When my oldest daughter was 18-months-old, she had defined abdominal muscles. It was not because of anything we did; she simply loved to move and stayed very active. The day my son was born I took one look at his long fingers as he waved them in the air and knew he must play the cello. My second daughter often reminds me that she was “born to dance.” And my youngest son is our resident superhero; I’m sure he will leap tall buildings in a single bound one day.
It is easy for me to see the talents and callings of my children. I have been studying them since they were born. I know what they like, what they are good at, and what makes them who they are. Yet, I found myself less certain about what I’m going to be when I grow up. As an adult, I have responsibilities to take care of and pressures to keep pace with the world that impair my ability to discern my calling.
I have heard the words “Do what you love!” But doing what I love may not pay the bills. So I set aside what I love to do what I am paid to do. I’m not saying I hate my job – to the contrary, I usually enjoy it. Still, it is not what I love.
Too often we forgo our calling and replace it with work. We stop seeking our vocation and settle for a job. While we definitely need to pay the bills, ignoring what we were “born to do” is the surest way to suck the life out of us. So what is a vocation anyway?
A vocation is work that imbues us with purpose. It engages our talents and enlivens our passion. When we operate in our vocation we feel a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that comes from doing what we were made for. Each individual is endowed with specific gifts, abilities, interests, and experiences that perfectly equip that person for a vocation. The key is to identify and cultivate it.
Figuring it out
Some people seem to be born with a clear sense of who they are and what they are supposed to do, but for the rest of us, we often wrestle with finding a clear vision. Here are some questions to consider as you look for hints that point to your vocation.
1. What do you love to do?
2. What do you think you’re good at? What do others say you’re good at?
3. When do you feel like you are “in your element” or have a sense of “flow” in your life?
Your vocation will engage both your strengths and interests, so keep mining these areas as you focus in on what you were made to do. Figuring out your vocation is most likely going to be a process and may even include some trial and error as you mature and develop as an individual. The point is to continue to refine your vision and allow it to become clearer in your life as you move toward it.
As your vision for your vocation develops, begin cultivating the skills and knowledge you will need to operate in it. Think of your life and an equipping journey in which you will acquire the tools you need to create your masterpiece. There are three steps that are invaluable to the equipping process: constructing new knowledge, reflecting on experiences, and applying your understanding. Finally, active participation in learning leads to new skills and sharper tools. These questions will guide you as you cultivate your calling.
1. What do I need to know?
2. What knowledge, understanding, and wisdom can I glean from my experiences?
3. How does this knowledge apply to my life and my vocation?
4. What skills are important to develop?
Cultivation is a process of becoming who you really are as you move closer to your vocation. It requires us to recognize who we are and who we are not. It takes into account strengths and weaknesses, shortcomings and potential. Like a sculptor helping a an image emerge from a block of stone, becoming who we are to fulfill our vocation begins with a vision of what can be and what is genuinely inside of us.
Tell me about your calling in the comments below. What were you “born to do”?