“I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint – and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and find a way to offer it to others.” ~Oprah Winfrey
You’re probably familiar with the concept of having a “calling” or “feeling called” to do some type of work or participate in life in some way that is unique to you. Personally, I’m not sure if every one feels a “calling” to their specific career or line of work.
In fact, many of us feel like we simply fell into the work that they we do by some chance of fate, while others, like Oprah, felt an intense and obvious calling to a professional path at a very young age.
BEING UNCLEAR ABOUT YOUR CALLING
Having reflected on my own experience with the sense of having a “calling,” I realized that while I felt a deep connection or “calling” to attend college, I don’t relate to having felt a calling to one specific line of work. During my childhood, I thought about being a doctor, a lawyer, and a teacher. I finally settled on the vague notion of being a “business woman.” This insight into my own career path provides clarity about why I have had a hodgepodge career in different industries and have had the opportunity to develop a variety of skills and connect with diverse communities of professionals.
At the same time, I have missed feeling a sense of clear progression that comes with having remained on one traditional professional path (e.g., doctor, lawyer, etc.). So, if you are like me in this respect, not having a compelling or specific career “calling” may have left you floating around professionally, feeling somewhat or very much disconnected from the sense of an integrated career, and wondering how your different work experiences tie together and make sense. What has become clear to me is that you and I have a lot more power than we realize in influencing or helping a professional “calling” actually find us!
CONNECTING WITH A GREATER SENSE OF CALLING
One of the greatest achievements of my life is being the first in my family circle to graduate from college. At a very young age, I did know that I wanted to have the college learning and social experience. As a result, I easily dedicated myself to excelling in all things academic. My childhood and adolescence was devoted to demonstrating my commitment to attend college through my academic performance. Also, when I learned that I had to show extracurricular interests for a strong college application, I added a pile of those activities. I was so driven to perfection in this area that “school” was the only interest that my family associated with me.
I’m sharing my academic path of becoming a first generation professional to highlight the fact that I had no idea how to go about attending college. As a child, I simply focused all of my efforts on the one interest that stood out to me. Consistent focus and effort toward my one interest ultimately yielded some amazing results. Having that one compelling interest or “calling” provided a lot of energy, inspiration, and sense of purpose for my life then as well.
So, if the idea of having a “personal calling” seems somewhat daunting or lofty, focus on finding or connecting more deeply with one interest of yours. Once you identify that interest, then pursue it with consistency and focus, see where it takes you, and be surprised by what it brings to your life. That particular interest may lead you to become an expert in a specific subject area, may inspire you to volunteer with an organization and meet phenomenal people that have a great impact on your life, or you may pursue that interest and exchange it for a new more compelling one that is revealed on your professional exploratory path.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.
The whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: ‘Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.'” (from W.H. Murray, “The Scottish Himalayan Expedition”)
Make a commitment to yourself to keep working in the direction of the greatest contribution that you can make through your work. That contribution may not reveal itself quickly or the impact that you have may be cumulative over your career instead of happening in one central work position.