The pay was good. The job was interesting. My colleagues were lovely people.
I worked with a great team of bright women, worked for the good cause of helping organizations that helped those in need. I kept a busy schedule full of meetings, fundraisers and writing “important” documents.
In other words, I didn’t hate it there. I did good work and earned great marks for it.
But over time, life got a little gray, a little tiresome, and I found myself asking, “Is this all there is?”
I started looking for, listening for, my callings – the work, the artistic pursuits, the life I felt truly called to live.
Out of the pain and boredom with the status quo, I became a little more willing to listen to callings that had been whispering to me for a long time – callings that seemed unrealistic, frivolous, impossible.
Fast-forward several years later. I live a life much more guided by my callings, and my new career looks very different than my old one. I’m always endeavoring to become a woman centered enough, calm enough, trusting enough – to hear and lean into what is calling. Part of my work has become speaking, writing and teaching about how we can discover our callings, helping thousands of people to discover their own. I’ve become a kind of evangelist for listening to, trusting and following your callings. I believe there is work in this often dark and broken place that we are each meant to do.
There are three big myths, three big misunderstandings, we hold about callings, and they get in the way of us finding and pursuing the work that will bring us joy.
#1: Callings are always about career.
We can get stuck thinking our callings have to do exclusively with our professional lives. Some callings do: you might feel a calling to a particular industry, career path or job.
But you might also feel a sense of calling about doing a particular volunteer activity or reclaiming a neglected creative hobby.
Callings also show up in “micro” form – the calls we feel to do little things, hour to hour, to bring more light and love into the world: a calling to support a particular person in need in your community, to create a beautiful birthday gathering for a particular person in your life, to mentor a certain child who could use some extra support.
What defines a calling is not that it has to do with your “professional work.” Callings have to do with your deeper work bringing light and love into the world. A calling is any “assignment” you get to bring light, love or healing into the world in some particular way.
#2: You’ve only got one calling.
So many of us believe the false idea that we’ve each got only one calling. That keeps us waiting for the singular, mega-huge, perfect answer to the question, “What’s my calling?” We wait and we wait, with no answer feeling comprehensive or big or long-lasting enough. Or, we find an answer and then feel like failures –— like we’ve got it wrong and wasted time — when that calling fades.
The truth is, callings evolve and end. We each receive many over a lifetime – and sometimes we receive many at once. That they end doesn’t make them any less real or significant.
The question isn’t “what’s my calling?” the question is “What’s calling me right now?”
#3: If you are truly pursuing your calling, it will feel amazing!
There’s some truth to this: when we pursue our callings, there are moments of joy, bliss and creative flow. But it’s also true that we resist our callings! A part of each of us wants to run the other direction!
We feel like the task we are being called to is too huge, and we are sure we aren’t up for it. We dislike how callings upend our plans, and are unlikely to earn the approval of those around us.
All of this is important to know. Otherwise, it’s easy to mistake resistance, fear and discomfort as signals that whatever you are working on isn’t in fact your calling.
What changes for you if you begin listening not just for career callings, but for callings in the areas of your relationships, your volunteering, philanthropy or artistic pursuits as well?
What changes for you if you open up to the idea that you’ll receive many callings, and that callings evolve and end?
What changes for you if you accept that resistance, discomfort and wanting to run the other direction are telltale signs of being on track with your calling?