If you’re reading here, I’m going to guess the question has come up for you: What should you be doing with your life?
Maybe you hit a crisis of confidence when academia appeared not to be working out. Maybe it’s just not everything you wanted it to be. Maybe you’ve gladly moved on from higher education but now don’t know what to do next.
All of these moments are about your calling, otherwise known as your passion, your thing, your bliss, or your lifework.
What it is
The famous definition of a calling or a vocation (supposedly initiated by Aristotle) is the place where the deepest desires of your heart meet the needs of the world.
On the one hand, a calling is the unique expression of our talents, passions, and best selves. In a deep sense, it’s the totality of what we have to give to the world.
On the other hand, a calling is the particular way we put those talents, passions, and best selves out into the world, that shared space full of other people with needs, passions, talents, and selves of their own.
A true calling is never entirely internal, nor is it entirely external. It’s always a mixture of both.
What it isn’t
A calling is not the same thing as a job title. A job title is born of hierarchies, structures, and particular institutions. A calling is about qualities, experiences, connections, and relationships.
Some may overlap in significant ways, and we can often see in job titles and descriptions the possibility of expressing our calling. But the difference is important — callings evolve, while job titles get promoted. We can lose a job or a whole career and not necessarily lose our calling.
Why it matters
Our calling is not a luxury, despite the numerous (and I do mean numerous) criticisms of it as selfish.
Following our calling is about giving our best to the world. The world needs that, from all of us. At the same time, following our calling makes us deeply joyful. (And I suspect this is where people get all tangled up about the very idea.)
Whatever you think about afterlives, this is the life we have right now. We spend hour after hour, day after day, week after week, year after year building this life we have. And I, for one, don’t think there’s a whole lot of merit in getting to the end only to say I was miserable the whole time.
If you truly want to serve the world, then getting in touch with your calling is the best way I know how. When we’re living out our calling, we’re passionate, committed, creative, inspired, and engaged. Don’t you think the world needs those things? Don’t you think you do?
Having your cake and eating it too
Living your calling is not antithetical to having a job and paying the rent and taking up your share of the adult responsibilities of your life. I’m not talking about some airy-fairy internal journey that serves only to justify bad behavior.
But that’s not to say that following your calling is easy, either. It can involve risks. It can require courage. It can mean calling into question who you thought you were and how others think of you.
So that’s the big picture
Starting next week, I want to get into the “how” of it — how do you begin to unearth the specific nexus of things that is your particular calling?
In the meantime, what questions do you have about finding your calling? What do you want to know?