If you spend any time at all poking around the web looking for resources on calling, it can start to seem unbearably repetitive.
“Make a list of everything you’re good at.” “Write down everything that’s easy for you to do.”
If finding your calling were that simple, no one would have to search the damn web for help, because they would be long done with that process.
What’s wrong with talent and skill?
In most of these cases, pointing people towards “talent” and “skill” is a shorthand for pointing people to their truest selves. The idea is that if you’re good at something and it’s easy for you, then it must be a “natural” thing that will bring you joy.
Unfortunately, it’s a problematic shorthand.
It confuses talent with training. We’ve all been trained in various skills for many years. After going through graduate school and earning a PhD, if you can’t read critically, manage not to horribly embarrass yourself on a regular basis in front of a bunch of students, and make a semi-coherent argument, something is terribly wrong in Denmark. That doesn’t mean public speaking, critical reading, or argumentation has anything to do with your calling, even if you’re able to pull them off much more successfully than your non-academically trained friends. It doesn’t even mean you like any of those things. It only means you’ve been well trained.
It limits us to what we’ve already done. If you’re at the point at which you’re questioning your career and your life, focusing on the skills and talents you already have will likely land you with more of the same — without considering what skills and talents you might develop if you had the inclination and the idea.
It focuses on career to the exclusion of life. So much of the non-religious vocational advice out there rests on the assumption that your work and your life are two entirely different things. But it’s that very separation that has many of us cranky and unfulfilled. If we want to be living our values or our ideals, why does that stop at 8am when we start work?
Let’s think more broadly
Skills and talents certainly matter, but they’re only one piece of the calling pie. If I can’t find a note on the flute to save my soul, my dream of being first chair in the local orchestra is unlikely to work out. If I’m a world-class flautist because my parents pushed me and I really don’t give a rat’s ass for the music, then it doesn’t matter how skilled or talented I am — fluting is not my calling.
So what might the other pieces of the pie be? Here are a few:
- Passion. What motivates us, what gets us moving? What obsesses our hearts and minds?
- Values. How do we want the world to be, and how do we want to contribute to that?
- Our ideal life. What do we want our day-to-day to look like? What supports our whole life?
And they’re certainly not the only ones.
I’ll be talking more about these on Friday, but let me ask you this — what else do you think influences your calling beyond talent and skill? What else makes it truly your calling and not just your career?