and cancer are also known to be mediated by stress. Fatigue, aches and pains and a general sense of ill health pervades. This is added to by the consumption of intoxicants undertaken in order to distract and reduce stress. Psychologically, there is a lot of anger, hopelessness and mood disturbance.
Performance at work: When you do not play by your strengths, you are not very likely to be good at your job. The stress of this will spill into your workplace relationships, your self-esteem and your general happiness level. Even if you somehow force yourself to perform average or even good, since you are not using your strengths and are constantly feeling insecure about your abilities, it will show in your health, in aspects like new projects, promotions etc and in your satisfaction attained from work life.
Money/income: Most people, especially parents tend to feel that the above negatives are fine as long as there is a steady and good income. But the job market also has an economy of its own. Jobs in engineering/management/medicine are limited and so are the seats. This raises the price of education, reduces its quality and floods the market with bad labour. This in turn raises unemployment. Recently, 75,000 engineering graduates applied for the post of peons. Would a parent really want to see their child in such a situation?
Instead, if the child is allowed free play time to develop his/her personality and to find out what suits him and what are his strengths, he is much more likely to be happy, healthy and financially sound.