What’s your one true calling?
It’s a seductively simple question, which is why it’s so appealing. If we all really do have one true calling, then the secret to getting our dream job is as simple as finding and pursuing that calling... right?
But what if you don’t know what your calling is? What if you aren’t even sure you have one?
It’s tempting to treat callings like the perfect pair of jeans. Try on enough of them, and eventually one will fit you exactly right. And so we hop from company to company, job to job, project to project, searching for the one that will finally show us, once and for all, what we were put on this Earth to do. Not only is this exhausting; it can leave us feeling even more lost and confused than we were before!
Maybe we have it backwards. Maybe we aren’t meant to find our callings at all. Maybe our callings are meant to find us.
If you have no idea what your calling is, this is good news. It means you can give yourself permission to stop searching so hard. It does not mean giving up on the possibility of a purposeful life and career. You’re unlikely to find your calling by looking for it, but there are things you can do to help your calling find its way to you.
Let go of the idea that everyone has “one true calling.”
Some people seem to know from birth what they were meant to do. Most of us don’t, and that’s OK! Callings aren’t an all-or-nothing deal. You may feel different callings at different times in your life. So rather than ask yourself, “What’s my one true calling?”, try asking instead, “What’s calling to me right now?” And see where that leads you.
Do more of what brings you joy.
Joy is a powerful, illuminating, transformative emotion. Whatever brings you joy, do more of it. Find opportunities to cultivate joy at work, at home, in your whole life. I don’t exactly know why, but wherever we experience joy, callings have a way of showing up, too.
[Related: The 5 Stages to Living Your Passion]
Follow your frustration.
What problems do you see vividly that frustrate you? What drives you crazy about the status quo, and what about it do you yearn to transform? Make friends with that frustration. Get curious about it. Follow it. And don’t be surprised if a calling pops up somewhere along the path.
Stay open to what could be.
Callings are funny things. We seek them because we crave meaning and certainty. We want to know why we’re here and what our lives are supposed to be all about, and sometimes we start down a path just to get rid of the agony of limbo. But I don’t know of any calling that showed up fully formed, complete with an action plan and due dates. Callings come to us in hints and traces, steeped in possibility and uncertainty. When possibility presents itself, don’t rush into action right away. Stay open. Let it simmer long enough to show you what could be.
As you contemplate these ideas, I implore you also to remember that callings don’t only show up in our careers. If you feel called to make music or write novels or create art or do any of the other wonderful, worthwhile things that rarely earn a great living in our society, do it!
Work is just one part of your life, after all, and having a day job doesn’t make you a failure.
The greater tragedy would be not to follow a calling at all… because you never know where it might lead you.
Robin Cangie is a Career Strategist and Executive Coach, providing coaching and personal branding strategy by asking deep questions, challenging self-limiting beliefs, and helping her clients discover their own path to becoming the person they want to be.