You can have a job, or you can have a career. Or you can go one step further and find your “calling in life.”
The word “calling” is difficult to define, and some do dismiss it as an esoteric concept with no practical value. But for those who do believe in the concept (as I do), a calling is a sense of higher purpose, a sincere belief that you’re placed in this world for a reason. Some believe a calling is an invitation by a higher power, others believe it’s simply an invitation to be authentic to self. My favourite description of a life calling is that of Ignatius de Loyola: calling is “when your heart’s deepest desires meet the world’s greatest need.”
Whichever way you look at it, the belief that there’s more to life than daily grind creates happiness, reduces stress, and inspires greater productivity. Daniel Pink, the author of “Drive: The Surprising Truth of What Motivates Us,” lists purpose as one of the main reason people wake up eager to face the day. Thus, if you want personal fulfillment and job satisfaction, aim for a little transcendence.
If you’ve yet to identify what your calling in life is, that’s okay. It’s a process that takes time. In the meantime, consider the following reasons why you may be giving off a busy dial tone.
You’re living someone else’s dream.
Did your parents push you to take engineering because you’re from a family of engineers? Did you say “I want to be a programmer” because many self-made millionaires are computer geniuses? Or maybe you feel guilty saying no to the uncle who paid for your education, hence you’re slaving away in his company.
A calling is something deeply personal. True, others can give input about what might inspire you, but at the end of the day it’s a choice you must freely make. Pleasing others is the easiest way to burn-out. Similarly, copying other people’s formula means you’ll never get to discover your own formula, the one that will make success all the more worth it.
You don’t take time to meditate and reflect.
Cultivation of an internal life is a pre-requisite to finding purpose. The abilities to push pause, get silent, and listen to what your thoughts and feelings are telling you are necessary to spot the difference between what’s working and what’s draining you dry.
Workaholics who don’t go for alone time lose sight of what’s driving them in the first place. Similarly, the restless young professionals who don’t take time to reflect why they job hop will never discover what they need to be happy. Men and women who go through midlife and quarterlife crisis, assuming they can carry on just as they always have, can miss the message of what older age is asking of them.
You don’t expose yourself to situations where help may be needed.
Personal callings are often solidified by the realization that you’re making a real difference. When you know that there’s more to work than monthly paycheck, each little task has meaning. This is especially so when the cause you’re working for is something that resonates with you, either because you’ve experienced a similar need or the people you serve have touched your heart.
Being a medical representative, for example, may seem like lackluster work, as all you may be is a glorified salesperson. But if you interact with the very patients who benefit from getting matched with the right drugs, you may re-appreciate the value of what you do. Your extra effort to educate one more doctor about the latest in pharmacy may mean the difference between living in pain and experiencing relief for a child somewhere. Unless you expose yourself to the significance of what you do, you may miss the bigger picture.
You don’t believe in serendipity.
Okay, so you’re a realist. You don’t believe in something unless there’s concrete evidence. But there’s also nothing wrong in indulging the belief that the universe is constantly speaking to you. (At the very least, consider the idea that seemingly random experiences can be strung together to make one coherent whole.)
While most think that a sense of purpose comes in an instant, for most people calling is found through the culmination of a series of events. For instance, you may have had enjoyed being a women’s shelter volunteer as a teenager, but thought nothing of it other than a summer job. Then you met the person who would be your best friend in your late teens, a person who survived domestic abuse. You took up Psychology in college thinking you want to be an HR practitioner. But in your 30s you suddenly had the realization that your college course is actually a good pre-law, and that your calling is to become a lawyer advocating women’s rights.
So try to read the signs. Sometimes when the idea for a possible calling comes along, you’ll see little things coming together to make it happen.
You don’t go beyond the present.
Lastly, consider these questions: How would you like to be remembered? What would you like written in your epitaph? What legacy is most appealing to you?
A calling transcends time, its impact long-lasting even to but a handful of people. Going beyond the present can help you identify whether you’re moving towards a vision or simply surviving the day.