“Finding your calling — it’s not passive. When people have found their calling, they’ve made tough decisions and sacrifices in order to do the work they were meant to do. In other words, you don’t just ‘find’ your calling — you have to fight for it. And it’s worth the fight. People who’ve found their calling have a fire about them,” says Dave Isay, the winner of the 2015 TED Prize. “They’re the people who are dying to get up in the morning and go do their work.”
Webster defines a calling as “a strong inner impulse toward a goal or career, especially when accompanied by a conviction of divine influence; a profession or vocation.
Dave Isay, the originator of the Story Corps Archive, created a Ven diagram in which he graphically portrays the idea that a calling is an intersection of three things: Finding something you are good at; Making others lives better; and Feeling appreciated.
All three have been true in my life as I moved from teaching into social work, management, and therapy, and back to teaching. Working with others in these various forms has felt like just different versions of the same call to me. However, I don’t know if I agree with Mr. Isay that every calling results in appreciation or requires it.
I am sure, however, that a calling is a combination of commitment and passion, and it produces a sense of “fit,” a feeling that your work or vocation is right for you, perhaps even necessary for you. I think when you discover it, it comes with a certainty that you are “meant” to be it or do it. So, appreciated by others or not, I think calling brings a sense of fulfillment, of being in the right place and doing the right thing.
I find myself returning to this topic because finding and living my call is so central to my life, and because ultimately, I believe everyone has a calling. I think we are all meant to look for and live out a call and find that fulfillment sometimes in our work, sometimes in our avocations.
This sense that life was meant to have meaning and that a purpose was there to be discovered started when I was very young. For me, though not for everyone, it is wrapped up in a sense that God, or the universe if you’d like, had a need for me to do my part in a bigger plan. As Frederick Buechner put it, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
When I was fourteen this is how I expressed it:
I was born, dear Lord, but why?
Merely to live and then to die?
Surely there must have been a goal,
Some Fulfillment for my Soul.
As I journey here on earth,
Seeking Justice, Glory, Worth,
Am I building a tiny Home,
Neath your Heaven, near your throne?
For me, my calling has evolved. Now, I see my writing as a call. In my blog and in my novel, titled unsurprisingly, The Call, I am trying to share the awareness my work and life has brought me. I don’t know if there is any hunger for this in the world, or if there will ever be appreciation or recognition. I may or may not get my book published, or find an audience for my words. But as Dave Isay says, perhaps the work and the fight to keep doing it isn’t meant to be easy. It certainly can require persistence. But, at least for me, it is a necessity.
If you aren’t sure how to uncover your calling, here are some tips I edited from Amy Kessel on the Blog Forum, tinybuddha, to get you started:
“1. Notice what captivates you.
Check out your bedside reading table, your Amazon wish list, and the blogs you follow. What most excites you, or enrages you? What would you like to write about? Why?
2. Take your life inventory, reflecting past callings.
Acknowledge what you learned from acting on older callings, and see if anything from those experiences remains alive for you. Retrieve bits that might help you in deciphering your current calling. Put your old callings to rest so you can open space for new callings.
3. Journal on what your calling is.
Write out 50 responses to the question: “What is my calling?” Do not pause or edit, and don’t stop till you get to 50. Your calling will make itself known.
4. Ask others what they think.
Poll your friends and family about your passions. Ask them what they see as your calling. Notice which responses elicit a feeling of “yes!” in you.
5. Use your values as a guide.
Make a list of your core values (these are qualities that make you, you; they aren’t who you think you should be, but rather who you already are). What do your values tell you about your calling?”
So what is your calling? Is it something you’re doing or thinking about doing? Do you have something only you can share? Is your heart or mind pulling you or pushing you or are you searching for that sense of direction? Find it. Be who you are and who you are meant to be.
Are you feeling fulfilled in what you are doing or struggling to find a meaning and a purpose? Are you out there seeking the “justice, glory, and worth” I dreamed of as a teen, or searching for something else? Do you need to practice or go back to school or change jobs or make the time to do what you know is important to you? Whatever it is: Do it. Don’t give up, don’t quit, keep going!
Can you hear your call? It is saying, “You have a place in the world that is uniquely yours and the world needs you.” Come live it.
A Link to Dave Isay’s article on meaning, 7 Lessons
A link to Amy Kessel’s article on tinybuddha