How do you find your calling, the work you were meant to do? This is a question I didn’t ask until my twenties. My first answer seemed clear. But then the course was modified and has continued to reshape over decades of work. Along the way, I’ve run into some very unhelpful ideas. I call them myths. Myths rob us from clarity around calling.
In this series of posts, I’ll share 8 myths that block us from a sense of vocation in our work. We begin with the idea that calling equals easy.
Myth#1: Finding and Fulfilling Your Calling Will Be Easy
For some reason, I’m under the impression that the right work (my calling) will be easy work. Work that is a calling will come naturally and be instantly fulfilling. If work does not come naturally and is not satisfying, then the logical conclusion is that this work must not be my calling.
Perhaps it’s the “Easy” button on my desk. (Yes, I have one!)
Perhaps the assumption is fed by all the advice columns and how-to books I read. Collectively they form a chorus that sings the following refrain “the right methods lead to the right outcomes, and the right process makes it all easy.”
Perhaps this assumption is fueled by the vacation-like images of happiness with which I am bombarded. It looks terribly easy to lounge in paradise.
Or perhaps there’s a connection with the concept of flow. First documented by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow is the “zone.” Flow is experienced in moments when we find our talents and faculties fully utilized in a state of heightened concentration, effort, and effectiveness. But is flow necessarily the same as easy?
I want to suggest that equating easy with calling is a myth.
Think about it. Are worthwhile pursuits usually easy? Are pursuits of value guaranteed wins?
If my calling is to be a doctor, as fulfilling as that may be at specific points, there are all those years of schooling, the exhaustion of residency, the ongoing drama of the business of healthcare, and the increasingly demanding patient population. There’s nothing easy about medicine from beginning to end. But is it a legitimate calling? It is worthwhile, valuable, meaningful work? Sure. Easy? Never!
In the stories of the Bible, it’s hard to imagine anyone whose life got more comfortable after they received their calling.
Joy came not from the ease of the work or the comforts won by fulfilling the calling. Joy came from knowing and achieving a higher purpose, from following a divine destiny.
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Myth #2: Calling = Finding Your Dream Job
A Quick survey of the NY Times and TheMuse.com, equate “Calling” with “Passion” with “A job that you love.”
Dream job = passion = calling. This is the career direction formula of our times, and it is highly overrated. It is, in fact, a myth.
Passions sometimes last our lifetimes and sometimes do not last for five minutes. These passions sometimes seem to lead us to destinations that fulfill and sometimes lead us into trouble.
“Dream job” is not helpful either.
A season of your calling could require working a nightmare job to prepare you for something else down the road that will bring you more profound joy.
Other factors (dare we say other callings) may need to be balanced with your “dream job.” Even when you find your dream job, you’re likely to see that over time, things change–you change, the market changes, and the company changes. At best, a dream job is a moving target.
Passion driven-dream jobs as calling is a myth. Calling cannot be limited to the container of your current position. Calling is more extensive than what we think we want.
Calling is really about listening to a caller, answering his invitation.
God sees our lives differently than we do—he sees them from beginning to end. He knows where we need to be by the end of our lives. He gives us things to do now, some of which will definitely not be easy, to shape us into the men and women who have the kind of impact he has planned for us to produce from before the beginning of time.
How About You?
How have “easy” and “dream job” been blocking you from seeing your work-life calling?