Find your calling, discover your life’s purpose; this idea of a “true calling” and the desire to find it seems like it’s becoming more and more prevalent.
As personal development becomes more popular, the idea of maintaining the status quo continues to lose support. This coincides with the growing number of people who are burnt out and in want of a life that feels better, inspires growth, and has a positive impact on the world.
5 Steps to Find Your Calling
Many of us get caught in believing that our true calling is going to lead to widespread recognition and a sizeable fortune. Although this may be true for a few of us it certainly isn’t guaranteed or required.
Some may be called to be the best sous chef in their town, others may find that organic gardening or working with kids is where they belong. All of these are equally as legitimate and valuable to the communities they serve – arguably even more so – than the work of a movie star or pop singer.
Keep this in mind as to not fool yourself into thinking that recognition and fame are needed for you to have found your calling. If those things show up as a side benefit then great, enjoy them and use them to the best of your ability to keep moving forward and increasing your impact. Just don’t mistake the outward image of success for having successfully found your calling.
The Japanese have a term for finding your true calling called Ikigai and derive it from the intersection of that which you love, that which you are good at, that which the world needs, and that which you can be paid for.
Finding this Ikigai is of great benefit to both the individual and the world at large. Just imagine what the world would look like if the majority of us were living at this intersection of passion, profession, vocation, and mission.
What would we value? How would we spend our time and energy? How would we deal with issues of poverty and pollution? I believe we would find creative, collaborative solutions because that is what the world needs, and it is what we’d want to contribute.
As intelligent and complex beings we have many needs and desires that drive our behavior. One of the strongest of these that often gets ignored is the desire for deep fulfillment. To know that what we’re doing matters and has a positive impact.
The experiences that can arise after determining what it is you were born to do can bring intense clarity, peace and a calm excitement that propels you forward.
The challenge today is that most of us haven’t had the chance to truly hear, let alone listen and respond to our true calling because our lives often don’t provide the context for that to happen. Our education systems largely exist to develop a workforce who will produce, sell and consume goods in order to fuel economic growth and expansion.
We are often fed uninteresting facts and expected to learn and behave in a standardized fashion – sit, read, be quiet, pay attention etc. – this can lead to us becoming stifled, overly self-conscious, and disconnected from our hearts’ desires. We focus on what we should do, rather than on discovering what we were born to do.
Fortunately, there are steps that anyone can take to help them find their true calling, here are a 5 that have worked for me.
5 Steps That Can Help You Find Your True Calling:
1.) Look Within
Start taking the time to look within yourself. Many of us are deathly afraid of spending time alone and without distraction. I believe this is because we often have an underlying feeling of fear that lingers beneath the surface of everyday life. Deep down we know that if we shut out the world and look within we are bound to face our demons and confront the issues, traumas, and emotions we’ve kept locked up inside.
We lock away this pain as a means of survival when we lack proper tools and support, it’s adaptive and nothing to be ashamed of or feel guilty about. However, there comes a time when one must journey within. We then begin to wade through the mess of our internal world and hopefully, with enough time, perseverance, and self-love, emerge a stronger and more empowered version of ourselves.
A helpful attitude to cultivate when journeying inwards is that of playfulness. Be sure not to take this process too seriously, we’re only human, pain and ugliness are bound to come up and when we accept them –without judgement and self-loathing- we’re better able to learn from and take power over whatever it is that emerges.
There are many ways to do this inward discovery, I encourage you to play with the two below as a starting point.
2.) Start a Journal
An easy way to get started is to begin keeping a journal. Simply by placing thoughts to paper, we allow ourselves to process what has been backlogged, empty our minds, and bring clarity to how we’re experiencing life.
Don’t be worried about what you’re writing, simply write and let the words flow. If you get stuck, start to think about things that make you angry, or sad, or whatever emotion or experience is present in that moment.
You can try journaling when you wake up, before you go to bed, or whenever it makes sense and can be fit into your daily routines.
As you journal take the time to go back and read old entries, often times they can be very insightful for understanding our current circumstances and seeing how far we’ve come along our journey.
3.) Become the Observer
Another great way to look within is through the practice of mindfulness, meditation, and time spent alone in nature. In our modern, hyper-stimulated, non-stop world, quiet time and solitude are rare experiences that many of us are deficient in.
Making this kind of time a priority allows us to tune out the external distractions, cultivate awareness and witness how we’re feeling and thinking. It allows us to examine the choices we’re making each day. This awareness of choice is a seed that when nurtured and protected will help us in allowing our Ikigai to blossom.
When you begin to realize that you can shift your focus, you reclaim your power, you are free to imagine how things could be different. With this power, you are better equipped to find harmony within yourself and all of your relationships, both personal and professional.
Please note that I use “begin” when referring to realization because this is rarely a one-time event. True realization and the integration that follows can be a lengthy process. The transitory nature of experience and our tendency to forget things, even things that at the time are so clear and paradigm shifting, sets us up to re-discover and re-learn the same lesson many times.
One way to help with remembering is to quickly write about or capture on audio or video the realization in the moment and then to read, watch or listen to it on a regular basis.
4.) Expand Your Knowledge Base
Read new books that you wouldn’t typically read. I’m assuming that if you’re reading this then you’re the type of person who still makes the times to read books, and for that, I salute you. Books give you a window into the world of someone else and are full of knowledge, wisdom and valuable insights.
If you’re more of an auditory learner, or constantly on the go, try listening to podcasts and audios from subjects that you’re curious to know more about. Long form podcasts that allow for a wide range of topics to be discussed are my favorite. The Tim Ferriss Podcast, the Joe Rogan Experience and Tangentially Speaking are three worthwhile examples.
Podcasts have had an appreciable impact on the way I think about and live my life. These varied conversations have introduced me to concepts and possibilities that I never knew existed.
The power of Podcasting is that it allows you to spend time with people you would otherwise never be able to. The traditional alternative would be to read their books and blogs which although valuable are not as accessible to most of us as downloading an MP3 and listening as you go about your day.
To simply be present to the thoughts, stories, and insights of people who are more experienced in life is a true gift.
One other area worth looking at are the types of careers that other people have chosen and created for themselves to see what resonates with you. Try not to idealize those that stand out -to believe that life will be perfect if you could just be like that person- rather, accept that anything worth doing requires hard work and sacrifice. Your mission is to become the best version of yourself, not to try to be exactly like someone else.
5.) Don’t Rush
Finding your true calling isn’t always straightforward, in fact, I would argue that for most of us it comes about through a seemingly “random” set of circumstances or challenges. Many of us have come to know these “random” alignments of people, places, and events as synchronicities; and we believe that the more we live into our true calling, the more synchronistic life tends to be.
Some of us are lucky enough to have life-changing experiences that help reveal our true calling. Such was the case when my appendix ruptured at the age of 18, over the course of the following year of recovery it became crystal clear that I was no longer interested in Automotive Engineering Tech. – I had completed the first two years of the 4-year program with Honors – instead, it was holistic wellness and natural healing that I felt called to pursue.
I now have a large scar on my stomach that I carry with pride knowing that I faced my mortality and surrendered my will to something greater than myself. This is what has allowed me to become the person I am today and it’s a trend I see in many of us who appear to have found their true calling as evidenced by the kind of work they do and things they care about.
It has been both my toughest challenge and greatest blessing; could I have ever planned it that way? Not a chance.
Just remember to take your time, learn to discern what feels right in your heart, and don’t torture yourself when you feel like you’re failing…It is part of the process.
In summary, I believe that we all have a purpose to discover, a calling to answer, an Ikigai to embrace, and it is the mysterious nature of how you find your calling that helps make life such a beautiful adventure.
Know that any journey worth taking is bound to have its fair share of peaks and valleys, the key is to keep moving forward, to trust that with perseverance, honesty, and contemplation you will end up walking the path that is yours and yours alone.